Monday, January 25, 2016

Marathon Training Monday

I hope that everyone had a nice weekend!  My weekend was super busy, but also pretty great.  We had a friend's birthday party, brunch with my family, and we went house hunting!

On top of all that, I had my 9 mile run on Saturday and I went out to breakfast afterwards with my group.  It was a good run, the weather felt cold, but it was also sunny and it was a good group of people!  I caught up with someone I hadn't ran with in a while and after there were 6 of us that went to breakfast at Whole Foods.  Overall, it was a great way to start the day!

This week the mileage increases even more.  I have 3/5/3 for the weekday runs and then 10 on Saturday.

Also, the NYC Marathon Lottery is open!  So, of course, I applied.  I don't have a good feeling about getting in.  I know it is a "random" lottery, but I am applying for the first time and I have never volunteered or anything for that marathon.  I figured, I'll apply for the NYC lottery as well as the Chicago lottery and just see what happens! Wish me luck!  If you have run that marathon before and have any words of wisdom, I would love to hear it!

I hope everyone has a great week and for all the Midwest runners out there, enjoy the relatively amazing winter weather!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Avocado Egg Salad

How are your new year's resolutions going?

I am not a huge fan of resolutions.  I like to think of them more like lifestyle choices.  I decided that since my wedding is in less than 200 days, I am going to work on being healthy, eating well, and getting in great shape.  So far, I have lost some weight and I've been doing more strength training.  I feel great!  I am also watching my students take their last final right now and so I am getting focused on starting fresh with them next semester!  I can't believe I am already entering second semester...before you know it, it will be the end of the school year and time for summer!

Today I am sharing a recipe that has helped me stay focused on my goal of eating well.  I saw a recipe for egg salad that used avocado instead of the typical mayo/egg combo.  I love avocado and I figured this would be amazing!

I also saw an idea for a smoked salmon sandwich that had avocado on it.  So, I got to thinking:  What if I used my avocado egg salad to build a yummy salmon sandwich.  This way, I would get some great nutrients, lots of good protein, and it would be delish.

Avocado Egg Salad

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 whole avocado
1 tbsp non-fat, plain greek yogurt
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp chopped chives
fresh ground pepper
dash of lime juice

Directions:1. Place chopped eggs in a container.  Then, add in the avocado and mash with a fork until well combined.  Then, mix in the rest of the ingredients.

My smoked salmon sandwich! Avocado Egg Salad,
Smoked Salmon, and Cucumbers :)

Enjoy :)

For more avocado ideas, check out this page: 13 Health Benefits of Avocado

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Guys, I am such a grown up.  Bri and I had a meeting last night with our REAL ESTATE AGENT.  We are officially starting our new home search and we couldn't be more pumped about becoming first time homeowners!!! No more of this renting silliness.  We are using words like invest and mortgage.  It's super crazy and I feel old.  

I am also a little fascinated by the fact that I am super excited to have an in unit washer and dryer.  I think this may actually be the determining factor on if you are an adult or not.  Do you get excited about having an in unit washer or dryer? If yes, then congrats, you are an adult.  Seriously, I couldn't be more pumped up about it.  I keep saying things like "I've made it!" and "I can't wait to leave things in the dryer and just grab them as needed."  I feel that this is both adorable and sad, but I am okay with it.

So, to celebrate the beginning of this house hunting journey and my path towards laundry-ease, I am sharing a recipe for Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake.  YUM! Plus, this cake has NO flour.  Just three layers of chocolatey goodness with a dense flourless dark chocolate cake-like base, chocolate mousse center, and white chocolate mousse top.  

This cake was a huge hit.  I brought it in for a staff potluck, and people told me that it was so good I should get paid to make it.  I should start charging people for the delicious things I make.  But, then I would think of it like a job instead of fun, so I am going to stick to making people happy with free treats.  

Today is also my half birthday and while I know that is not actually a thing, it is another small reason to celebrate so here you go:

Follow the link for the recipe at Tastebook since I barely changed anything.  Here are the few suggestions/things that I did to make this cake a success:

1. Find good quality chocolate.  It makes a difference.
2. CHILL.  Let things chill for a LONG time.  Then, putting the cake together works so much better.  
3. I found that my white chocolate layer didn't firm up like it should so in the future I would add a pinch more gelatin and let it cool even longer. 
4., Whenever the recipe said to whip something until soft peaks formed, I whipped until stiff-er peaks formed.  This makes the mousse more airy and light which I love.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wedding Planning Wednesday: I decided to make my own I crazy?

The title pretty much says it all, but here's the deal:

I decided that since Bri and I like candles and our theme has turned into a sort of rustic/classic loft style, it would be cute to have miniature mason jar candles as our wedding favors.

I wanted something that guests could enjoy after the wedding was over and I didn't want it to be edible.  I felt like a cute candle would be perfect!  So, I got to shopping and as I was browsing the internet, I found that the cheapest mini mason jar candle I could find was about $4 per candle.  We are expecting about 250 for this bonanza and that was just too steep.

Then, I started thinking: I can be crafty when I really put my mind to it...

So I decided that I would make my own.  People make candles all the time.  I priced it out and buying mason jars in bulk, 20 lb packages of soy wax, and 50 piece packages of wicks, ended up being about $1.50 per candle.  Isn't that great???  Then, I decided to use vanilla fragrance oil to make them scented and I was in business.  My mother thought I was crazy, but I already started and I am up to 72 candles!  At this rate (about 24 each weekend), I will be done with all my candles in March and still have plenty of time to decorate them (tie a ribbon around them and stamp our monogram on the lid)!

Here is how they are made:

1. Scoop some soy wax flakes into a large pot and heat over medium on the stove.  Soy is all natural, so don't worry about this messing with your kitchen supplies!  Once the wax is completely liquid, stir in some fragrance oil if you are using it.  Then, using a glass measuring glass, scoop some wax out and get ready to pour into your mini mason jars.
2. Pour a thin layer of wax into each jar and place the pre-tabbed wick into the middle of the bottom as the wax hardens.  This helps hold the wick in place.

3. Once your wicks are in hardened wax, pour more melted wax into the mason jars until they are full.  Let this harden.

4.  Once your wax is hardened, trim the wicks down so that about 1 inch is still above the wax.  Place the lids on and decorate if you want!

The moral of this story is: If you want to make your own wedding favors, I say go for it, just plan it out carefully and give yourself a ton of time to get it done.  When it comes to decorating these cuties, I am planning on getting my "team bride" together so that I have help!  We'll make an event of it and it will be fantastic.

Here is the finished product:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Autumn Brown Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

It's back to school time after a nice 3 day weekend.  This weekend was pretty great.  I had my nephew's bar mitzvah and so all of my out of town family was around and we had a great time celebrating!  We had multiple dinners together and it was so nice to see everyone.  

I also love 3 day weekends because I just feel like I get so much more done.  For example, I was able to do my long runs, see all of my family, and prep food for this week.  One of the meals that I made for this week was a special request of Bri's.  We made our very own Vegetarian Thanksgiving back in November and this dish was a huge hit.  I made some Autumn Brown Rice and then stuffed it into a Roasted Acorn Squash.  It was crazy yummy!  Last night I made a double batch of the brown rice because I wanted to have leftovers and you can totally eat it on its own.  The acorn squash provides a beautiful presentation and it is yummy, but it is not necessary.  Also, if you don't want to use cranberries, you can also use any sort of dried fruit.  I used fresh cranberries the first time around and let them cook in the rice until they were bursting, but the second time around I used dried cherries and they were also great! 

Autumn Brown Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash
(adapted from Carlsbad Cravings)

(makes 1 batch, you can also double everything if you want a ton of leftover rice)
2 acorn squash, halved and deseeded
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup brown rice
2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, sliced
1 apple, cored and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup fresh cranberries (or dried)

1. Preheat oven to 400.  Place your halved squash facing up on a baking sheet and brush the insides and sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the squash and then cover with tinfoil.  Roast in the oven to 40-50 minutes or until squash can be pierced with a fork.
2. While the squash is roasting, place a large pot on the stove and bring vegetable broth, apple juice, butter, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and rice to boil.  Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and cover and let simmer for 45 minutes.  
3. Drain the rice after 45 minutes and place the empty pot back on the stove over medium heat.  Add in the 2 tbsps of butter, onion, and apples.  Cook for 5-7 minutes so that the onion is translucent.  Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.  Then, add the rice back in along with the apple cider vinegar, pecans, and cranberries.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so.
4.  Scoop some rice mixture into each side of the roasted squash and serve!

Enjoy :)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Marathon Training Mondays: New Chocolate Protein Shake Recipe!

Sorry this is a little late...but I have the day off! Yes!  It's MLK Day and so there is no school today.  I actually slept in (ok so only until 6:30, but still) and then I had my New Chocolate Protein Shake and ran 4 miles.

This week's mileage really starts to build.  This past Saturday was our cut-back run and it was only 5 miles.  This week I have 3/4/3 and then 9!  I feel like anything over an hour is a long run so 9 miles will for sure feel more intense than five.  I also did my 4 mile run today instead of my 3 mile run because I figured with the extra time it would be nice to do my run and then relax.

It is also crazy super cold right now.  The high today is like 9 degrees and when I walked downstairs to the treadmill in our apartment, it said the temperature outside was -1.  Yuck!  It is way too cold to run outdoors.  I have been today that it is dangerous to run if it is 0 or below.  So, don't do it :)  Find a way to run indoors or skip the run.  You run so much while marathon training that it is okay to skip a run once in awhile. If you had told me that 2 years ago when I was training for my first run it would have stressed me out, but seriously it is okay to not run once in awhile!

So, today I am going to tell you about a great protein shake recipe!  I feel like this is sort of amusing considering I am currently making some cinnamon rolls in honor of my day off.  However, for the most part I have been all about the protein shakes for breakfast and I have already lost a few pounds over the last few weeks!  Protein powder in smoothies is a great way to support muscle gain and weight loss.  You can check out this article at DbolMuscleSecret for more information and to help you choose the best protein powder for you!  Incorporating protein and into your breakfast is the best way to satisfy any morning hunger you might feel and help you get to lunch without snacking unnecessarily.  I do my workout in the morning, drink my protein smoothie and some coffee and I am good to go until my lunch later in the day!

Chocolate Protein Shake

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (find one with no fat or sugar)
1 tsp almond butter
1 tsp cinnamon
5-6 ice cubes

1. Place everything into a blender and blend until smooth!

Enjoy :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Marathon Training Mondays

It is the beginning of week 3 of marathon training!  I feel like something that I actually love about training is that it really does make time seem to fly by.  Right now, in the dead of winter, I am a fan of time flying.

On Saturday, I returned to my wonderful CARA running group for a fantastic 7 mile run along Chicago's Lakeshore Path.  It was amazing and the weather was so not wintery!  If you have never run with another person, you should try it.  This is especially true for all you "non-runners" out there.  Even if you only go a couple blocks, running with other people is run, you get to know each other really well because you chat while you run, and it makes the time fly by.

This week the mileage is increasing a bit.  I have to run 3/4/3/5.  So, while my mid-week run is longer, the weekend run is actually a cut back!  When we have cutback weeks, my running group always has a happy hour on fun is that?

Alright you crazy runners, I am off to run my 3 miles and I hope you all have a great Monday!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Eggplant Involtini

I have a recent obsession with America's Test Kitchen.  Everything that I have made from their site has been crazy delicious and easy to do!  This recipe was no exception.  It was like an eggplant parmesan meets a lasagna roll-up and it was super yummy.  It didn't take very long to make and it ended up yielding a ton of leftovers.  Who isn't a fan of that?

I'm also pretty pumped because today is Friday and I survived my first week back at school after winter break!  Tonight we have a holiday party for school and we are going to see a show at Second City!  I can't wait! 

So, while I will be dining out tonight and seeing a show, I figured you might be looking for a special dinner to make and this one is a must!

Follow the link for specific instructions, but here are a few things that I changed/noticed while I was cooking:

1.  I ended up with more lasagna rolls than they said I would (like 18 instead of 12)
2. Instead of white bread, I used whole wheat breadcrumbs
3. Instead of whole-milk ricotta, I used 8 oz of part-skim ricotta
4. So, instead of using a food processor, I simply mixed the breadcrumbs, ricotta, parmesan and basil together in a bowl.  

Other than this, I followed the instructions exactly and my eggplant involtini came out amazing! 

Enjoy :)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Flat-Belly Protein Smoothie

Good Morning!  I have been enjoying breakfast smoothies all week!  I have some with my coffee before I run and then I drink the rest throughout the morning as a post-run snack and way to get me to lunch without snacking on less-healthy options!  AND! So far, I have lost 1 pound :)

I don't think I really need to lose a lot of weight, but I want to be healthy and happy.  Plus, with my wedding coming up, I want to feel great and feel great about how I look.  So, I am training for a marathon while also keeping an eye on what I eat.  I am making sure that I am getting enough calories, but that those calories are all things healthy and good for me.

This "Flat Belly Protein Smoothie" has a ton of protein and is also packed with good-for-you nutrients that help avoid bloating.  It is about 300 calories per serving and I always make a double batch so that I have breakfast for a couple days.  It's really yummy and it seems to be helping me out so far!

Flat-Belly Protein Smoothie
(2 servings - adapted from PopSugar)

Ingredients:6 oz non-fat, plain greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 cups baby kale/spinach
1 tbsp almond butter
1 scoop protein powder (I used Chocolate Light Muscle Milk)
1 1/2 cups water

1. Place everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Vegetarian Lo Mein

Yesterday was my first day back at school and today is my first day back with students.  I was super grateful for yesterday because I was able to catch up with my co-teachers and get a bunch of planning done for the week ahead of me.  Also, it means that I only need to survive a 4 day week this week.  

Today I am excited because I am teaching Pre-calculus and AP Calculus and while both of these topics can be intimidating, I like that they are new topics that I have not had a ton of experience with and I love learning new things myself.  I feel totally ready to go and I am pumped.

I am also excited to share this Vegetarian Lo Mein Recipe.  It was super simple to make so it is perfect for a weeknight and it is healthy.  Plus, it's delicious.  Now that I am back, I am all about the quick and simple meals that also make me feel good about myself!

Vegetarian Lo Mein

1 bag frozen stir-fry veggies
8 oz rice noodles, prepared according to directions
2 tbsp soy sauce (I used low-sodium)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp siracha (or more if you like it spicy!)

1. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, garlic, sugar, sesame oil, ginger, and siracha.
2. In a large skillet, place the veggies and heat over medium.  Pour about half of the sauce over the veggies and toss to combine.  Cook until the veggies soften.  Then, add in the prepared rice noodles and toss to combine.  Pour the rest of the sauce over the mixture and toss.

Enjoy :)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Marathon Training Monday

It is week 2 of winter marathon training!  This week the mileage is 3/3/3/7 and I am excited because on Saturday, for the 7 mile run, I will be back running with my CARA (Chicago Area Running Association) group.  I am super excited to see some of my running buddies from summer marathon training and catch up with them!

Today is also the first day back to school after the two week winter break.  I am excited to see my students, but I am also a little bummed that break is over.  I was getting so much stuff done for the wedding and I was cooking and working out more than usual and it was really nice.  However, school is also pretty great and I'm sure that once I get back into the swing of things I'll be fine.

Combining marathon training with school/coaching is going to be tough.  I am working on a schedule where I don't feel too overwhelmed.  So far, I wake up early (4:45), have a protein shake and drink some coffee, then, around 5:15 I start my run.  Right now I am running on a treadmill indoors because it is too dark to run outside.  Hopefully, as it gets lighter in the morning I will be able to run outdoors.  Then, after my run, I shower, and get ready to go to school.  My goal is always to be ready to go around 6:45/7 in the morning.  We'll see how it goes!  Oh, and get ready to hear all about my protein shakes! I found a ton of good recipes HERE and I'm working my way through them to find a few that I really love!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

Last night we had friends over to ring in the new year and it was a blast!

My little brother bartended (he even made his own menu!) and we had a potluck sort of dinner!  I made my Build Your Own Nachos with Crock Pot Salsa Chicken and my Lightened up Spinach Artichoke Dip.  Everything was a huge hit.  We also had Crock Pot Barbacoa, Baked Mac n Cheese, and, of course, tons of desserts.

We watched the ball drop, played funny charade games, and had an amazing time.

This morning, I made some french toast for my brother and his friend who stayed at our place and now, after some advil :), I am getting ready to hit the treadmill for a bit.

I'm not a huge fan of new year's resolutions, but I do think it is nice to reflect and refocus at the beginning of a new year.  2015 was great.  I ran my second marathon, got a new job that I love, and did a TON of wedding planning.  That being said, 2016 is going to be crazy epic.  First and foremost, I AM GETTING MARRIED!  I can't wait to say "I do" to my best friend and see all my hard work from wedding planning finally play out.  I am also planning on running marathons 3 and 4 and just generally staying fit and eating healthy.  Finally, tomorrow Bri and I have plans to talk with a mortgage broker about moving forward in the process of buying our own place!! I can't believe all this very grown up things are just around the corner and I could not be more excited.  So, here's to an amazing 2016!  Happy New Year!