Month: June 2013

Foodie Penpal Reveal!

The Lean Green Bean

I decided to branch out and try something new this month, so I signed up for Foodie Penpals. Lindsay over @ The Lean Green Bean started this program way back in September 2011 and I only wish I had stumbled upon it sooner!

Going in I didn’t know if I was more excited to send a package or to receive one. I had so much fun picking out some local favorites and shipping them away that I already felt that I had got a lot out of the experience, but when I came home to a box sitting on my doorstep I was giddy with excitement. I started digging in instantly and nearly forgot to take pictures!

My box arrived perfectly packed!

My penpal, Chloe from How She Runs, did an AMAZING job with this box. I was so touched by how thoughtful she was! Through our quick email exchanges we learned that we had a bit in common- vegetarians, runners, both hate olives (a true sign that we were meant to be penpals!)- so I had total faith that this box would rock but it went above and beyond my expectations.

So much variety- a sampling of teas complete with a mug to drink them out of, a box of couscous, a ThinkThin bar, a pack of gum, White Chocolate Wonderful PB and a crazy straw. Chloe included a mug because she collects them and I just love that. Everything was perfect and I literally dug into the peanut butter instantly. I’m way too embarrassed to admit how much is left right now (hint: not very much at all).

I couldn’t have asked for a better first Foodie Penpal experience and I will definitely be back for more! You should check it out and join in on the fun as well, trust me, you won’t regret it. You have until the 4th of the month to sign up 😉

Thanks again Chloe!

Food Prep Planning Stages

You guys, this is the weekend that I finally get my stuff together and get our weekly food prep done! The weather gods seem to be in support of my plans to stay in the kitchen as the forecast is currently rain, rain, rain (that should make for a fun 12-miler) so I won’t even be tempted to sneak outside and play instead. 

I’ve got the pins, I’ve got the plan, I’ve set aside the budget and I’ve (almost) finished our grocery list. This is the recipe for success, right?

Here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish:

– bake two blocks of tofu (for wraps + salad toppers)
chickpea-sweet potato burgers
– Veganomicon’s black bean burgers
Lean Green Bean’s quinoa breakfast bars
bake one dozen hard boiled eggs
– prep veggies + fruits,  prepackage some for grab n’ go snacks + lunches
– make hummus (plain + red pepper)
– make homemade salsa
– prepare peanut sauce for Spicy Peanut Noodles (Monday’s planned dinner)
– cook quinoa + rice (for messy Mexican + stir fry dinners)
– make a quinoa/bean salad 
– one TBD dessert type item

I know that looks like kind of a lot but I figured go big or go home. I’ve got the time this weekend so I want to knock out whatever I can. The two burgers can be frozen and carried over to next week too. I can only imagine how much it will be appreciated as I make my way through a 60 hour work week. 

My goal is to strictly stick to our food budget. The July challenge is to eat all breakfasts + lunches and most dinners at home (minus while I’m on vacation, but even then we have plans to do lots of cooking!). A big problem will be portion control. We are both very active and as I’ve increased my training I have notice a HUGE increase in my hunger, obviously. I plan to do a lot of pre-portioning so we don’t eat our way through a weeks worth of food in two days, because there is a serious risk of that happening. 

I can’t wait to share photos (I promise to actually take them) and stories of my first ever weekend food prep, wish me luck!

Meal plan? What meal plan?

Yesterday was all out of whack, but kind of in a good way. My work day came to an early end when I had to hightail it home to meet the repair man. We have been without AC for 4 days and they have just so happened to have been the hottest days of summer so far. I was so desperate to actually be able to get a good night’s sleep tonight that I would have done anything to get this air conditioner up and running. Luckily for me all I had to do was leave work early 🙂

I had drafted up this meal plan for the week and was ready to get us back on track, since our refrigerator is currently a barren wasteland, but with my new found afternoon off I couldn’t bring myself to spend it in the grocery store & kitchen. Instead I knocked out an hour long bike ride and felt both energized and really really sweaty. I was definitely right when I predicted that this week would be very high in mileage- I’ve already clocked so many miles that I’m impressed by myself over here, haha.

So what’s a lazy couple to do to celebrate their working air conditioner?

Take and bake pizza!

Tuesdays just happen to be buy one get one free at our local pizza place, Mama Mimi’s, and these pies are so delicious. The pictures don’t do them justice but they are freshly prepared right in front of you and absolutely layered with veggies. They feel significantly less greasy than a simple delivery pizza and Mama Mimi’s makes all the nutritional information available on their site, which I always appreciate. A well balanced dinner and plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week, win-win.

I am looking forward to getting back into the kitchen this weekend. I have some serious food prep planned for Sunday because life has been getting so busy again that we need to have more healthy things that we can grab on the run. While I feel pretty good about the choices I make I know I could be saving a bit more money by stocking the fridge at the start of the week. I’ve been bookmarking recipes like crazy and can’t wait to share my plans (and the outcome!) but for now I’ll just leave you in suspense.

Happy hump day!

Marathon Motivation

It’s actually happening!

I knew I had until the end of the week before the price jumped another $10 so I just decided to take the plunge. It’s real now. Time to put the full training plan up on the fridge and start counting down the days (116). Eek!

Speaking of training plans! Yesterday I woke up a bit sore (apparently your first 30 mile bike ride ever may do that to you) and really tired from a terrible night’s sleep thanks to our broken AC so I decided not to run. Fast forward 10 hours and I realized that one does not sign up for a marathon and then skip the day’s planned workout. So I fueled up with a banana + white chocolate PB, filled my water bottle with ice and headed out for 5 miles in this:

Remind me to stop hitting snooze. 

Today’s post was going to be our weekly meal plan but I wanted to share this oh so exciting news instead. I’m really still just processing the fact that this is actually going to happen. I’m already nervous/excited/anxious/motivated/etc. You name it, I’m feelin’ it. 

So loyal readers- any advice for a first timer? Book recommendations? Movie suggestions? Bring it on!

Training Rundown Week 2

This weekend was so fantastic! We had an old friend in from out of town so it was a lot of catching up with folks. We got our old crew together and went to (too many) happy hours and a soccer game. Good times with good friends!

Naturally the weekend disrupted the training plan just a bit, but I still feel good about last week. Let’s take a look back, shall we?

Monday: 45 minute run
This run felt really good, given that I had just ran 10 miles two days prior. It was faster than I expected (which is still kind of slow for me) and I was glad to knock it out with no problems.

Tuesday:  45 minute cross-training (NMTZ)
I was oddly looking forward to this workout. After last week’s less than stellar performance I wanted to prove that I had more in me I guess. I upped my hand weights to 5 pounders (ha) and felt really strong throughout the DVD. Circuits that had given me trouble in the past felt more manageable and I take that as a good sign.

Wednesday: Speed work, 60 minute run w/ 4-6 “pickups”
I actually tried to do this run twice- I woke up nice and early and headed out but I just wasn’t feeling it. I made it about half a mile before I knew it wasn’t meant to be. I went home and did some abs + arms and decided to try again after work. I was a bit more successful the second time, I felt strong for the first two miles but I knew my form was suffering during my pickups. After the third I felt myself heel striking more than ever so I cut back on the “speed” part and just went for mileage. My legs were still kind of heavy from the previous week and I felt good with my decisions.

Thursday: 45 minute cross-training: Abs + arms + cycling
On Thursday morning I did a 20 minute ab + arm workout and then a 25 minute ride. I felt pretty slow on the bike but that’ll happen I guess.

Friday: 40 minute run
I fit this in before work and followed in up with 8 minute abs. I actually felt fantastic during this run and if I wasn’t pressed for time I would have been tempted to extend it a bit. I’ve really been focusing on sneaking in core work whenever I can, I think I notice the improvement in my running.

Saturday: Rest
This was supposed to be our long ride but it.was.HOT. It was 91 degrees already and we hadn’t even made it out the door yet so we decided to postpone. We caught up with our old friends and got to the Crew vs. Fire soccer game (we used to go to all the Columbus Crew games, so it was like old times) which even had fire works. It was a nice a day off.

Sunday: Long Ride 
I was really looking forward to this! We drove about 25 miles away to try out a new trail. We ended up getting in about 30 miles before it was just too hot to carry on (we had each already gone through 2 water bottles!). I was a bit bummed that we couldn’t make it even further, but at the same time I realize that 30 miles is a really good distance for me, given that it’s my longest difference ever.

Mileage: 15 running (dial back week, plus I subbed out a weekend 6 miler for our long ride)
               45 riding 

I’m a little disappointed that I missed out on my “perfect training week” but we had a lot going on. I feel good about my mileage and the amount of cross-training I got in. Next week is heavy on the running (12-miler!) and we’ve got a lot of plans that involve bike commuting so I know mileage will be high. I’ve been upping my calories and trying to get to bed earlier and I’ll continue to do that this week.

Hi, My name is Ashley and I’m addicted to popcorn.

Happy Friday! Everyone loves Friday, right?

Yesterday was kind of a blur. I go into work early on Thursdays so my alarm was set for some crazy time that started with a 5 so I could squeeze in a strength work out before heading out for a ride. I did abs + arms because the thought of squatting made my legs cry. As of this morning I’m 5 for 5 with my workouts this week and feeling pretty good about myself, haha.

My ride was slow but my workday went by quickly! The highlight of said day was this salad:

Aptly named the Big Salad, this guy is loaded- mixed greens, arugula, broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, sunflower seeds, croutons and penne noodles. Truly fantastic. Also something I could easily make for myself, I need to stop forgetting my lunch at home.

Post work was house cleaning. We’ve got a friend from out of town stopping by tonight and I always like to pretend as though we keep our house spic and span at all times. And hide the evidence that our cats like to sit on tables.

If you enlarge this picture you can see that she is actually sticking her tongue out at me. They do not take me seriously at all.

Confession time. 

I am a serious addict. 

It’s becoming a daily problem.

Stove top popcorn. My favorite snack.

And sometimes regular popcorn isn’t good enough so I have to add sugar and cocoa powder and make dessert popcorn. (If you add it in while it’s still popping it caramelizes and

I even have a dedicated popcorn pan (i.e a pan that is so damaged from excessive popcorn making that it’s no longer acceptable for other uses). 

If being addicted to popcorn is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

Lots to look forward to this weekend but most importantly I’ve got my super long bike ride tomorrow! Fingers crossed that the rain stays away.

Enjoy your weekend 🙂

Summer Fun: Balancing Work + Play

The weather has seriously been outstanding here lately. Even when my beloved tells me it’s going to rain it tends to clear up and turn into a nice day. I don’t know how many times I have ended my work day with the phrase “I could really go for a drink on a patio right now”. Who doesn’t want a margarita and bottomless chips + salsa every once in awhile??

I know a lot of runners choose to dial it back a bit in the summer, for a number of reasons: because it’s harder to find time to run with the heat, vacations interrupt training plans or maybe even just because lounging at the beach sounds like more fun than sprinting on the track. However I made the genius decision to sign up for a half marathon in August (oh yeah, did I tell you that’s official? Emerald City here I come!) and I’ve got my credit card ready to sign up for the full in October so I’ll actually be hitting the peak weeks of my training plan right as summer is hitting its peak. 

So how will I survive the summer heat and stay strong against the temptation of happy hour? Well, to be honest I won’t. I’m very focused on my training and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been following my training plan so closely (I’m 3 for 3 this week with an extra 8-minute abs thrown in for fun!) but I’ve also kept my social calendar just as busy. 

Here are my rules for making it all work:

1. Make plans in advance. I’m a planner so this really isn’t anything new. I like starting the week knowing what I have going on that weekend, plus it makes the work week easier to get through. With certain people in my life I don’t have a problem saying “Hey, I’ve got a 12 mile run on the schedule the next morning, can we push that back a day?”. 

2. Be Flexible. I’ve switched a lot of my morning runs to after work runs for a few reasons- my aches + pains feel the worst in the morning (see yesterday morning when I tried to run, and failed, but got 5 miles in after work no problem), but also because it means I can stay up later than 9p now. When the sun is barely set by then it’s hard to go to sleep. I’ve also swapped a few running and cross training days when a friend wants to go for a ride. And lastly, I’ve skipped planned workouts (gasp!). Sometimes a girl just needs a mojito, running can wait.

3. Just be active! It’s SUMMER! You know what counts as cross training? Swimming in a friends pool. Playing a game of tennis. Kicking a ball around on the soccer field. Biking to Happy Hour (right?)! It’s so easy to spend time outside and get a little extra calorie burn in when it’s sunny and 85. 

Life is all about balance. I don’t want to lose myself (and my summer!) in my training plan but I also don’t want to fall behind so I’m finding ways to make it work. This week I’m determined to hit every planned workout, get a long bike ride in with K. and enjoy a happy hour (or two…) with a friend who’s coming into town for the weekend. 

Highlights from yesterday:

My very favorite Greek yogurt pancakes, with strawberry Chobani, after 8 minute abs + core work.

Pre-run snack. AMAZING white chocolate PB. Can’t wait to share the story behind it 😉 It fueled me for a speedier-than-I-have-been-lately 5 miles.

Quick and easy dinner- Garden Thyme Luna burger (yes, I’m obsessed) w/ broccoli. It was a busy night so I just needed food, fast. (and don’t worry- many unpictured foods were eaten too!)

The rest of my night was spent cleaning the basement. Thrilling right? Well it is but only because the reason we are cleaning is because we are FINALLY getting a new washing machine. Hallelujah!
Your turn:

What’s your approach to training in the summer?

Looking forward to anything this weekend?

Snow Pea Stir Fry

On Saturday I got some great things at the farmer’s market- fresh local strawberries (which are already long gone), a variety pack of my favorite Luna vegan burgers, a spicy muenster cheese, a huge bunch of rainbow chard and some snow peas. I knew right away that the chard and snow peas were meant for stir fry so tonight I was looking forward to cooking.

After a great session with my favorite drill sergeant (a.k.a. Jillian Michaels) I was famished and so glad I had dinner planned.

I started the way I start every recipe- by caramelizing a nice big onion. While the onion was cooking down, I prepared and washed the chard + snow peas. I added the chard in first, then some frozen broccoli and let it cook for awhile. 

While the veggies continued to cook I began to heat up a Peanut Cilantro Luna burger in another pan. This is probably my favorite variety. It’s got Ohio maple syrup, jalapenos, cilantro and Krema nut peanut butter in it. Delicious.

As the burger got close to being done I threw in the snow peas as I wanted them to be warm but still crisp. I drizzled a little bit of soy sauce and agave (honestly maybe a teaspoon of each, the veggies were so flavorful it didn’t need much) right before I took it off the heat. Combined it in a bowl and voila!

Not insanely photogenic but yummy (and nutritious!) all the same.

Of course I wouldn’t dare go to bed without dessert:

Key lime Chobani flip! This one had graham cracker crumbles and mini white chocolate chips. The yogurt wasn’t runny, my main complaint about the flips, and the flavors were spot on. Will definitely eat again (and again, and again, and again).

Cupcakes! Cupcakes! Cupcakes!

Not so long ago I taunted you with the promise of cupcakes. I teased you with pictures of the test batches and swore I’d be back with more. I totally dropped the ball and I did not photograph the cupcake process OR the final products. I’m so sorry!

Just because I’m terrible at documenting things doesn’t mean you should suffer more by not being able to enjoy the delicious treats I created. Pardon the recycled photos :-/

As I mentioned in passing these cupcakes were made for a Game of Thrones finale party (yes, I’m a big dork. I’m okay with it!). I made three different kinds, each connecting to a theme in the show. I spent a good amount of time brainstorming, as there were so many different routes I could have gone, but I’m more than pleased with what was created. I knew I wanted three distinctly different cupcake bases (to please everyone) so I just went from there. To make it a bit easier on myself I used one frosting base and separated it into three parts to customize it for each cupcake. Since it was a party I also wanted to make these a little more fun so I added a bit of alcohol to each of the recipes 🙂 

Cupcake 1 (in the front)
“Winter is Coming”
White cake base, whipped cream vodka frosting, topped with coconut. (partially inspired by those Hostess Sno Balls, actually).

Recipe (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
Makes 6

1/2 C. twice sifted all-purpose flour
1/8 C. skim milk
1/8 C. Whipped Cream Vodka (if nixing this just double the milk!)
5 T liquid egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/8 C. granulated white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 T room temperature butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a standard cupcake tin, place liners in six cups and fill the remaining six halfway with water (this will protect your pan and keep the cupcakes extra moist).

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together, add the dry mixture and the butter into the bowl of your mixer (I actually used my food processor and it worked splendidly). Beat until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.

In a large measuring cup, mix together the milk, vodka, egg whites and vanilla. Slowly pour into the mixer while it is running. Scrape down the sides and mix just a bit more, careful not to over mix. 

Fill your cupcake liners, bake for 18-20 minutes (I think my oven runs hot, so it may take a tad longer) until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cupcake 2 (middle row)
“Khaleesi’s Revenge”
Red velvet cake base, kicked with cinnamon + cayenne to make a Mexican hot chocolate cake.  Cream cheese frosting with a flaming strawberry on top.

Recipe (adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
Makes 12 

4T room temperature butter
3/4 C. granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 T dutch process cocoa powder
1 T red food coloring 
2 T Whipped Cream Vodka 
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C. buttermilk
1 C. + 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne 
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp distilled white vinegar (to enhance the red color)

Preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a standard cupcake tin with liners.

In a mixer (again, I used my food processor), cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the egg, be sure to scrape down the sides. 

In a small bowl combine the cocoa powder, vanilla, red food coloring and vodka to make a paste. Using a spatula add this pasted into the mixer and combine with the sugar/butter/egg. Slowly add in half the buttermilk and half the flour. Scrape down the sides and then add in the other half, mixing until smooth.

Stop the mixer and add in the salt, baking soda, vinegar, cinnamon and cayenne. Mix until combined.

Fill the liners about 2/3 of the way up and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cupcake 3 (in the back, they baked up better the second time around!)
“Lannisters, Drunken Blondes”
Yellow blonde ale cake base, lemon cream cheese frosting.

Recipe (adapted from Cupcake Project )
Makes 9

2 egg whites
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 T coconut oil
 1/2 C. + 2 T blonde ale (I used Victory Summer Love, a golden ale)
3 T skim milk
1 C. all-purpose flour
zest of one large lemon and half an orange

Preheat over to 350 degrees F, fill a standard cupcake tin with 9 liners and fill the remaining 3 tins with water.

In a medium bowl whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks (very important, do not underwhisk!). Slowly add in the sugar while you continue to whisk. Continue to add in the remaining ingredients, mixing until smooth. 

Fill the liners 3/4 of the way (these do not rise much) and bake for 13-15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the frosting I adapted the basic cream cheese frosting from the red velvet recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, adding in a splash of whipped cream vodka.

6 oz. room temperature butter
6 oz. room temperature 1/3 fat cream cheese
4 C powdered sugar
2 T whipped cream vodka

I separated the frosting into three parts. For the white cake, I left it as it was. For the red velvet I added in cayenne + cinnamon to taste. For the Blonde ale cakes I added a generous amount of fresh lemon juice + zest so that it was very thinned out, more of a glaze.

The piece de resistance was definitely the flaming strawberries! I hollowed them out, filled them with a splash of whipped cream vodka and literally set them on fire.

An actual picture from the party! It was very hard to photograph, haha.

My Mexican hot chocolate-red velvet cake was definitely the crowd favorite, even without the flaming strawberry, but my guests were impressed by all of them (and we all ate more than our fair share).

Training Rundown

Last week was a pretty solid training week for me. Let’s take a look back!

Sunday: 8 mile run, aerobic zone ~1hr 30min

Overall this run felt good. It was still really slow for me but the miles felt easy and if I hadn’t been on a serious time crunch I probably would have pushed it a bit farther.

Monday: Rest. Lots of stretching.

Tuesday: more stretching + strength training (NMTZ). 

I made it through NMTZ but I definitely wasn’t feeling it. Not my best performance but I was glad it was done.

Wednesday: Speed work. 60 minute run with six 1 minute pick ups. Covered ~ 6mi.

My training plan had instructions for this and I created a workout on my Garmin. I would do 9 minutes in the aerobic zone and then 60 seconds in my interval zone. I was very proud of my heart rate spikes and how it came back down relatively quickly. My only real complaint about this run was that I waited until a bit too late in the afternoon to do it and it.was.HOT. And humid!  I felt like I was chewing air. 

Thursday: Cross training.

I spent some time on my bike, but it was more for enjoyment than exercise if I’m being honest. We had a storm on Wednesday night and I hadn’t slept well at all so I just didn’t have the energy for a “real” workout.

Friday: Easy 3 miles, recovery to aerobic zone. 20 miles on the bike throughout the day.

This was the first one where I started to really see improvement in my speed while staying in the correct zone. My pace was creeping close to where it used to be and more often than not when I looked at my watch my HR was in the lower portion of where I wanted it to be. I felt really encouraged by this measly 3 miles.

Saturday: Long run- 10 miles! Aerobic zone.

What a fantastic run, I felt so good and strong the entire time. I bumped the 10 miler up a week because K. and I have plans for a long bike ride next Saturday (and I was kind of itching for double digits). I noticed a drastic improvement in my time- my average pace was almost an entire minute faster than it had been for Sunday’s 8 miler and my average HR was exactly the same! It’s amazing to see my new approach to training pay off so quickly. It’s also great to think that I’ve hit double digits and my half is still nearly 8 weeks away, I’m already better off this training cycle than I have been during the past two.

The rest of Saturday was crazy active as well- I hit up the local Farmer’s Market, rode the bike a bit too much and played a game of tennis! My legs were spent by the end of the night.

Total Running Miles: 27 I think that’s my most ever!

How I feel: Really great. My feet were a bit sore yesterday but I think that’s just because Saturday involved so much. I’ve still been icing my old injuries just in case though. I’ve also been adding in some recovery drinks and making sure to refuel properly, I think that makes all the difference.

Goals for this week: More consistent cross training. I want to get at least one hard ride in and as I said we have plans for a long (35-50 miles) ride on Saturday, so I’ll have plenty of time on the bike. I need to start sneaking more strength in, I have my one dedicated Jillian day per week but I either want to up that to two or squeeze in 8 minute abs or something post-runs. I’d love to make it to yoga on Sunday if my work schedule allows it, so fingers crossed.

And just because a pictureless post is boring, here is the lone image I have found of me from the duathlon: