Sunday, September 25, 2011

country comfort

After a long week of jury duty, I'm writing from DC. I cam down Friday for the weekend which was highlighted by WMZQ's Fall Fest concert featuring Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Jerrod Niemann. I've had the tickets FOREVER and was excited to finally get some country love going on. As a New Jersey girl country music exposure was always pretty limited but in college I started to get into it. First country concert? Success.

Since the concert was an all afternoon/evening event Meaghan and I decided a solid brunch was necessary. Meaghan got to work on Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit muffins courtesy of the blog Cooking with My Kid. These were DELISH and super simple to make. Note from Chef Meaghan: flour your board when you roll out the biscuits for better results. They are great for a crowd and can be made with mix-ins.

Both Meaghan and I wanted to make another egg dish but realized anything we wanted to make would be too similar, so we decided a sweeter dish would probably be a better choice (even though we both prefer savory dishes over sweet). I'd seen a Blueberry Almond French Toast Bake by Ellie Krieger that I wanted to try a long time ago, and went looking. That recipe required an overnight prep, so I chose to make Baked French Toast with Blueberries by Giada DeLaurentis instead.  I read the reviews and used a lot more sourdough bread than recommended because the mixture apparently is otherwise too wet. I also omitted the lemon because I didn't think we had any. 

Extra bread? Good call. Even with the extra bread I had to cook the dish an extra No lemon? Bad call. The depth of flavor was lacking a bit, as was the spice factor. It was OK but needed something more. I don't think I'd make this dish again- good old fashioned pancakes or french toast are more my speed. The middle was too much of a mushy texture for my liking. Glad I satisfied my curiosity though!

To round out the brunch we just cut up some fruit... and made mimosas. Usually not a big mimosa fan, but who can say no at brunch?

After one mimosa I got my country on- Jack and Diet Coke- but in a classy wine glass (which may actually serve to only make it less classy?).

In DC one more night- totally by accident too. I booked my return bus trip for the same day I came down. Only realized it today, which meant the other buses were sold out. 7:45 am bus tomorrow it is! Totally not like e to screw that up, but transportation the trip has a been a bit of a mess seeing as I BARELY made my bus on Friday due to oversleeping. Wreck.

 Lazy day today but I did get a run in, it's always nice to run somewhere completely different.  I won't get home til about 12:30 tomorrow which means mad dash to gas up my car, grocery shop, make lunches, and nap then GOTR and work. Quite a Monday...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

feelin' kinda fall

Fall showed up out of the blue! Love it. The smell, the crisp air. Love it. Best running weather, despite the fact that the day shortens and thus so does the running day. Every time I think I could move somewhere without four seasons, we hit another season change and I remember how great the transition form one season to the next is.

The fall weather has put me in a great mood and as expected I was back out in my sneakers yesterday after three days of hot yoga. I did a lovely 5 miles yesterday which felt awesome, though I definitely had to dig deep to find motivation to keep going on the big hills since the triathlon is over. Guess I need a new goal?

This morning was GOTR and it was a really fun session. The girls were so self motivated. We have all levels, but they all pushed themselves and each other. I can already see we have some natural runners. Today was also my favorite lesson- all about unplugging from the negative and plugging into the positive. Don't we all need that some days?

After GOTR it was some hot yoga. It was an hour class which I love, but it was also a beginner class that went a bit TOO slow. Believe me, I am very much a beginner but I like when I feel pushed and come out super sweaty. Today wasn't sweaty enough for me so it didn't feel like as much of a work out.

After some jury duty this week (to be continued next week...), it's back to work tonight. I decided to make a some comfort food to accompany the fall weather. The choice? Pasta Bolognese. This was a really quick version with a veggie boost. I've made all-day type recipes and they are great for entertaining, but for everyday this is quick and easy. I used 93% lean ground beef, which is often leaner than most ground turkey but stays moister than turkey. Not a big fan of ground turkey, but if you are just make the swap. Note: if you are eating ground turkey to be healthier always read your packaging closely- ground beef isn't always the devil it's been made out to be... 

Quick Bolognese Sauce
(serves 4-6)

1 pound 93% lean ground beef 
1/2 red onion 
3 cloves garlic
1 zucchini
1 -2 carrots (peeled) 
1 can whole, peeled tomatoes in juices 
2- 3 TBSP tomato paste 
3/4 cups water 
2 TBSP basil (I used fresh frozen basil from TJ's)
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

1. Heat pan. While pan is heating, pulse garlic and onion in food processor to fine mince. 
2. When pan is hot, turn to medium heat and add EVOO. Add onion and garlic mixture and cook about 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add salt, pepper, and  red pepper flakes to taste. 
3. While onions and garlic cook, pulse carrot and zucchini in food processor until minced. Add to Onion and garlic mixture in pan. Cook 2 minutes. 
4. With pan at medium heat, add ground beef. Break up and cook until browned and no longer pink. 
5. Add tomato paste, water, and canned tomatoes with juice. Break up tomatoes with hands. 
6. Add basil. Simmer partially covered until reduced and thickened.

For portion control I packed the sauce with 1/2 cup (dry measure) of Barilla Plus rotini. It looks so puny in my container which is sad, but I piled a bunch of sauce on top to make it a little less pathetic. 

Also packed: mozzarella string cheese, green pepper strips + hummus, Chobani yogurt, and a peach or pear. Easy, filling, and a lunch I can look forward to. 

As for dinner this week, I quick roasted some butternut squash, 1/2 a red onion, and yellow squash at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. I tossed it all in 1 T EVOO and sprinkled on salt, chili powder, cayenne (pinch), and cinnamon (pinch). The spices are warm with just enough kick. 

I used the veggies to top mixed greens then added a pan-fried (cooking spray and a hot pan) TJ JalapeƱo Chicken Sausage, goat cheese, and some TJ Light Champagne Vinaigrette. Too lazy to make my own dressing this time around!

Now it's off to work. Thinking I may top a graham cracker with PB and banana for dessert...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

do it yourself

It has been a busy few days post-triathlon, but the high from completing the race has still not quite worn off. I still feel really strong and proud, and I think it has translated to my enthusiasm and confidence in other areas of life too!

Monday was the start of Girls on the Run. It's my THIRD season coaching and I cannot believe it! Time flies. The girls this round are younger than the spring group. A lot of third graders and a few fifth graders- no fourth graders, which most of last season was. They are a fun and enthusiastic group. I like the third grade level because the girls really need guidance in the "how to run" department and they are eager to run with their young, fun coach (ahem, yes I am referring to myself).  Excited for the season and even with the move I am going to try to come home and coach as much as possible.

Work Monday was rough- heavy assignment, heavy limbs, sore muscles- but I made it through. Probably should have put off work another day after the triathlon since work as a nurse can mean a lot of time on my feet. Oh well, next tri I'll know!

Yesterday and today were a mix of moving prep and getting back into the workout groove. Started a LivingSocial deal at a local yoga place. It was $45 for a free month of hot yoga, $10 gift card, and $25 off a class package. AMAZING deal. I went to yoga yesterday and today and it's basically already paid for itself.  It felt great to SWEAT and to do something different from running- although I am  really itching to run. It's also nice to work out without the pressure of an event that I "should" be training for. No pressure, just a love yourself kinda workout.

Lunch was a nice healthy salad: mixed greens, fried egg, goat cheese, raspberries, cuke, peach, and some toasted garlic naan from TJ's (in the freezer section). I topped it with a vinaigrette of shallot, EVOO, and sherry vinegar.  The raspberry and peach combo was a little homage to summer before all the tasty summer fruits go out of season.

Today I spent some of the day packing clothes and cleaning out my closet. The rest of the time was spent on prepping my first major apartment purchase for paint! I bought a large buffet table to serve as my media  center/storage piece in my living room. It's from a consignment shop- beautiful, solid wood with some imperfections on the finish (scratches, water marks) for only $200. Can't do better even at Ikea. I'm till not sure what color I am going to paint (waiting for my bedding to arrive) and change the hardware, but I figured I should prep it while I had time:

the purchase

sanded down

I am feeling quite proud of my DIY work so far. I thought this process would take an hour- it took three but was still fun. Even if it doesn't turn out perfect, it will be cool to have out some love into my furniture. I even love the primer that's still caked on my hands. It's a badge of honor- though nowhere as cool as the permanent marker numbers from the triathlon that already washed off. I was very sad to see them go. :(

 For dinner I pulled together some tofu. I was inspired by the DELICIOUS spicy tofu with sesame seeds that Whole Foods sells and glanced at their ingredients when I was in the store the other day. Not really similar but still pretty tasty- and easy.

I just whisked together some soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, garlic, red pepper flakes, cider vinegar, agave, and black pepper then allowed the pressed and cubed tofu to marinate in it for about an hour.

I sauteed the tofu (without the marinade juices) in a hot pan and some canola oil until crispy on the outside. Then I added in some carrots and sugar snap peas that were abandoned last week in my fridge along with the marinade juices.  I cooked everything together so that the veggies were warm but still crunchy. 

Watermelon and cantaloupe on the side, along with a Sam Adam's East-West Kolsch. Never had this beer before, and while not my favorite beer, it was definitely drinkable. 

 There's even more I want to share but this blog entry is so long. I will spare you. Oddly enough the start of the school year seems to have made me much more eager to do my blog "homework." I guess after being in school your whole life, the habit i shard to break even 17 months post college (insert tears here).

Jury duty in the AM- loaded some books onto my NOOK since I hear its a lot of waiting around.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

if you think you can't, just TRI

The last few days have been full of nerves, poor sleep, last minute workouts, and excitement.

Today was FINALLY the Danskin Women's Triathlon! 

Here's the play-by-play (translation: super long entry ahead): 

Last night, Norah, Meaghan, Annie, and I headed down to the pre-race expo to get our numbers, some free stuff, and to listen to some pre-race pep talks. Meaghan and I decided to purchase a try belt (number holder) and a holder for our timing chip (more comfortable than the plastic band they give you)- SO glad I bought these- made transition easy and the chip was secure but comfy. Then it was hotel check in and off to a nice "team" dinner. Penne vodka with chicken, wedge salad, bread, and chicken wings (yes, sharing was involved) was lunch/dinner/pre-race fuel for me. We also each had a beer- we only take hydration over relaxation so far. 

After dinner it was water drinking time and BED. I slept pretty well. though I think the other three fell asleep and stayed asleep a bit more solidly than I did! 

In the AM it was up at 4:45. We dressed then toasted our whole wheat TJ's bagels in the closed hotel breakfast room and topped them with some peanut butter. I also had a small peach and a lemonade Vitamin Water Zero. Turned out to be perfect pre-race fuel. 

By the time we parked and hit the transition area it was 6:15 or so. Amazingly we all had everything we needed...

We stood around in our yellow swim caps for a LOOOONG time. The first wave went in at 0700 and we weren't up until 0809. Luckily, all four of us were together. We turned out to all be silly and talkative when nervous so the wait went by quickly. While waiting I also downed Clif energy gel and 8 oz of water. The last thing I wanted was to feel hungry or worse- lightheaded. 

I was horribly nervous as they herded us into the water, but the nerves ended quickly once I got going. It helped that the overcast, cool day made the water feel warm. Meaghan and I ended up chasing each other back and fourth the whole way, which definitely pushed me. I was surprised at how much breaststroke I did instead of freestyle, but it was just easier and quicker for me to navigate through all the people doing breaststroke. Meaghan and I exited only two seconds apart and ran the 500 or so meters (which was a far stretch!) to the transition area. We were barefoot and a lot of the route was gravel, so it was nice to be next to a friend. And to run past our cheering section!

Meaghan kicked my butt in transition and was off. I felt a bit lost for a second and had to focus on what needed to be done. Being behind had a benefit though- Annie and Norah showed up just as I hit the road. Biking was a lot more fun than expected- especially once I hit a serious downpour. It felt great. I picked two bikers that I thought were good competition and kept them in my sight. The three of us would pass each other on and off, which was helpful for pushing myself. 

As I parked my bike and started sucking down another energy gel, Norah came into the transition area. We ran off together. As we took our stride, Norah and I kept telling each other to take off if the other needed but it turned out we were pushing each other. The start was tough (jello legs) and the rest was well, pretty painful for me, so it was AMAZING to have a running partner. At about mile 2 Norah broke off to tie a shoe but we ended up together just past mile 3. As we rounded the corner Norah encouraged me to take off with her, which I WISH I could have done but it was like everything relaxed when I saw the end near and it was all I could do to hold my pace and NOT throw up/pee my pants. We finished just ten seconds apart!

My Times

.75k Swim: 11:03 (#103 overall)
Trans 1: 06:51-- I need to cut this down- it killed me!
20 k Bike: 38:18 (18.7 MPH)
Tran 2: 01:59
5 k Run: 27:10 (8:45 mile)
Total: 1:25:21
Rank Age 20-24: 16/35
Overall: 243/1600

This race was so much better than I ever imagined. I figured I'd be proud and happy, but I nearly had happy tears by the end, and even during, the race. I was shocked to find myself thinking this is FUN so many times during the tri. At the very end, I felt pretty horrible but literally within minutes of finishing the endorphin rush made me want to start running again. Biggest. Runner's (Triathlete's?). High. Ever.  

Can't ya see the glow?

If you have ever considered a triathlon- SERIOUSLY consider signing up for one. If you haven't considered it- CONSIDER IT.  If you are a woman, definitely do an all women's even like this one. It was such a fun, supportive race- like Girls on the Run for adults! The best part is that, since the race runs in waves, you have no idea who started with you, which means the race really becomes your own. The other great thing is that the race is all levels- which means you have the satisfaction of passing planty of people (and who doesn't love that... be honest).

Don't think you have time to train or a nice enough bike? My bike was a hybrid that looked like a beach cruiser. It was cheap from Target. Not enough time to train? All four of us slacked in that area- I hadn't swam in weeks and if I got on the bike ten times over the summer it would be stretching it. All I did was run plenty and stayed in general shape and it turned out to be totally doable.

Join the four of us next year! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

what the fig

So I know all summer I kept saying I need to get back into the blog thing... and I never really did. Vacations, day trips, work, and general outdoor fun just got in the way. Cooking even took a backseat compared to my spring cooking days which is something I miss! Now I feel like whenever I cook it is rushed, rather than the lackadaisical fun it had been. Unfortunately less/faster cooking has also translated into less healthy eating. Goal for the fall: cook more and reduce calorie consumption a bit. Totally doable... especially because I'm MOVING!

Where you ask? Into Manhattan, right next to work. Commute time? Approximately 2 minutes door to door. After commuting for a year and giving close to three hours each work day in commuting, the time has come to move into a studio of my own. October 6th I will be on my own, which will mean more time to blog AND cook AND exercise. Not to mention somewhere to blow my money on cute home furnishings. Danger.

More to come on the move, but in the meantime here's some cooking I actually have been doing...

Dinner for the week? Not more tofu steaks you say? Yes, more tofu steaks. I can't get enough!

On the side were roasted potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and zucchini. Just tossed in EVOO, balsamic, garlic, salt, and pepper and roasted at 425 until the tiny potatoes were fork tender.

When the tomatoes get wrinkly and a bit dehydrated, the flavor is sweet and concentrated. These tomatoes were already delicious, but even out of season tomatoes respond really well to roasting.

To finish off the meal- kale chips with salt, garlic powder, and creole seasoning. And Heinz of course.

This dinner packs a nice amount of food without a ton of calories. The tofu steaks taste great with some mustard on top, I like TJ's Garlic Aioli Mustard. 

In an extra exciting twist of events, I actually got a call yesterday from work asking if I wanted to take a holiday (aka use my holiday time and have the night off instead)... it was such a nice surprise. 

My holiday dinner, which was a late one after some midday napping post-nap and a 5 mile run, was made up of food I had leftover but turned out to be awesome.  Even Pat, for whom vegetable seem to act like kryptonite, said "what is that? it looks cool." 

Salad of sliced black figs, heirloom tomatoes, sliced almonds, fresh mozzarella, and arugula. The dressing was leftover citrus-balsamic vinaigrette that my mom made earlier this week. The recipe was modified from Wolfgang Puck's Citrus Hazlenut Vinaigrette- my mom omitted the hazelnut oil. Goat or blue cheese would be even more fabulous on this salad.

Off to clean my room a bit more as I am in the fun process of clearing out and organizing my things for the move! Bought some things today at IKEA and home goods, mostly for the kitchen (shocking) and I'm really excited to keep pulling things together. Only problem is that today I ended up totally neglecting any physical activity in favor of moving prep. Have a feeling it won't be the last time, but seeing as the TRI is SUNDAY, I wish I'd felt motivated to move. Besides plenty of running, the training has gone virtually extinct for weeks. Oh well!