New shoes and 60 degree weather changes…

I finally set the time aside to visit my local running store and was extremely pleased to learn that they were having a big sale- $15 off all new shoes and a free t-shirt. I love me some free t-shirts so I was ready to shop!

I’ve been down this road before so I knew that the process of finding me a shoe would not be an easy one. I was assigned a shoe-fitter who I hadn’t worked with yet (shocking, as I’ve spent much time in this store) but was very pleased to learn that he was the owner of the store. I had no doubt that I’d be receiving great treatment. We went over all the basics- he had me stand up to check out my arches/sizing, walk around, run on the treadmill a bit, talked about what I was training for, what I currently (and have previously) ran in, etc. and then got down to business. I went through no less than 7 pairs of shoes: the new Wave Inspires (DO NOT LIKE), some New Balances, Nikes, Asics, etc. Nothing was fitting right. He brought over a second pair of eyes and they had me run on the treadmill for a bit longer (a solid 5 minutes) to really analyze my running style. They agreed that my foot strike is “unique” (another word for bad) and that although my foot shapes predicts a stability shoe with a 60% gradient my stride is already overcorrecting any overpronation and I’d probably be better suited with a 30% gradient. This all sounded kind of foreign to me, haha, but at least I remembered it!

After again reminding me that both my feet and my running style are “unique” (I get it guys!) I was handed another round of shoes to try on. I felt a lot like Goldilocks at this point- searching for my “just right”. When I put on the Saucony Guide 7s I felt like I had found it. Right off the bat the shoe felt comfortable and my foot didn’t feel like it was being forced into doing anything. 


So, there you have it! A new shoe to try. This little guy got his first pounding of pavement yesterday on a beautiful 67 degree day. We only ran a 5K so I can’t be certain if this is really the shoe for me, but we did all right. 

Unfortunately it looks like it’ll be awhile before we are out on the open road again thanks to this:

A low of 9 and 100% chance of snow. Winter, I am so over you.

I need new shoes.

After yesterday’s declaration to be smarter, I’m reminded that I desperately need new running shoes. I’ve been running in my PureCadence 3s ever since I declared the death of my Mizuno’s during the first 6 miles of my marathon last fall. Don’t get me wrong- I really love my PureCadences- they fit my foot like a glove and help move me towards a midfoot strike- but these are not long distance shoes for me. I can run maybe 8 miles in them comfortably and since I’m (supposedly) training for a 20-mile race in 7 weeks, I need to be running a whole lot more than 8 miles. 

So- shoes! What to do, what to do. Despite running regularly for over 2 years now, I feel like maybe I still haven’t found my perfect shoe. Do I keep putting my faith in the staff at my favorite running store? I feel like we made a bit of progress last time, as the Wave Inspire 9s worked pretty well for me, but I think there still may be a better shoe out there. I have very unique feet and pretty terrible running form (I’m working on it) as demonstrated during the Emerald City half last summer. Remember this?


I don’t know if shoes can help me not run on the outside edge of my foot or not, but I do know that with form like that I’m destined for injury (again).

I’ve taken the little shoe recommending tests on Brooks & Mizuno, since they are brands I’ve been running it. I’m sure those are completely accurate, right? Their recommendations:

Brooks Ghost. A neutral shoe, which seems smarter for me than a stability shoe as I obviously don’t need extra padding under my arch since my foot is already turning the other direction.


Mizuno Wave Sayonara This shoe is supposed to let my foot do what it wants to do naturally but still have a medium amount of padding to provide enough comfort for long runs.

I also took the test at Running Warehouse but they recommended a trillion different shoes. I have to assume that it’s better for someone to see my running in person but after so many conflicting opinions and recommendations from the staff at my local running store I don’t even feel that confident in what they are saying. 

How do your choose shoes? Buy & try? Running store recommendation? Whatever is on sale? Somebody help me!


Facing the facts.

Over the course of the past week there have been two instances that really highlighted some new things I need to focus on while getting back in race-shape. Allow me to share these with you.


First, K. and I went to COSI to see this very awesome Sherlock exhibit. Since we still had a few hours before the museum closed, we spent that time actually participating in some of the interactive permanent exhibits. One of the areas, Life, has you do a series of tests to give you a sense of your overall health (seeing as these tests never included entering a lot of pertinent information, I would certainly not consider this a professional diagnosis, but I digress). We participated in four different activities to test strength, flexibility, resting heart rate and active heart rate. Other than my slightly higher than usual resting heart rate (while at my marathon training peak I had my HR under 50 and felt good about it. Obviously I’m not running enough these days. Thanks for the reminder, COSI) I felt pleased with my overall health minus one glaring failure: flexibility. This was absolutely no surprise, I’ve always struggled with flexibility thanks to my crazy tight hamstrings but the results of my test were honestly embarrassing. For this highly advanced test, you sit on a bench with your feet against a wall. While keeping your legs straight you push a bar and it measures the distance that you were able to push. The female average for my age group was something crazy, like 14.5. My results? 1.6 


This is how I felt after seeing that. (image stolen from the internet)

On Monday, we were treated to a 10-minute chair massage at work. I was very much looking forward to this as my shoulders/back have been feeling extra tight lately. Now I’ve always known that my back is not in a great state- lots of knots back there. Admittedly I have pretty poor posture and the hours that I spend slumped over my computer at work each day certainly don’t help. I went into this chair massage thinking I would walk out full of relief (10-minutes should be enough, right?). Not for me, apparently. This woman didn’t even attempt to hide the shock she felt when she started working on my neck. 

Her: “Is it always this bad?” 

Me: “I never really considered my neck to be a trouble spot, actually. My shoulders and back are full of knots though. I’m kind of a high-stress individual that carries it all there.”

(begins to move her hands to my shoulders) “Oh my. Well, let’s just focus on this unhealthy knot in your neck and then we can talk about what to do about the rest.”

This poor woman spent more than the allotted 10 minutes on this one small area and informed me of all the options available to me through work. She encouraged me to call and schedule an appointment with a stress specialist (oh the things that exist in our world!) to work on breathing techniques and relaxation. She also reminded me, multiple times, that I can get regular massages covered by my insurance when my back is in this state.

These two incidents, happening in less than a week, really reminded me that I need to focus even more on the overall state of my body. Sure, I eat relatively clean and I love a good cardio workout, but my body needs more than that. I’ve flirted with yoga but I’ve never committed to a studio (yes, for financial reasons but even more so because I’m so embarrassed by my inflexibility) but I think it might be time to take the plunge. I’ve found a few groupon/yelp/living social deals at some reputable studios around town and I’m just kind of weighing my options at this point. My hope is that my joining a studio and practicing more regularly I’ll be able to get more actual assistance from the teacher and not just struggle through the parts that require me to touch my toes (because spoiler alert: I can’t). Are any of you yogis? Yay or Nay on joining a studio?

As I dive back into a full on training plan and begin to daydream about the races I want to run this spring/summer/fall I want to commit to doing better things for my body. Working on stretching is obviously key, but focusing on stress management and my mental health is equally as important. It’s easy for me to run, generally (just don’t look at my Garmin data from that past few weeks) but it’s all the other stuff that starts to fall away. Now is as good a time as ever to start making these changes, right?

The greatest vegetable lasagna you’ll ever eat

While tackling my 30 days dinner (which was a relative success), I started every night with the same question: what cuisine do we want? We tend to eat a lot of the same things, mostly Asian, Mexican, Indian and Mediterranean. I’m not sure why I neglect Italian food so much (especially given my affinity for carbs) but I generally only eat pasta before races. I decided to mix it up and make lasagna. I’ve made lasagna exactly one time before in my life, in the very early days of my relationship with K. and he actually did most of the work. We also used zucchini and eggplant in place of the noodles, so this was going to be a whole new ballgame.

Excessive googling of “best vegetable lasagna” lead me to The Pioneer Woman and I am oh so glad that it did! I’ve been using recipes from her site like crazy ever since. I used her Vegetable Lasagna recipe and only made one real change- I left out the squash and added in a huge bunch of spinach. In my mind, this was going to be a pretty simple undertaking. Boil some noodles, cook up some veggies, mix together ricotta, layer it all and bake. I was very wrong. My kitchen literally looked like a bomb had gone off (sorry, no photo evidence. No one should have to see that.) and I used up every millimeter of counter space. My original thought was that I’d have this all baked and on the table when K. got home from the gym but really I was just standing in the kitchen, staring at the mess and unassembled layers on the verge of tears. I stepped away from the kitchen and let him do the building and the baking (team work for the win!).

Vegetables cooking down

Delightful ricotta/parmesan/egg mixture

Insane amount of noodles spread all around the kitchen

The final product! 

(I’d love to take credit for the adorable parsley cat on top but that was all K.’s doing. So cute!)

I really can’t say enough good things about this recipe, it truly was the perfect lasagna. Insanely rich though, definitely a one-piece-and-done deal (even for K. who is the king of second helpings). This baby lasted us more than a few days in the fridge, which is always a bonus in our home.

The little things.

On Saturday it was 55 degrees and sunny. It feels like it’s been a lifetime since I’ve felt the sun on my face. Is that too melodramatic?

This morning I made myself some silver dollar Greek yogurt pancakes. It’s also felt like a lifetime since I’ve cooked a well-balanced breakfast.

This winter rut of mine? I think it was a little bit deeper than usual. I think I may have lost myself for a little bit. But just like the sun finally did, I’m coming back out.

I can’t make spring come any sooner, I know that most of the country is wishing for the same thing. But I can focus on the little things that make the gray days a bit more tolerable.


Kitty on the my laptop.


Six dozen Monster Cookies.


The perfect cup of coffee.

For today, these things are enough. 

For today, this is progress.

(for next week, this list better include a double digit run or that 20-miler may be a disaster 🙂 )


Hello again and happy Monday.

"Healthier" Vegetable Fried Rice

Last week threw a bit of a wrench into my 30 Day Dinner Challenge, we had dinner plans two nights and then I had the prepping for and celebrating of my best friend’s wedding. A hectic week to say the least! But I still managed to squeeze in a decent meal or two.

First up: Vegetable Fried Rice!

K. requested a healthier version of fried rice and I was happy to accept the challenge. I’ll freely admit that I completely winged this one and had a little bit of help from the some pre-cooked frozen brown rice.


“Healthier” Vegetable Fried Rice
should serve 4, unless you live in my household.

4 large eggs
4 C. brown rice, cooked and cooled
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 carrots, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 bag frozen peas, slightly defrosted
~1T of toasted sesame seed oil
1/4 C. Soy sauce
Sriracha, optional, to taste

Prepare your rice per the instructions. As I mentioned I cheated a bit and used pre-cooked frozen brown rice and it worked just fine. Remove your rice from the store top and set is aside to cool.

Place a large wok over medium heat and add just a little sesame seed oil to coat the pan. While the pan is warming up, whisk together the 4 eggs. Add the eggs to the pan, stirring constantly. You aren’t trying to create fluffy scrambled eggs here, I was going for very thin eggs (if that makes sense?). When they are maybe a minute or two from fully cooked, transfer them from the wok to a plate and set aside. Clean the pan if necessary and turn the heat up to high. Add just a dash more sesame seed and let it thoroughly heat up. Toss in the onions and garlic, you should hear a pretty loud SIZZLE when they hit the pan, and cook until the onions are translucent. Add in the carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes. Finally add in the peppers and peas and continue to cook the vegetables down. At this point I tossed in maybe 1 T of soy sauce, just to get the flavored really cooked into the veggies. Once you are happy with the state of the vegetables (I was aiming to get a little bit of browning on the onions), add the rice and eggs back into the wok. Pour in the remaining soy sauce and optional sriracha and cook for 5-10 more minutes on high heat. Serve immediately and with chopsticks.


K. has started having some fun with the photo shoot set-up


Overall it turned out really well. By the time I was almost done I remembered that I had bought tofu to add in as well but I didn’t even think it needed it. 

Coming up later this week: Chickpea Cutlets, Vegetarian Lasagna and talks of a training plan (because 20-miler is less than 3 months away, eeeeek). Please try to contain your excitement!

Three Lovely Days

There are few things better than three day weekends and this one was especially good for my 30-Days of Dinner challenge (as I’ve just decided to call it). Throughout the next few weeks I am going to try to go outside my typical recipe box- it’s really easy for me to end up in a cooking rut. And while sometimes it’s convenient to fall back on my standard vegetables + tofu = dinner, it’s always nice to try something new.

Friday was incredibly cold (I’m so over winter!) so we planned on staying in and playing some cards with friends. I knew I wanted to make comfort food- something warm and soothing to the soul. I didn’t want soup or stew but something similar so I created a new-to-me recipe of a vegetarian take on chicken pot pie.


Chickpea Pot Pie!

Now to be honest, I don’t even know if I’ve ever had chicken pot pie (and if I did it was a lifetime ago) but I love the concept of it- a nice hearty stew with a delightfully bready crust. I’m not that in to flaky crusts so I used a cornmeal biscuit as my inspiration for the topping. I’m starting to think that this is nothing like what chicken pot pie actually is, but I’m okay with that.

Note: I’m not great with measurements, especially when it comes to seasoning (as I’m a big fan of adding a bit at a time and then tasting) but I promise that going forward I’ll try to be a bit more exact. 

Ingredients:

For the filling
Olive oil
1 large sweet potato, chopped
1 large russet potato, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
~1 C. cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch of kale, chopped
1 orange bell pepper pepper, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
3 C. vegetable broth
1/4 C. AP flour
Rubbed sage
Salt
Pepper

For the crust:
3/4 C. bread flour 
3/4 C. cornmeal
1 1/2 T. granulated sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
~3/4 C. vegetable broth
2 T. olive oil
1 yolk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss potatoes, carrots and mushrooms in olive oil, season to taste with sage, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25, until the potatoes are just starting to brown. While those veggies roast, cook down the onion over medium heat. Once the onion is translucent, add in the garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add in the kale. Cook until the kale is completely wilted and the onions are beginning to caramelize (5-10 minutes) then add in the orange pepper and the chickpeas. By this point, the veggies should be done, so remove them from the oven and turn the temperature down to 350. Add the veggies to the pot, pour in the vegetable broth, add the flour and turn the heat up to high. Bring the broth to a boil and allow the stew to thicken up, cooking 3-5 minutes. Turn down to a simmer and cover.


To prepare the crust, sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a mixing cup whisk the egg with the olive oil and add in the vegetable broth to reach the 3/4 cup mark. Pour the liquid slowly into the dry ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon, careful not to over mix.

Pour the filling into a casserole dish and cover with the crust mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is just beginning to brown and the filling is bubbling. I had just a little bit too much for my casserole dish so I baked a little mug on the side- the perfect single serving!



This meal really hit the spot! It was hearty and filling but not overly so, great for these cold winter nights. I suppose it helps that I had good company while eating it:

Sometimes I’m still amazed by just how cute the gray girls can be 🙂

Crawling out of the winter rut

Happy 2014! December and early January have been a whirlwind- crazy CRAZY long work weeks, holidays, a sinus infection and the flu have pretty much thrown my life completely out of whack. I’m ALMOST feeling 100% normal again and have finally resumed a somewhat regular schedule. It feels good.

I very recently promised K that I would cook (with his assistance, of course) a homemade dinner every single night for the next month to make up for the lackluster eating habits in our household these past few weeks. Naturally I regretted this promise the very next day and just wanted to eat leftover pizza for a dinner but never fear I’m sticking to it! (I’m also vowing to start using a real camera to photograph the process going forward because the iPhone is just cutting it).

See? Terrible photo. Especially given that I spent the first two years of college as a photography major. 

What’s on the plate? Panko-crusted chili-cumin tofu topped with a hot pepper Greek yogurt. Served with a side of sauteed peppers, onions and sweet potatoeswith a dollop of salsa verde guacamole. Sounds fancy right? It was honestly a pretty simple undertaking. 

I marinated the tofu in soy sauce, agave nectar and a generous amount of cumin for almost an hour. I dipped the slices in egg and then in some chili powder and cumin seasoned panko breadcrumbs. I baked at 375 for 30 minutes, flipping the tofu half way through. While the tofu was baking I deeply carmelized an onion, then added in some cubed sweet potatoes and green peppers. I kept the heat turned up pretty high as I wanted just a little bit of charring. For the hot pepper Greek yogurt sauce I used half a container of 0% plain Chobani and added in chili powder, a dash of cayenne and a about 1T of hot sauce. The salsa verde guac was made from avocado, lime juice, salt and a some left over salsa verde from a taqueria (I know that’s kind of cheating but it was the best salsa verde I’ve ever had and I couldn’t let it go to waste). 

I plan to blog my way through the more creative nights of home cooking AND start sharing my training for the 20 Mile Drop! I officially registered and I’m already completely behind in my training/out of shape thanks to my two week battle with sickness, but I’m more than itching to get back on track (good thing too because April is fast approaching!).

I’m so happy to be back in blogland and hope that not all my readers have abandoned me 🙂

Hectic Holiday

I know I’ve been remiss in posting- blame it on the 70+ hour work weeks that December has brought! No empty promises about when regular posting will resume (but hopefully soon!), just a quick post to wish you all a very happy holiday! I hope you are staying safe and warm and enjoying quality time with friends, family and fantastically adorable pets 🙂




(tell me those sweatshirts are not the cutest!)

Awwww (ginger)snap!

Earlier this season I stumbled across the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I was more than intrigued. Not only would I have a reason to bake an insane amount of cookies but I’d also receive three dozen at my doorstep and donate money to a great cause. It took me about .5 seconds to decide that this was something I needed to do.

When it came to deciding what kind of cookie to bake it took me even less time! Not a week before I learned about the swap K. and I had picked up a bag of gingersnaps from our local Lucky’s Market. Gingersnaps are easily in my top 5 cookies (probably battling with snickerdoodles for #1, honestly) and I was so excited to see that they were part of the weekly specials that I just snatched up a bag without double checking the label. I was horrified to discover that the cookies I was oh so excited about contained trans fat! I’m not a perfectly clean eater by any means but I do have lines drawn and trans fat is something that crosses the line. The cookies went directly into the trash and my holiday cheer was knocked down a notch. This cookie swap was the perfect opportunity for me to finally get my holiday gingersnaps.

I perused the internet for a few different recipes and decided to work with this one from Smitten Kitchen (who adapted it from Cook’s Illustrated and assorted other sources). I made only minor changes, as a good gingersnap recipe is hard to improve upon.

I would like to note that this recipe is crazy easy and it makes an awesome amount of cookies (over 4 dozen!) at a time. You can also freeze the dough to save for later if you don’t need to have 4 dozen delicious cookies in your home at once.

Ingredients:
2 1/4 C. Whole Wheat Flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3 1/4 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1/4 t. ground white pepper
2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temp)
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/2 C. dark brown sugar
1 large egg 
3/8 C. molasses
1 t. grated fresh ginger

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In a separate bowl (or stand mixer, food processor, etc) cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg, molasses and fresh ginger and process until well mixed. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix by hand to combine. 


Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. An hour or two should be substantial. I left mine in overnight so I actually let it sit at room temperature for just a bit before working with it. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into ~1-inch balls [If you do not plan on baking all the cookies at once, I still recommend forming them into balls before freezing], place the balls on a well-greased cookie sheet at least an inch apart, as the cookies will spread. Bake 12-15 minutes depending on desired “snappiness”- I baked mine for 13 and achieved a flexible cookie with crispy edges.


When (not if) I make these again I plan to add 1/2 t. cardamom and increase the fresh ginger from 1 t. to 2 t., but even without those changes these cookies were a huge success! 


Happy baking!