Catch Up

I’m alive! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. In the little spare time I have, I’ve had my nose in the books, studying for a promotion test that I have to take for work. Good news is that I passed! Bad news? It’s a two-parter, so I’ll be back at it studying for the second part within a week or two. My brain needs a little break right now. I’ll be happy when it’s behind me.
So, what have I been up to since my last post?
Running
Slowly getting back into the swing of things. I ran 4 miles yesterday at a 9:14 pace, longest run post marathon. I headed down to the lakefront after work and it was completely dead compared to the last time I ran down there. I started by the lakefront but ended up running more in neighborhoods. I ran without music and it was very therapeutic. I had a lot of thoughts to last me 4 miles :-) Now that the marathon is behind me, I want to start training with a purpose. During my last two marathons, my goal was just to finish and to beat my previous time (2nd time around). Now, I’d like to focus on getting faster, add in more speed work, and educate myself more on marathon racing/nutrition. Next up on the race list? I am signed up for a Thanksgiving day run…running stroller category! I’ll be doing my first ever 5k while pushing Madelyn in the jogger. That should be interesting. Fingers crossed for good weather.
strollerunCooking
I’ve been dabbling with a little bit of everything the past few weeks: {partly} paleo, vegetarian substitutions, and vegan cooking. I recently purchased this cookbook and made Eat Your Greens Detox Soup. Oh She Glows has been a long time favorite blog of mine, so I was thrilled when I got it in the mail. I’m hoping to make some more meals very soon out of it.
detoxsoup
The soup was delicious, and perfect for a cold, autumn night. It freezes well too. I also changed it up with the old spaghetti squash creations. A few weeks ago, Danielle Walker from Against all Grain put up a picture with a link to a delicious looking casserole type dish: Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash. Once the spaghetti squash was cooked and shredded (thanks hubs!) this was incredibly easy to put together. Just how I like it! We also had leftovers of this that I froze and ate for lunch throughout the week. I really want Danielle’s next cookbook, Against All Grain-Meals Made Simple. I think I’ll add it to my Christmas list.
Celebrating
This past weekend, I celebrated my 30th birthday! It was the perfect weekend filled with all of my favorite things to do with all of my favorite people. I started the weekend off with a class at The Barre Code with my mom and sister, taught by one of my faves :-) Then we headed over to Polished for manicures and mimosas. After that, I went home and took a NAP! (My in-laws had Madelyn). When I woke up, I got dressed and ready to go celebrate with my husband. What I thought was going to just be dinner and drinks somewhere turned out to be a surprise party! I knew Larry had something up his sleeve, I just didn’t know what and to what extent. When we arrived at Camp Bar and he suggested we go “walk around to check it out” as I was trying to Instagram my Old Fashioned (they have THE BEST!),  I was onto him. It was so great to see all of my friends and family there to celebrate. It’s really hard to get surprises past me, so I give them props. If I know something’s going on, I usually bug the person until they just tell me (Larry is usually the only one who caves) and then I get mad at him for telling me. I’m the worst. The biggest surprise of the night? A Michael Kors handbag. And inside the handbag was a wrapped book clueing me in to a New York City trip! I didn’t know when we were going until I opened up the book and saw that we’ll be ringing in 2015 in NYC!!! I’m thrilled! Larry knows that I’ve always wanted to visit NYC during the holidays. Well played husband, well played.
bestbirthdayeverThere’s a story behind the book. It’s a kids series called Larry gets lost in…(Fill in the city). My mom got Madelyn her first one when she went to San Francisco and every time we’re in a city where they sell the book, we buy it. When I surprised Larry with his trip to Boston, I had the book gift-wrapped with baseball tickets inside. She has San Fran, Chicago, Boston & NYC.
The next morning, I started my day off with a run and then we enjoyed a peaceful, childless brunch before picking up Madelyn at our meeting spot. My mom cooked a delicious meal from Against All Grain. And of course birthday cake. She bought me tickets to a Broadway show in NYC. I was super excited to be spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square-something on the bucket list-until I read all of these horrible reviews basically giving advice not to do it. I went back and forth on it for a couple of days and then decided that it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s the reason Larry bought the tickets for the dates he did, and the older I get, the less appealing it will probably be. So, we’ve decided to brave the craziness and do it!
Other things on my NYC to do list so far: Run through Central Park, Frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, Walk the Brooklyn Bridge, Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, visit Babycakes Bakery NYC, The 9/11 memorial museum, and a Carriage Ride through Central Park. I told my husband we will need a vacation after this trip :-)
It’s been a great month so far and I have lots to look forward to. The next few months are going to fly!
What are some other must see/eat/do things in NYC? What’s your favorite way to ring in the New Year? I’m a bum, I prefer staying in, making dinner and fancy drinks at home over getting dressed up to go out. This year will be a nice change of pace!

Butternut Squash and Maple Apple Soup

Happy marathon week my friends! I’m so excited the day is almost here! After months of training & hundreds of miles logged, nothing is throwing me off my game this week. I feel ready to take on Chicago. The most important thing I need to focus on this week is getting rest and making sure I stay hydrated.

This weekend, I finally caved in and turned on our heat :-/ If it weren’t for a sick kid, I probably would’ve held off a few more weeks. But I just wanted to make sure the little one was comfortable. Along with heat comes the first slow-cooker soup of the season.

When we went to the Harvest Festival last weekend, they had a farmers’ market stand there where you could fill a basket of squash for $7! We have a ton of squash in our kitchen and I don’t want any of it to go to waste. So I created a slow-cooker soup that encompasses everything Autumn: Butternut Squash, apples, and maple syrup. I served it up with a gluten-free bun and a salad. It was the perfect dinner for a cold and gloomy fall day, and our house smelled amazing!  
IMG_2818Slow-Cooker Butternut Squash & Maple Apple Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Butternut Squash-peeled and cubed
  • 4 gala apples-peeled and chopped
  • 1 red onion-sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic-sliced thin
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4cup maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions
Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.  Remove bay leaves and pour the soup into a blender and blend to desired consistency. ( I used our Vitamix). Garnish with croutons or cheese.

Serve warm, with bread and a salad and enjoy!

Thanksgiving Recipes 2013

Happy Holiday weekend!  Anyone score any great black friday deals?!  This is the first year I partook in the madness that is black Friday/Thanksgiving night shopping and I nearly got run over at Kohls’ for the last Shark steam mop.  On Friday, hubs and I enjoyed a much leisurely shopping experience at Home Depot where we got a great deal on a dishwasher. Ours broke a few months ago and we’ve kind of put it on the back burner until now.  Dishes aren’t too bad in our house since it’s just the two of us and the munchkin, but it’s nice that we will now have options.

This was my second year hosting Thanksgiving, but a first in our new house.  Overall, everything went fairly well.  We had a few misjudgments about the turkey, but having a double oven really helped out with things.  I don’t think I will ever be without one ever again.

With Madelyn being dairy-free, this year posed some new challenges, substitutions and lots of finger crossing.  I wanted her to be able to eat anything on the table.  Our first dairy-free Thanksgiving was a HIT!!  Everyone raved about my sweet potatoes and had some requests for the recipe, so here it is!
sweetpotatocasserole

Dairy Free(gluten free) Soul Sweet Potato Casserole (Serves 15)
Ingredients

  • 8 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups of coconut cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups pecans chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted dairy-free butter (I used Earth’s Balance)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 and place potatoes on baking rack.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.  When the potatoes are finished, place on a big cutting board and let them cool. Once they’re cool, cut all of the sweet potatoes down the center and scrape out the inside.  Place the insides of the sweet potatoes into a very large mixing bowl.  Increase the oven temperature to 400.

Next, add in the sugar, coconut cream, eggs, vanilla and salt.  MASH the mixture up with a potato masher until all ingredients are combined and somewhat lumpy.  Spread the sweet potato mixture into a square or oval baking dish.  In a separate bowl, mash the brown sugar, pecans, flour and butter with a fork until thoroughly mixed through.  Sprinkle the crumbly mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Bake it until the top is golden brown, about (45 minutes).

The next dairy-free dish I made was dessert.  Hubs requested a traditional pumpkin pie so I made that with dairy.  But for Madelyn and anyone else who wanted some, I made dairy-free pumpkin pecan pie bars.  They turned out really good, and I will definitely make them again.  I preferred this pumpkin pie filling over the traditional actually and couldn’t even tell that it was dairy-free. Coconut milk and cream is a great substitute for pumpkin desserts.

dfgfpecanpumpkinbars

DF & GF Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares (Serves 12)
Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used C4C)
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 can (15oz) pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup pecans chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • soy whipped cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar and butter into a small bowl.  With a hand mixer, beat at low speed for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is crumbly.  Take the mixture and press on the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 baking pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

Next, combine the maple syrup, pumpkin, coconut milk, eggs and pumpkin pie spice in a larger mixing bowl.  Beat at a medium speed for 2 minutes and pour over crust.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Combine the pecans and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a smaller mixing bowl.  After the 20 minutes is up, sprinkle pecan topping over filling.  Continue to bake for about 20 minutes.  Cool completely in pan.  Cut into 12 bars and serve with whipped cream.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend and spending quality time with family and friends.  Today, we ventured off to Sprecher Brewery for a tour with Madelyn :-) She did surprisingly well and was a hit amongst our group.  I’m off to watch some Christmas movies on the couch with Larry.  Have a great rest of the weekend!

Ravin’

Hi Friends!  We made it Wednesday :-)
So last night, I ventured outside my comfort zone and decided to try out another cardio class at my gym, besides Zumba.
where-the-magic-happensMagic Indeed.  I looked at the schedule, and found that Body Combat would be the best fit for my night.  Les Mills Body pump is actually one of my favorite strength training workouts so I was really excited to try out this workout of theirs.  When I got to the gym to sign up for class, I found that it had been replaced with Turbo Kick and that Body Combat was being offered on Wednesdays instead.  I debated on whether or not I should sign up for Turbo kick or just do some cardio and weights on my own.  Since I was already there and had left my headphones at home, I decided to just take the class.
As I walked through the door, the teacher grabbed my attendance slip and said, “grab a set of lights.”  I had assumed she meant light weights.  Oh no.  I completely heard her correctly.  Lights.  Finger lights to be exact.
fingerlights
As soon as I put these lights on my fingers, I knew I was in for a real treat :-) She welcomed everyone to class and told us what to expect.  Since it was a newer class, she told us that she wouldn’t be adding in any “turbo drills”.  Something clicked in my head and I knew that this class was going to be like my Turbo Fire DVDs.  The teacher said that if we came to the Saturday class, we could expect some turbo drills by them ;-)
She turned the lights off and we used what light came in through the windows from the gym and our fun finger lights.  The class was AWESOME!  A lot of the moves/combinations were similar to what I had done with Turbo Fire, so I wasn’t completely lost, but if you are new to this class, I suggest moving up to the front in order to see better.  When I did manage to get completely lost, I just kept moving-jumping, doing kicks and punches etc.  The music kept me going and kept my energy way up.  After 45 minutes of some serious cardio, we ended with a cool down and an amazing core session.  My stomach hurts today-in a good way of course :-)  If your gym offers a turbo kick class, I highly recommend trying it out.
Turbo Eats!
Tonight was a “let’s eat out” kind of night.  I’m proud to say that these are very rare in our house during the week.  I usually do a good job of meal planning & prep for the week.  If I don’t end up making dinner, hubs usually takes over.  But tonight we both threw in the towel.  I had to make a pit stop at target and scrounge up some things for Madelyn’s Halloween costume for school tomorrow.  We completely skipped the whole lets get dressed up for Halloween thing this year and I got a reminder at daycare on Tuesday that Thursday kids are allowed to wear costumes.  I couldn’t let her be the only kid at school without a costume, so I came up with kind of something.  Stay tuned for that.
So dinner.  I made a stop at Chipotle on my way back home because I heard rumors that they were now serving Sofritas (tofu) and I really wanted to try it.
sofritas
Ahhh-mazing!  Seriously ate every single last bite of that bowl.  It has a little bit more of a kick to it than the chicken and is the most flavorful tofu I’ve ever had.  I had no idea tofu could taste like this.  I could see this becoming a regular choice for my burrito bowls :-)
sofritasbowl
Yum!  I’m off to catch up on some reading!  I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!  Our neighborhood is doing trick-or-treat tomorrow, but I think we got exempt from it because we live on a semi-busy street with no sidewalks. We’ll find out tomorrow!  The little things you have to find out when moving into a new house :-)
What’s your favorite halloween candy? I’m a Reece’s pumpkin shape girl all the way!

Carrot & Caramelized Onion Soup {Dairy Free}

When we moved into our new house, we decided to join a local Co-op, Outpost.  Every season, they come out with a newsletter, Graze, that tells about some of the items they have in the store, along with really good recipes.  Last Winter, I made their Carrot & Caramelized Onion soup and it was a win.

This week with the forecast only hitting a high of the mid to high forties (EEK!), I thought it was the perfect time to plan some soup into our meals.  I really wanted some onion soup, but didn’t really have time to experiment with French onion soup, so I decided to make the carrot and caramelized onion soup instead.  The original recipe called for butter & heavy whipping cream, and since I’m all for making my meals, especially soups, “Madelyn-friendly” (Dairy-Free) I decided to try some substitutes and it was amazing!  This soup is great to make because it’s so easy and you can freeze the leftovers if needed.

carrot and onion soup

Carrot & Caramelized Onion Soup {Dairy-Free}Serves 10                               

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp butter (I used Earth’s Balance vegan, organic spread)
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 in, coins
  • 2/3 c basmati brown rice, uncooked
  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 cup coconut cream

Melt butter is a stock pot and add onions.  Stir the onions and make sure they are covered in “butter”.  Reduce heat and stir onions until they are soft and gold brown, about 8-12 minutes.  Next, add carrots, rice, vegetable stock, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Cook until rice and vegetables are very tender.  Remove from heat and slightly cool.

Slowly transfer the soup to a blender and puree.  After the soup has been pureed, transfer back into the stock pot and add the coconut cream.  Mix well and serve!

Enjoy the rest of your evening!  What’s your favorite cold-weather food to make?  After a good soup, a hearty chili is my favorite!

Veggie Burger of my Dreams

I’ve never been the type of girl to turn down a big, juicy hamburger.  But yesterday, when hubs told me that he wanted to cook burgers on the grill, I wasn’t really feeling it. So I picked up beef burgers for him and I whipped myself up a few veggie burgers.

This is very unusual for me.  But the past few Saturdays, after my long training runs, I get in my head that I can eat whatever I want because I ran so much.  This mentality spirals into the rest of the weekend (which for me ends Monday) and I’m left feeling bloated, lethargic and basically like crap by the start of my work week-Tuesday.  So to keep up feeling good, I opted out of the beef burger this time.

While I was making my veggie burgers, I kept hearing from someone, “Wow that smells really good!”  And much to my surprise, it WAS!  Hubs even said that he’d eat it for a meal (on another night of course).   I topped it with hummus, feta cheese and mixed greens and it was amazing.

vegburger

Veggie Burgers

Ingredients (4 patties)

  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 3 T chopped red onion
  • 3 T chopped black olives
  • 3 T red bell pepper
  • 2 t chopped jalepeno
  • 2 T chopped garlic
  • 2 T chopped artichoke
  • 3/4 C black beans (drained)
  • 3/4 C white beans (drained)
  • 1 C rolled oats
  • 1 tsp Curry Powder
  • 2 tsp Garlic Salt
  • 2 tsp Chili powder
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 2 T breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg

Instructions

In a saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil and all raw vegetables EXCEPT beans. Saute until done. Remove and put in a mixing bowl.Add the sauteed vegetables to beans and mix thoroughly with hands (easiest). Add all other ingredients along with the egg. Thoroughly mix all ingredients and form into patties, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.In saute pan add 1-ounce olive oil, and cook patties 2 to 3 minutes per side.Top with hummus, feta cheese crumbles, and mixed greens and ENJOY!

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10 Days of Real Food-Day 1. Apple Crisp

When I set out to do the 10 days of real food challenge, I totally forgot about the huge bag of apples that I had planned to make apple crisp and other apple-y goodness with.  How on earth was I going to make apple crisp without adding sugar??  I looked at a recipe that my mom had given to me and looked to see how I could revamp it so that it still fell under the “Real Food” guidelines.  Done & done.  I even substituted the butter for coconut oil. Easy peasy and oh so good. Maybe tomorrow I’ll look up a recipe for real vanilla frozen yogurt in the vitamix and make this baby a la mode.

Naturally Sweetened Apple Crisp {print recipe}

Ingredients
  • 9 apples thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1 1/2 C Oats
  • 1 C chickpea flour
  • 1 C pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 C maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 c chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1/2 unrefined coconut oil
Directions
Preheat oven to 350.  Layer the apples in a 9×13 baking dish.  Sprinkle the 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1TBSP chickpea flour, and the one cup of maple syrup on top of the apples, then gently toss so that the apples are evenly coated.  In a separate bowl, combine the oats, 1 C chickpea flour, 1/2 C maple syrup, baking powder, baking soda, nuts, cinnamon, and coconut oil. Mix with your hands. Then when you’ve got a crumbly texture, sprinkle on top of apples evenly.  Bake in oven for 45 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy :-)
How did eating go the rest of the day?  I started my morning off with a bowl of Bob’s Redmill gluten-free oats mixed with blueberries, peaches, and unsweetened almond milk.  With the real food challenge you can have dairy, I just try to stay away from it as best as I can because it irritates my stomach.
For lunch, I munched on a pre-made salad from Trader Joe’s.  It was good, but you have to eat these right away (I bought it on Monday) because the lettuce was getting a little wilty. If I wouldn’t have eaten it today, it would’ve been garbage by tomorrow. It was a mixed greens salad with pecans, blue cheese and I topped it with Annie’s raspberry vinaigrette.
For a post workout snack (snuck in some zumba via Xbox today while someone napped), I ate an apple with almond butter and reheated two egg muffins.
Tonight’s dinner was leftovers from last night.  Yesterday, was the perfect weather for chili so I made our favorite: Sweet potato and black bean chili.  It was just as good, if not better than last night’s serving!  I think adding some cheese may have had something to do with it.
I think day 1 of the real foods challenge went rather well.  If you just set aside some time to pre make some things (egg muffins/dinner for two nights instead of one), it’s really not hard to do.  Like I said in the previous post, we generally try to eat as whole/real as possible, but sometimes life (new baby) can get in the way and deter us from that and it becomes more about convenience and less about nutrients.  I’d like to try and make my own bars one of these days because that’s generally my snack of choice to grab & go.