Thursday, September 30, 2010

good runner, bad blogger.

Oh man, school and life have been hectic lately, leaving less time for blogging.  But I have been running!  This week started M and I's 10k training program.  Tuesday morning started with a 2.5 mile run.  I was trying my best to push us to go fast.  When we got to where I thought was about 1 mile and my watch said 11:40something, I was so upset... if this was pushing myself to run fast, I was in trouble!  Alas, after a quick break to stretch (I was still pretty sore from Sunday's race!) we pushed on.  When we finally got to the 2.5 mile mark, my watch read 26:27 - hooray!  I was actually wrong about where the 1 mile mark is on our run, and we ended up averaging 10:35 miles.  I was so proud of us!  It was definitely challenging, but also something I think I can keep up.
In between my running and other activities, I haven't done as much cooking as I would have liked.  I had lots of leftovers to enjoy, and last night I just never got in the mood do make a real dinner... oops!  But, Tuesday I made an Italian Garden Frittata. The star of the show was zucchini, and the dish was topped with mushrooms.
I generally don't like eggs - they've been making my stomach hurt over the past year-ish... so I was a little skeptical of how this would go.  But, I used egg beaters instead and I think that totally helped.  Still not loving the egg-y flavor, but it was decent!
This morning it was ridiculously muggy and humid outside, and also a little rainy.  We've been lucky and not had to run in the rain yet, which I realize we will have to face at some point.  But today it just was not in the cards.  We headed to M's gym and got onto treadmills.  We only had two miles to go, and it zipped by!  When I'm on the treadmill, I like to warm up at a nice easy pace (like 11:30-12:00 minute miles) and then slowly increase my pace over time.  I like "getting used to" a pace and then pushing myself just a liiiitle bit more.  So that's exactly what I did!  I finished my 2.07 miles in 22:21 for an average pace of 10:48.  I probably should have made myself speed up earlier (M did most of her run at a 10 minute mile pace and then slowly sped up with me), but I felt great after this run... I flipping LOVE the treadmill!  For all of my readers that are also runners, how often do you use the treadmill vs. running outside?  How do you think this affects your training?  Any recommendations for balancing TM use with outdoor running?

Monday, September 27, 2010

wrapping up vegetarian week!

Sunday after the race I was pretty tired, but since I didn't cook on Saturday I had TWO more vegetarian meals to try!  For lunch, I had Steamed Vegetables in Peanut Sauce with Rice.  This was supposed to be served over rice, but I had some rice noodles that needed to be cooked, so I made a quick and easy substitution.
I immediately ran into a problem: I don't have a steamer!  So I improvised.  I took a pan and filled it with about an inch of water, and then placed my mesh strainer in it, resting on it so to speak.  Then, I put on the lid to keep the steam in.

This worked out alright for the vegetables... but not for my strainer!  The plastic handle ended up a little bit... disfigured.  Oops.
Anyway. while the veggies were cooking, I mixed up the peanut sauce, which was delicious.  Hoisin sauce is awesome!
Then, I just tossed it all together!
It wasn't really quite enough peanut sauce for my liking, so I added some extra for flavoring.
The dish turned out well, except for the eggplant.  It was definitely not cooked enough, or something, and both the texture and taste were not exciting me.  So while I ate all the rest of my veggies, I ended up with a pile of eggplant on my plate at the end of lunch.

I think in the future I would just forget steaming and cook the veggies in a pan like I normally do.  Gotta make sure that eggplant is all the way done!

Onto dinner!  I was excited about this meal ALL WEEK.  I made Tortellini with Garden Vegetables (recipe is approximately the same).  The recipe suggests broccoli, but I was all out - so I had peas and corn instead.  Since this was just a "throw it all together recipe I don't have too many pictures, but here's what dinner looked like:
Even better, I had obviously bought a whole package of tortellini, so I had plenty of leftovers, which served as lunch today!

So, today I had more tortellini for lunch... and I think I have it in my head to "keep up the challenge" of vegetarianism - I've now completed day #9!  For dinner, I made Cheesy Vegetable-Rice Skillet, which was so, SO simple and very delicious.
I love anything CHEESY!
And, again, since I had to open a can of vegetable broth and a package of long-grain and wild rice mix, I figured I might as well make it all ... which means leftovers for lunch tomorrow!  Hooray leftovers!
This is probably the first vegetarian dish I made that "felt like" it was missing the meat.  In fact, the dish very closely resembled a dish I made back in May, just with chicken added in.
So, while most of the week without meat I felt great and full, I have to admit though, I was hungry before bed last night and I'm hungry now!!  I think these past few recipes have lacked protein, which means I'm not staying full as long.  I might need to find a protein-heavy snack before bed!  Although there's a vegetarian lunch in store for me tomorrow, I'm not sure how much longer I'll keep it up!

10K training officially starts tomorrow morning - let's hope my legs are a little less sore by then :-)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My First 5K!

Hey there!  So, this morning, M and I ran our very first 5K race!  We ran the UNC Chapel Hill Alpha Delta Pi Ron-A-Thon on UNC's campus.  I am an ADPi, so it was so special for me to support the Ronald McDonald House and race for ADPi's favorite philanthropy!

Luckily, the heat wave finally broke down here and it wasn't too hot today!  I had a bottle of water and a slice of toast before we got to CH, and then some more water and a trail mix Kashi bar about 40 minutes before the race started... wanted to have plenty of fuel and be very hydrated!  We got to CH around 8am to check in for the race and stretch before the 9am start time.  M and I decided we would start off together, but split off if necessary.  Neither of us really had any time goals, seeing as it was our first race!  Ideally I just wanted to try to not walk at all.

Now, for some reason, I decided it would be better to NOT wear my watch while we ran.  I think my logic was that I didn't want to get too caught up in the time.  Unfortunately, there were also no markers along the course to tell me how far I had gone.  So, after M took off (she is so much faster than me now, haha!) I had no way to tell how far I had been going OR for how long.  I literally could not have told you if I had gone 1 mile or 2, or if it had been 15 minutes or 30!  Yikes.

This lack of a sense of timing totally screwed with me.  I was really struggling (probably because we started off way faster than normal) and so when I got to the first (and only) water station, I decided to let myself walk.  Of course, my mentality was "now that I've walked, I guess I haven't succeeded at my goal :-(  A few minutes later, my ankles started bothering me... boo!  I ended up letting myself walk way more than I would have liked.  Not only that, but without a watch, I couldn't keep track of intervals of walking/running either!  Boo.  The course was also really hilly, which made it even rougher both physically on my ankles and mentally!

So, I was feeling pretty bleh about the race, but finally I saw the corner that I knew signified the end of the race!  I only had a block-ish left to go.  I heard the crowds cheering, so I started pushing myself much harder.  As I got closer to the finish line, I was astonished to see the time!  I ended up finishing at 33:21, or a 10:45 pace!  Woo!  Considering our runs during the week tend to average between 11 and 11:30 miles, I felt good about running that quickly.

So, to be honest, my first race wasn't as amazing and exciting as I had hoped.  I wish I would have pushed myself to stick with M longer (she finished in under 30 minutes!) and to have run longer.  Next time, I'll remember to wear my watch so I can pace myself better.  I also decided it might be time to go see a doctor about my ankles, and find out if there is anything other than icing/stretching that I can do to ease the pain.

To be fair, I don't stretch as much as I should, even now.  And I'm not even great at remembering to ice (although I was today!!).  If I want to stick with running, I need to get more serious about icing, stretching, cross training, etc.  There's no way I can expect to build strong muscles and have less pain without all that stuff!  I'm also thinking we might use the Galloway method (of doing run / walk intervals) - I've heard that it really helps people increase their speed (which I would love), plus sometimes I feel like walking, even for 30 seconds, helps ease the pain in my legs/ankles.

I signed up for our10K today, which will be on November 20th.  The official 8 week training program starts this week.  Right now, 10k seems insurmountably far.  But I know we can do it if we stick to the plan.   Wish me luck in getting more disciplined with stretching/icing/strength training/cross training!  Any tips or suggestions for any of the above?

Tomorrow I'll let you know all about my post-run fuel and my 8th day of eating no meat!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Latin-Inspired Friday Food

Yesterday, for both lunch and dinner, I had Latin inspired food.  Lunch was Mexican: I had a Spinach Bean Tostada.  I didn't really know what a tostada was before making this, but my impression now is that it's basically a pizza on a tortilla.  YUM! First, I cooked veggies in a skillet for a few minutes until the spinach was wilty...

Then I basically made a pizza of refried beans, veggies, salsa, and cheese on a tortilla!
The only thing I didn't love about the recipe is that it directs you to cut the onion and bell pepper into 1 1/2 inch strips.  Those are big strips to put on a pizza!  I think it would have been much better if they were chopped up very small :-)

For dinner, I went Cuban and made Cuban Black Beans and Rice.  This was an interesting recipe.  The black bean sauce mixture was delicious - onion, pepper, carrots, orange juice, tomatoes, and spices.
Then, I added black beans and was instructed to blend part of the bean mixture?  I ended up blending all of it, and don't really understand what the point of that was.  Maybe blending the mix BEFORE adding the beans would have made more sense?  Oh well.  It still turned out pretty decent - served with brown rice and lime.  I was supposed to put plain yogurt on top, but I don't LOVE yogurt so I skipped that part.

Today, although I had meals planned, turned into a leftovers day.  I had plenty of leftover polenta, so I decided to reheat some of it for lunch.  Then for dinner, I was all ready to cook one of my two recipes left for vegetarian week, but I was seriously craving a second tostada.  So that is what is currently in my oven!

Tomorrow, M and I are running our FIRST RACE: a 5K in Chapel Hill.  I'm both excited and nervous.  Wish me luck and look forward to a recap some time tomorrow!

Friday, September 24, 2010

whole foods: beware of (and/or embrace) local vendors.

So, when I went grocery shopping the other week, my normal grocery store had no polenta... meaning in order to make the Baked Polenta with Peperonata Sauce, I had to make a trip to Whole Foods.  Whole Foods is always dangerous: hot bar, presliced delicious fruit, sushi, unique wine and beer!  But this particular day, it was EXTRA dangerous.  There were local vendors.  Of all sorts.  Promoting things THEY had MADE... for me to consume.  First, I had Peggy Rose's hot pepper jelly, served on a cracker with some brie:
So good.  I mean, it was fantastic.  And Peggy Rose was so charming!  So I picked up a jar.  I mean, it was LOCAL and she was THERE and it WON AWARDS:
Whatever, an extra $4-5 onto my grocery bill is no big deal.  Next, I walked by a guy who makes his own biscotti from scratch.
He told me about all the wonderful ingredients.  And how he makes it himself.  Naturally, I had to have some.
Okay, I told myself, you've now spent $9 extra.  You're done.  But then, there was the toffee guy.  Oh. My. Gosh.
These little chocolate truffles, made only a few miles down the road, ARE AMAZING.  $6 for the small package seemed steep, but... I couldn't resist.  So what could have been my cheapest trip to Whole Foods ever, seeing as I ONLY needed a roll of polenta... quickly turned into $19.50.  Oh Whole Paycheck Foods... how I love and hate thee all at the same time.  So, friends, what have we learned?  Whole Foods has delicious, local vendors, ready to sell you their amazing products.  This is both awesome and terrible all at once... and if  you are on a budget (like I am!) you need to beware! Good thing I only end up there about once a month! :-)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

pizza and beyond!

And the pizza continues!  Last night after I finished making and devouring my cheese pizza, I prepared lunch for today.  On the menu: Chilly Garden Pizza.  The recipe technically asks for a prebaked thin Italian pizza crust, but I obviously wanted to make the crust myself, so that's what I did!  Second time around, this Bisquick + water combo is AWESOME!  To start, I baked the crust and let it cool.
Next, I covered the pizza with garlic-and-herbs spreadable cheese and topped it with a TON of veggies.
I was out of cucumber, but I had some bell pepper on hand, so I made a little switch.
The only negative to this recipe was my fault: I didn't chop up the spinach very small, so it kind of covered the pizza and made it harder for the other veggies to stick to the cheese spread.
This recipe definitely invoked some nostalgia.  My grandmother makes a Vegetable Pizza appetizer when we visit her, which uses crescent rolls as the crust and an Italian dressing/cream cheese mix for the "sauce".  If you are curious - I found an approximate version of what she makes here.  It's definitely one of my favorite appetizers to share with her when I visit!

The chilly garden pizza turned out great, but it feels like more of an appetizer than a main meal.  I definitely think I'll make this again - but probably to take to a party as a snack or something, not as a main dish.

Tonight for dinner, I got to work with a new ingredient: POLENTA!  I didn't really know what polenta WAS before today.  For those of you who also don't know, polenta is ground cornmeal that has been boiled in water.  The recipe started with me chopping up THREE medium sized onions.  However, after chopping two and seeing how much onion I had, I decided my onions must have been "large" and put my third onion back in my drawer.
After chopping up the onions I got to put together the sauce for the recipe, which was a peperonata sauce.  Before today I also didn't know what a peperonata sauce was - doesn't it sound like it should have pepperoni in it? No?  Anyway, instead of pepperoni, it had roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives, and diced tomatoes... yum:
I actually didn't have as many olives as the recipe called for - but I think this was a good thing.  My friend S came over for dinner and she commented that she usually finds kalamata olives to be too salty... so I was glad I didn't add more!  Anyway, after I cooked the sauce, I piled layers of sliced polenta, sauce, and parmesan cheese into a dish...
And then popped it in the oven!  With my friend coming over and all, I kind of forgot to take a picture... but we did have leftovers, so here is what it looks like after being in the refrigerator:
Hooray for dinner with friends!  It turned out delicious - I'm really becoming a big fan of onions!  The only thing I might change about this recipe for next time is to add more garlic... I think garlic is one of the most key ingredients to any Italian style dish :-)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

pizza pizza!

Last night, I prepared Veggie Pita Pizza for lunch.  I really, REALLY love pizza, as does my boyfriend, so finding healthy ways to consume pizza is definitely a priority for me.  This was a good and easy start - though not one I can ever see Scott enjoying (he hates almost every vegetable imaginable).  So, first I had to chop up lots of delicious pizza toppings:
Next, I had to modify this recipe so that I could pack it and take it for lunch.  So instead of cooking the pita with everything on top of it, I made pizza in pita pockets!  Sorry the picture isn't the best - it was already packed up.
But after all the chopping, I was in need of a snack.  So I baked a mini pizza on one half of a pita.
It was delicious as a snack AND as lunch for the next day.  For lunch, I just put it in the microwave for a minute to melt the cheese.  Yum!

Tonight when I got home for dinner, it was time to pull out my baking stone and try my hand at Family-Favorite Cheese Pizza (note, my recipe says "make fun shapes" out of the cheese - but the one I found online was Halloween-specific). 
The last time I made my own pizza crust, it was delicious but messy.  The crust stuck to the stone, and it was such a pain to scrape off!  This time the, the recipe for the crust was slightly different: instead of Bisquick, sour cream, and water, it was just Bisquick and water.  The crust was much less gooey and much easier to work with. 
I knew I wanted some veggies on the pizza instead of just plain cheese, so I added some mushrooms and olives. Yum!
I also mastered the art of transferring the pizza crust from the wooden cutting board I made it on to the pizza stone, which was heating in the oven.
Then, since I didn't feel like getting down my cookie cutters and instead just put random pieces of sliced American cheese on top instead of fun shapes.
This pizza turned out great!  The crust was delicious, and didn't stick to the stone at all!  And I even had leftovers.
Three days, no meat, and I'm perfectly content :-)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

in the mood for MEXICAN.

I've had a headache for almost two days :-/  I'm pretty sure I've figured out why: On Sunday at Yoga, I decided to try crow pose:
And I fell forward onto my head!  Oops.  I just laughed at the time, but... now it kind of hurts!  Advil doesn't seem to be helping all that much... I guess it's like any bruise, it just has to heal with time.  Oh well!

Back to food!  Apparently, cheese quesadillas I ate yesterday just brought out a craving in me for Mexican.  Luckily, Vegetarian Week had plenty of recipes to oblige.
Last night, I prepared part of my lunch: Fire-Roasted Tomato Gazpacho.  I've been looking forward to this recipe for a while.  I considered making it back in the spring, but I lacked a food processor.  Now that I have my awesome blender, I was better equipped to make gazpacho!  First, I had to peel my cucumber, with my brand new peeler!
My peeler worked so well, it was so easy!  Yayy!  Next, I chopped up everything and threw it into my blender.
Puree for about 30 seconds, and you are good to go!  I put my blender into the fridge to blend flavors before packing it up.
I was so excited, I had to have a taste as I was packing it up.  It was deeelicious.
Of course, at 50 calories per serving, there's no way I could have gazpacho on it's own for lunch.  Cue cheese enchiladas.
First thing to note about the cheese enchiladas: I think this is the first time I have ever eaten cottage cheese.  I was always grossed out by the texture and look of it - so I assumed I wouldn't like it.  Now, within one day, I think I'm addicted!  It's so good - even by the spoonful!
Now, the cottage cheese was a good discovery, but it pales in comparison to the overall deliciousness of the cheese enchilada.  When you look at the "food I've cooked" tab on my blog, you'll find my rating system for food.  I try to give honest opinions about every recipe, and so over the past 116 recipes I've only given 6 A Minuses, 9 A's, and 3 A+.  Because A is defined as "This is so delicious, I'm kind of pissed I can't just eat it for the next 6 meals straight."  Ladies and gentlemen, these cheese enchiladas were a SOLID A+.  I came home from school this evening and sulked over having to make anything BUT another cheese enchilada.  The Taco Sauce is the jam.  THREE types of cheese, including my new star ingredient cottage cheese.  Overall, just, amazing.
Easy too.  Chop up your ingredients, put everything in the tortilla:
Wrap it up, pour taco sauce on top, top with cheese...
and bake for 15 minutes.  Oh man.  It. Was. Incredible.
I feel the need to say that it was better than it looks... I realize now that this picture does not look as appetizing as I'm describing, but trust me, you wish you were eating one right now.

Alas, I have 182 recipes to cook and 194 days to do it... so it was time to keep moving.  Tonight for dinner I made Fettuccine with Spring Veggies.  Except - shockingly - I used spaghetti instead of fettuccine, because that's what was in the pantry.  This is a great cold pasta for a hot day.  It has lots of vegetables,
Woohoo, veggies!  And the combination or pepper, oregano, and grated Parmesan gave it some great flavor.

Annnd a close up:

In other news, I went for a 2 mile run with M this morning.  Although the daytime highs are still pretty hot, it's finally feeling cooler in the morning!  I love not dripping in sweat 2 minutes into my run :-)  We went fairly slow - 11:30 pace... but M is convinced that the hills on our morning running route really slow us down.  Our race plan suggested we take Thursday off to rest before the race (we may cross-train with a walk or spin class or something else instead), so this was my LAST RUN before my FIRST RACE.  I'm getting excited for the race!