Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Bean Burrito Bake

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope your Thanksgivings were just like mine: full with family, friends, laughter, stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey, and pie.  We had 32 people at Thanksgiving dinner and 11 different types of pie at Thanksgiving... plus some cookies, dessert breads, and cakes.  I might have tried 4 different kinds of pie.  Whatever, that's showing restraint -- I had to pass on 7 pies!!!

While I was away for Thanksgiving (up in New England) I managed to get in 2 work outs - one was calisthenics and strength exercises inside, and one was a three mile run!  We got 8-10 inches of snow on Wednesday, but that didn't stop me from running off some pie on Friday morning.  The snow wasn't too bad to run in, but look at the elevation for part of the run I did:

That hill is not a joke.  I had successfully avoided ever running up this entire hill before, but family member J talked me into tackling this beast for the first time.  It was rough, but I can't wait to get back up there and tackle that hill again - maybe without on the ground?

Anyway, if you recall, I had the goal of trying four new recipes this month.  Before we left for Thanksgiving, I managed to complete RECIPE #4!

Today's recipe was also from Cooking Light, and was another nice vegetarian meal - Black Bean Burrito Bake.  I am kinda digging the "no meat at lunch" thing I've been doing lately (not totally on purpose, but it has happened that way).  Don't get me wrong - I have no intention of giving up meat, but I kind of feel healthier if I don't eat lots of meet all of the time.

So, I'll go through this step by step, but I will say that I made one really big mistake while preparing this meal, and it made it infinitely harder to enjoy.  Chipotle Chili Peppers are spciy, yes, but not that spicy.  They get a 2,500-8000 on the Scoville Scale, which is like Tobasco sauce.  I like Tobasco sauce, and I like spicy food.  So I was not at all worried about the spice from the chipotle chiles called for in this recipe.  I WAS WRONG TO NOT BE WORRIED.  This s*** was SPICY.  I don't understand.  WHY?  It burned.  Burned SO BAD.  I literally had to pick all the peppers out of the burrito in order to keep myself from dying.  So sad.  I don't know if all brands of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are this spicy or not, but here's a tip:
0.  Don't buy this kind of chopped chipotle peppers unless you like dying.

Anyway, now that I've done my best to warn you about that stuff (my only friend of Mexican descent, when I showed her what I used, was like "YES, that s*** is spicy," so I must be right), I can move on to the cooking and reviewing of the recipe.

1.  Mix chilis and sour cream, let stand for ten minutes... I had to use WAY more sour cream than the recipe called for in order to cool this down.

2.  Mix black beans, corn, and sauce.  Mmm black beans and corn!  Okay, so this is obviously not the prettiest thing I've ever made, but just roll with it!

3.  Put 1/4th of the mixture into each tortilla... again, it might not look pretty but I promise (once you remove some of the peppers) it is tasty!

4.  Wrap and place in a baking dish seam side down... this pyrex baking dish from the grocery store was possibly the best investment I ever made - I use it every week I think!

5.  Top with salsa and cheese... luckily I had medium salsa to top the burritos, so I didn't have to subject myself to too much extra spice.

6.  Bake

7.  Enjoy - made four lunches worth for me!

Optional: garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs.  Or, if you are me, squeeze on some lime juice over the burrito and sprinkle it with dried cilantro.

So, overall thoughts: This was SO EASY TO MAKE.  Toss things together. Throw in oven.  Done.  I love how little time I had to spend making this!  It was also really filling, which was awesome (for less than 400 calories!).  In the future, I'd probably use adobo sauce with some hot sauce to go in the burrito, and maybe some cooked bell peppers instead of chili peppers?  Or I could just find chili peppers that don't make me feel like I have fireball in my stomach for the next three hours.  (I literally told my spin teacher "Don't be offended if I leave early, I had spicy food for lunch... luckily I did make it through spin!).  In the future, I also might use a more fun salsa (instead of the medium generic store brand) to switch things up.  Otherwise, stick to the recipe as is - it's AWESOME!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thoughts on Greek Yogurt

Note: no one paid me to do this review (um, I wish), but I'm doing it anyway.  Why?  Because so many people (and blogs I read) talk about how delicious Greek yogurt is.  So today when it was on sale at my local grocery store I decided to finally give it a try after turning up my nose (for no legitimate reason) for so long.

Full disclosure: I don't really like regular yogurt that much.  This is probably why I avoided trying Greek yogurt.  I used to eat fat free strawberry yogurt every once in a while, but the texture just isn't my cup of tea.  So I haven't had yogurt in about a year, until this experiment.

So, I purchased one small container of Chobani Greek Yogurt - Strawberry non-fat, fruit on the bottom, and ate it as a late afternoon snack.  First thought: $1 for 1 thing of yogurt?  Not a bad price for a snack, but probably more pricy than my other snacks (e.g. a piece of fruit, some nuts, etc.).... but, perhaps more substantial than those snacks?  (BTW, I'm totally giving the cost of other snacks a ballpark - I know most fruits are less than $1/each but I couldn't estimate for my other snacks!).

Second thought: whoa nutritional stats - in particular, whoa protein!  Not many (non meat) things that I eat have 14 grams of protein, and particularly not in only 140 calories!  That's pretty awesome.

As for flavor... I'd give it a solid B?  It reminded me a lot of sour cream.  The fruit flavor was good, but I wish it had been... fruitier?  Sweeter?  It is definitely not as sweet as I recall regular strawberry yogurt to be.  This was surprising given the 19 grams of sugar!  I do wish it was a little sweeter - the aftertaste is very reminiscent of sour cream, and not strawberry.  However, overall, I'd say I liked the flavor.

The texture also reminded me of sour cream... maybe a mixture of sour cream and regular yogurt's texture?  I think texture was my main turnoff for yogurt in the past, so I imagine that I couldn't eat this every day or even every other day without getting sick of the texture.  However, this might be something good to have 1-2x per week as breakfast or as a snack, especially when I'm not getting other sources of fruit (a problem in the winter when many fruits in the grocery store don't look good).

So, overall: I wouldn't mind eating this every once in a while.  But, like regular yogurt, the texture is not my favorite and I doubt this will ever become a regular part of my diet.

 weekend workouts & thoughts
-friday night: i decided to show jillian who's boss and totally kick ass at banish fat boost metabolism.  it went really well until my back and calves were really sore on saturday.  i guess she showed me who's boss.

-saturday: 8.2ish outside. it was cold - 28 when we started! i guess it's good practice for the 15k.  great run though, felt good pretty much the entire time, avg. pace around 10:47 min/miles.

-sunday: should be a rest day, but my friend A had just bought jillian's killer buns & thighs, so i went to her house to try out level 1.

-monday morning: despite it being 28 on saturday morning, it was 60 degrees this morning, so i HAD to run outdoors! we ran 3.4 miles total, avg. pace around 10 min/miles before going inside for some weight training.  M made bench press the bar - 3 sets of 10 - but for one set, she added 2.5 lb weights to each side! woo! it was hard but great.

thoughts on jillian's killer buns and thighs:  it was okay.  jillian continue to be kind of annoying, but pretty hard core. some moves were SUPER hard, some i didn't think were very effective (but maybe i need better form or more weights), and other moves were just uncomfortable because we were on hardwood floor, haha.  oh and because A's dog REALLY wanted to get involved in the work out.  my house next time! :-)

we leave on tuesday for the holiday.  i'm hoping to use some ideas from pintrest to figure out how to get in some good work-outs without going outside or having any equipment!  ideas so far include combinations of  jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, jogging in place, burpees, squats, lunges, push ups, crunches, planks, mountain climbers, and kicks/punches/kickboxing moves... any suggestions would be welcome though!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Italian Portobello Sandwiches

This week I made a new recipe, Italian Portobello Sandwiches from Cooking Light: Weeknights.  The cookbook was a gift back in January and so far everything I've tried has been great!  I altered the recipe a little bit - cut up the mushrooms and onions into small pieces because it was just easier, used white bread and American cheese instead of sourdough and Provolone because that's what I had, and put them in my new Griddler to make them into paninis, because I'm still pumped about my new griddle/grill/panini maker.  So, since I remembered to take lots of pictures, I'll walk you through it all step by step:

1.  Saute mushroom and red onion.  Really onion rings and big pieces of mushrooms were probably preferrable, but this worked out fine:

2.  Mix mayo with basil and pepper, put mayo mix on bread -  Basil and pepper! Such a fun way to switch up typical condiments.  I must remember this more often!

3.  Add roasted red bell pepper to the sandwich... I LOVE ROASTED RED BELL PEPPER!

4.  Then some mushroom/onion mix...

5.  Top with cheese (American instead of Provolone, still tasted great!)

6.  Sandwich time!!

7.  (Not shown) I put this in my Cuisinart Griddler and made it into a nice warm panini!

I honestly think having this served warm MADE THE MEAL!  The melty cheese was amazing.  The only negative I would say about this recipe is that you can't really "pre make" sandwiches.  I tried, and they ended up way soggy.  So, this is definitely not a lunch to pack, but rather one to enjoy while you are at home :-)

Workout updates:
Wednesday: weights and spin class? check
Thursday: 4 mile tempo run on the treadmill because I'm allergic to rain? check
Friday: weights? check! Jillian DVD: this afternoon!

Big news from all of that?  I CAN BENCH PRESS THE BAR.  Two sets of ten today.  I am damn proud of myself.  Monday I'm going for three sets of ten.  Woohoo!

I can't BELIEVE Thanksgiving is only one week away, and the 15K is two weeks from tomorrow!  So many exciting things coming up!  I'm currently trying to figure out how I will get workouts in while I'm staying in a house with 8 other people and have no exercise equipment and likely icy conditions unsafe for running... any tips out there? :-)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Whoaa, we're half way there

I can't believe November is halfway done!  I figure now might be a good time to review how my November goals are going.

Goal #1: Stick to my workout routine for the entire month.  Here's the very detailed calendar with what I planned to do:
 And as of November 15th, here is what I have done:
Yes, I made a colorful calendar for this.  Yes, I should have been doing work instead of making the above calendar.  Oh well.

Thoughts on my progress so far:
-All the work outs have been done, I have just had to shift them slightly some days (e.g. my long run happening on Sunday instead of Saturday).
-My Tuesday morning run is "3-5 miles" and every week I've done the same 3.4 mile loop (or rather, 2x of a loop).  I'd love to increase the distance on this run, but it's hard because I have a 9am meeting!
-When M can't do our normal morning workouts, my whole day gets delayed.  Example: Monday, we normally get to the gym at 7:30.  M wasn't feeling well, and I stayed up kind of late, so instead of going at 7:30 by myself I slept in for an embarrassingly long time and then did my workout at home before heading to lab WAY later than I should have.  I still got the workout done, but I wasted a lot of time (via laying in bed).  I need to find a way to be motivated to wake up / get out of bed on time, even without my gym buddy!
-I am not loving my strength training program.  I am getting stronger - I've moved from 8 lb to 10 lb weights for several exercises!  However, I don't really look forward to strength training or feel excited about it.  I need some way to get more motivated - a new routine for December?  Perhaps tracking my exact reps/weights so I can really see myself getting stronger?  Any suggestions would be welcome :-)

Goal #2: Cook at least four new recipes and blog about them.  On Sunday I shared Lasagna Soup with you, and on Monday I shared Indian Cauliflower Curry Stew.  Two down, two to go!  I definitely find that my interest/desire to cook comes in waves.  For instance, although I blogged about both of them this week, I made the soup, the stew, and one other recipe (chili) within the span of 2 days over a week ago... and then didn't feel like cooking much for the last week ish!  I get to the point where the idea of picking a meal, getting the ingredients, chopping up veggies, etc. all sounds overwhelming.  So then we eat frozen pizza, quesadillas, and sandwiches, or eat out.  I think I just need more quick and easy meals!

Goal #3:  Work on my research project.  Shockingly, without concrete goals, this hasn't progressed as nicely as my work out & food goals.  It is getting somewhat better, and I think I need to be much stricter about setting aside time JUST to do research and not allowing ANY distractions - whether they be classes, papers, clients, lab-related work, exercise, cooking, TV, or anything else.  Starting... as soon as my two final papers for my two classes are written? Haha.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Indian Cauliflower Curry Stew

Last week, I made Indian Cauliflower Curry Stew, which I got out of my cookbook Good Housekeeping Budget Dinners: Quick and Easy Everyday Recipes.  I am definitely not a sandwich-for-lunch type of person, so I love to make casseroles or crock pot meals that I can bring for lunch.  And, since Scott packs/makes his own lunches, I can be creative and make stuff he would never eat :-)

Sorry this post is light on pictures, but I made this in the crock pot so there wasn't a lot to photograph!  Technically this is not a slow cooker recipe. - it says to make it in a dutch oven over heat, and it takes less than an hour.  But I REALLY love my slow cooker, so instead, I threw all of the ingredients in and let it go for a few hours!

The rice cooked just fine in the slow cooker, although the cauliflower and rice were a bit mushy in texture.  I can see some people not liking the somewhat mushy-ness of the dish, but it was just fine with me!  This might also have been because I used frozen pre-cut crinkle carrots and frozen cauliflower.
My only real comment was that I added more curry powder than it called for, and I think that worked well.  I tend to find that I always want more herbs and spices than recipes call for :-)  Otherwise, I thought this was delicious, easy, and definitely something I'd make again.  It was the perfect recipe for when you are feeling lazy (as long as you can wait for the slow cooker) because I literally put broth, uncooked rice, frozen pre-cut veggies, chick peas, and some spices in the slow cooker and walked away.  Lazy person's heaven!

recent workouts:
-sunday, i ran 5 miles with my friend K, avg. pace 10:23
-monday (aka today), i ran 2 miles in my neighborhood, avg. pace 9:38 + did strength training at home.  strength training at home never goes quite as well as at the gym, as i only have 5 lb weights... but M wasn't feeling well and i couldn't drag myself to the gym this morning!

Lasagna Soup!

Hello!  I hope ya'll are enjoying this beautiful fall weather.  Today I ran five miles outside with a friend who was in town visiting for the weekend.  The leaves here are all sorts of beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds, and the weather was perfect - mostly sunny and about 46 degrees.

So, you might recall that I had a goal of trying 4 new recipes this month.  New recipe #1 was Lasagna Soup, a recipe I found while perusing Pintrest.  I love Italian food / pasta, so I was excited to try a recipe that had lasagna flavors without lasagna calories.  Step one of this recipe was to cook the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and the Italian flavored turkey sausage.  In order to make it Scott-friendly, I skipped the bell pepper.  I also used chicken sausage instead of turkey sausage, because that's what I could find at the grocery store.

After about 10 minutes I added the broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and red pepper.  I think I added too much red pepper, but this is probably because I failed to measure it and not because the recipe calls for too much.  The soup ended up being pretty spicy.  Scott didn't have any complaints and I actually like spicy food, but I just don't think lasagna-inspired soup ought to be that spicy.  Anyway, after simmering for another 20 minutes, I added broken lasagna noodles.  So, "broken lasagna noodles" is ambiguous.  I broke each noodle into about 8 smaller pieces, but I think it must have been much smaller / bite sized.
After the noodles were cooked, I stirred in mozzarella cheese, basil, and Parmesan, and dinner was served!
So, overall this was delicious.  It had some great flavors and was very filling, which I appreciate in a soup.  I do wish it was thicker, though - maybe more tomato sauce or even tomato paste would help.  Next time, I think it might be better to stir the mozzarella into individual servings so that it melts on top nicely - especially if you are going to reheat some servings later - just save the cheese for when you are heating it up!  I also think more vegetables would be awesome.  Yes, I left out bell pepper so Scott would enjoy it, but I think bell peppers, mushrooms, and black olives would be great additions to the soup!  Overall, though, a delicious recipe I'd make again!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cross Training

First, to respond to my comments on the 15k: I find it so interesting that ya'll feel like it's easier to run faster outside than inside!  Even with the 0.5-1.0% incline, I think it's so much easier to run fast on the treadmill than it is to run fast outside.  I would love to have a phone with GPS or a Garmin to help me track my pace while I'm running outdoors, but for now all I have is my stopwatch!
Right now, we are trying to do most all of our tempo runs outside and all of our speed work workouts inside: the tempo runs are challenging but we are able to push ourselves to stay on pace outdoors - I'm not sure how successful we would be at attempting to hold a 9:18-9:00 pace outside without a Garmin/GPS/track to help us know how on target we are.

Anyway, today's post is about CROSS TRAINING! Woot! For most of the past year, my cross training has been spotty at best.  I might say I'll go to spin class regularly (because spin class is my first true love in exercise), but in the spring 2011 semester I probably went a total of 3 times max.  I talk big game about wanting to get stronger and lift weights, but until recently, my strength training record was worse than my spin class attendance!

After the half, I decided to get serious about cross-training, both with non-running forms of cardio and with strength training.  For strength, we are going to the gym weight room Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  I did a looot of research, looking at programs from Women's Health, one of my favorite bloggers the Fitnessista, and other random websites, and combined things I liked to create my own routines.  I have various workouts for legs (e.g. squats, lunches, calf raises, etc.), my core (crunches, planks, etc.), and arms (tricep dips, hammer curls, chest press, etc.).  I'm only really on week three right now, so its definitely still a work in progress!

I also wanted to do some non-running cardio.  I really like the Wednesday evening spin teacher at my school's gym, so I decided to commit to going every Wednesday evening to her class.  Two weeks ago was amazing and INTENSE, perhaps the most intense class I've gone to ever!  She's awesome.  I also found a friend or two to go with me to help keep up my motivation.

My last cardio add-on is to do Jillian Michael's Banish Fat Boost Metabolism once per week, probably on Fridays.  I did the video for the first time in a while two weeks ago, and I really liked it!  When I first got it about 2 years ago, it was nearly impossible for me to get through.  So, I was really excited that I didn't need to pause the DVD in order to make it through.  I definitely worked up a sweat and felt like I got a good workout, but it isn't impossible anymore.  There are a few moves that I dislike - they don't feel hard, so much as awkward/uncomfortable, so when they come up I either modify them or do jumping jacks / jog in place instead.  Anyway, this is a nice way to get in some cardio without going to the gym, and my goal is to do it every Friday.

So, if you've been paying attention, you'll see that my workout schedule each week is:
  • Mondays: 2 mile run + strength
  • Tuesdays: 3-5 mile run
  • Wednesdays: strength + spin class
  • Thursdays: speedwork
  • Fridays: strength + Jillian's cardio DVD
  • Saturdays: long run
  • Sundays: REST!
Ambitious? Yes.  Intense? Yes.  Doable? I think so!  I'm pretty excited about it.  I've definitely learned that my mood and productivity is much better when I exercise regularly, so I think this is a good plan.

Friday, November 4, 2011

15k Training

My 15k is less than one month away now, so I figured I should share my training program for the Hot Chocolate 15k!

I had a few criteria for a training program.  First, I knew I wanted to run four times per week, but one of them needed to be quite short so I could run and do other exercise.  Second, I wanted to have one long (5-10) mile run on the weekends.  Lastly, I knew I wanted to focus on improving my speed, so I needed to do some intense speed work once per week.  I used Runner's World's Smart Coach program and then tweaked it.  Mostly, the tweaking was increasing the distance of the long runs, and then making the mid-week easy runs on the shorter end (to help with time constraints, etc.).  Here's what I came up with:

Week of
Oct 17
Rest! (Post-half)
3-5 mi, easy
4 mi tempo, 2 mi @ 9:45
Long run: 6ish
Oct 24
2 mi, easy
3-5 mi, easy
4 mi speed, 2X1600 @ 9:18
Long run: 7ish
Oct 31
2 mi, easy
3-5 mi, easy
4 mi tempo,  2 mi @ 9:40
Long run: 9ish
Nov 7
2 mi, easy
3-5 mi, easy
4 mi speed, 2X1600 @ 9:09
Long run: 7ish
Nov 14
2 mi, easy
3-5 mi, easy
4 mi tempo, 2 mi @ 9:35
Long run: 8ish
Nov 21
2 mi, easy
4 mi speed, 2X1600 @ 9:03
Run if you can (Thanksgiving)
Run if you can (Thanksgiving)
Nov 28
2 mi, easy
3 mi speed, 1x1600 @ 9:00

So, what do ya'll think?  It's going well so far.  I have been doing a bit more on the treadmill than I normally would prefer, for a few reasons.  One is that it's getting COLD and sometimes, I'm just not up for a cold in sub-freezing weather.  But, the main reasons is ... I'm HORRIBLE at holding a steady pace!! I know I am capable of running a mile at 9:18 pace (as I did this past Thursday), but without the treadmill to keep me on schedule, I don't think it would be possible.  Does anyone else have this problem?  Does anyone have a solution to it??

Along the same lines, I'm REALLY trying to make my "easy runs" an easier, more consistent pace.  The Smart Coach program tells me that my easy runs and long runs should be veryyyy slowwww... as in, around 11:30 min/mile!  Particularly if I'm running on a treadmill, that is almost painfully slow.  However, there is apparently a lot of science behind the "run slow to run fast" idea (so I am told - I'm not personally familiar with the literature), so I'm attempting to follow it... at least somewhat.  So far, my "easy runs" have been between 10:13 and 10:55 pace and my long runs have been 11:06-11:26 pace.  Not terrible, right?

It's a bit unfortunate that Thanksgiving interrupts training.  I'm going out of town, and it seems incredibly unlikely I'll be able to run Wednesday-Sunday of that week, but oh well!  Missing two runs isn't going to destroy all the progress I make over the 6-ish weeks of training.

As for cross-training, I'm REALLY trying to get better, both to improve my running as well as for general fitness.  I'll post again soon about my cross-training plans!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Goals?

HAPPY NOVEMBER! ... I cannot believe how quickly October went by.  It was a great month: I ran my first half marathon and went on some fun trips, including a visit to Charlotte, NC and to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA!

One of my favorite bloggers Sarah has a habit of setting goals each month, although she has recently moved into focusing on one goal per month.  Every time she posts about her goals I think, I should really do that on my blog!  I advise a local chapter of my sorority here, and whenever I help the girls set goals we always make sure we set SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  So, keeping those in mind, here are some November goals:

1.  Stick to my workout routine for the entire month (details of this plan to be forthcoming).  This includes cardio 6/7 days per week and strength 3/7 days per week, with one rest day.  I am going to say right away that I will NOT hold myself to sticking to this plan while I am away for Thanksgiving, but I will come up with a modified and more realistic schedule for those days.

2.  Cook at least 4 new recipes during the month and share them on the blog.  I'm taking suggestions - especially if you have ideas for healthy dinners to feed picky eaters who dislike most vegetables, haha.

3.  Work on my research project.  I don't even want to say this out loud, but I need to get more serious about my current milestone project.  This has been failing because there is no current structure.  I need to create some structure and then stick to it.  I'm not even sure how to make this a SMART goal.  Set a minimum time per week to work on it?  A goal of number of articles read?  A goal of having a more complete outline or certain sections read?  Something must be done... sigh!

Is anyone else setting November or monthly goals?  I like monthly goals so much better than New Year's resolutions - I can't even recall what my New Year's resolutions were this year, or if I even made any!  Hopefully on November 30th I'll still remember what these were :-)