Friday, December 2, 2016

Mocha Brownies

When it comes to brownies, I'm a bit picky. I like them dense, fudgy and rich - no cakey brownies and don't even get me started on ones made from a box mix. The only way to go is homemade. 

Like with many classics, finding just the right recipe takes some trial and error. These brownies are close to perfect. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, which are included in the recipe below - baking the brownies in two smaller pans for a denser texture, adding more cocoa powder to the icing, etc. 

I recommend trying these brownies this holiday season. They make a great gift but you may have a hard time not keeping them for yourself! ;)


Mocha Brownies
Recipe from Food Network
Makes 32 brownies

For the Brownies
4oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 sticks butter
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Icing
1 stick butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Penzey's Dutch Process High Fat Cocoa)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 -1/3 cups brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two 8x8 pans with parchment paper (leave a slight overhang of paper so the brownies are easy to remove) and lightly butter.

Add the 4oz chopped chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave in 25-second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs, followed by the chocolate, vanilla and flour. Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and bake 35-40 minutes, or until the center is no longer soft. Allow the brownies to cool completely before icing.

To prepare the frosting, combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix until combined, then add the 1/4 cup of coffee. Whip until the frosting is light and fluffy. If your frosting is too thick, add a bit more coffee until the desired consistency is reached.

Divide the frosting between the two cooled pans of brownies and spread it evenly over the top of each pan. Refrigerate until the frosting is firm, then remove the brownies from the pan and cut into small squares.

Enjoy!

Tell me: What's your all-time favorite brownie recipe?

- ST

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dealing With Morton's Neuroma

I think I jinxed myself. 

After publishing my last post about getting back into all things running and fitness I ended up sidelined again, this time with what I believed to be a stress reaction or fracture in my left foot. I had the classic top-of-foot pain, and the more I read about the injury, the more worried I got. The thought of not being able to run for 6+ weeks was too depressing to think about so I shut down training for the next several days to see if things would improve. When it didn't I made an appointment with a foot & ankle doc. 

Like my sandal tanline? ;)

I went to that appointment feeling like I was about to receive a death sentence. But I ended up getting good news - It turns out I don't have a stress reaction or fracture! Instead I have a condition called Morton's Neuroma - a benign nerve tissue tumor that causes foot pain, typically in the ball of the foot area. I was pretty surprised with the diagnosis since I don't have any ball of foot pain (knock on wood!). However, it seems pretty straightforward to treat - the doctor gave me a cortisone injection during the office visit, and I'll have a follow up appointment to get fitted for a custom orthotic. And best of all, I can continue running and training through it all!

So the week's plan looks like this:

Monday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core + Y-Blitz
Tuesday: 4 mile run + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 3 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 5 mile run w/pickups + Y-Blitz
Friday: 4 mile run + Core Work
Saturday: 6 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 26 miles

After a long weekend of indulging, my body is craving nutritious food. I decided it was the perfect time to get back into Sunday meal prep. After a few hours of washing, dicing and roasting, I have everything I need to eat healthy this week. Here is a sample day of food:

Breakfast: Egg & Spinach Wrap (Angelic Bakehouse Wrap + 1 Large Egg + Spinach + 1/4 Avocado)
Snack: Raw Veggies + String Cheese
Lunch: Tuna, Chickpea & Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Roast Pork Tenderloin + Cherry Almond Couscous + Spinach Salad

Today's favorites are all about comfort and joy. Comfortable clothing and the joy of the holiday season!

Lululemon Align Pant II - These pants are a new favorite. I love them so much that after wearing them once I immediately went back to Lululemon and bought another pair. The fabric is super smooth with just the right amount of hug. And the length is perfect - they hit just above the ankle, which is ideal for pairing with flats, loafers and boots. 


Target Brushed Cowl Neck Top - This is the perfect top to pair with the Lululemon pants. I'm obsessed with how soft these tops are and own it in every color. Lululemon Align Pant II + Target top = My new uniform


Christmas Trees - It's not quite yet December and I've already put up three Christmas trees - two at work and one at home. The three trees are all different and I've had a lot of fun with each. The one at home is gorgeously girly decorated in gold & shades of pink featuring macaron and donut ornaments. The trees at work are opposites - one is a very traditional tree with gold and red accents and the other is wonderfully modern and uses a ladder as the tree! 


My girly tree

The modern tree

That's all I've got for today! Let's talk about you:
  • Have you had Morton's Neuroma? If so, what was your experience?
  • Do you have any current style obsessions?
  • Do you put up a Christmas tree? If so, tell me about it!

Less than a month til Christmas!

- ST

Thursday, November 17, 2016

And That's a Wrap - My 2016 Racing Season is Over & Done!

Even though I really wanted to cap off the fall season with a few faster races, it just wasn't in the cards this year. My season came to a forced halt at the end of September when I suffered an abductor muscle injury.

Like many runners tend to be with injuries, I was in denial for awhile and would try to struggle bus through my miles. But I started feeling the pain earlier and earlier during runs til I couldn't make it more than a few steps without mega pain shooting across my right leg. It was time to see the PT.

Three weeks of PT at the amazing Body Mechanics helped my leg tremendously. Once again, dry needling was key to my recovery. Although it was pretty unpleasant having needles stuck into my inner thigh, it was worth it to feel so much better. After just a few appointments, I was able to start running every other day with my miles capped at 3-4 miles per run. 

I'm still working on rebuilding. There have been a few minor setbacks along the way - knee issues and, most recently, a mild ankle sprain - all the same same problem leg. I guess that side of me is falling apart! But sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can get back up and that's where I'm at right now. As of now, I'm up to running 5 days a week, 25ish mpw. It's low mileage for me but I'm being super cautious as I get back into things since the last thing I want to do is re-injure anything or injure something new!


So the training plan this week looks like this:

Monday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core + Y-Blitz
Tuesday: 6 mile run w/pickups
Wednesday: Rest Day
Thursday: 5 mile run + Core Work
Friday: 4 mile run + Y-Core
Saturday: 6 mile run + Core Work
Sunday: Rest Day

So ... nutrition. Instead of my usual listing of a sample day of eating, I thought I'd talk a bit about a meal delivery service I've been loving lately. My friend Maggie recently started her own business called The Real Good Life (if you live in the Milwaukee area, give it a try!) and I've placed an order pretty much every week, which means every Wednesday afternoon I get a delivery of delicious meals. One thing I really like about The Real Good Life is Maggie makes an effort to keep the meals healthy and often incorporates local and organic products into her recipes. For example, the apples that are included as a side with the lunch items are handpicked from the apple tree in her backyard. It really doesn't get much more local than that!

A few of my favorites include Beef Fajitas, Eggplant Parmagiana, BBQ Pork w/Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Veggie Chili Con Carne, Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad, Apple & Cranberry Pork Loin, BBQ Chicken Salad, Vegan African Peanut Stew, Butternut Squash Lasagna ... I'm making myself hungry as I write this list!

Beef Fajitas with Mexican Street Corn Salad


Eggplant Parmagiana

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Let's finish things off today by switching gears over to style for a bit. My friend Alysha and I went to a Divine Consign event earlier this week and both found several cute items. Divine Consign is a giant consignment event that is is held two times per year in three locations around Milwaukee. Last spring was the first time I attended one and was instantly hooked. Although I normally have zero patience for looking through racks of clothing, I look at these sales as treasure hunts, which makes it fun! A few of my finds from this week's sale:

Stella McCartney for Adidas Jacket + Kate Spade Wallet

 Coach Leather Loafers

 Kate Spade Bracelet

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever had an abductor injury? If so, how did you get back into the swing of things? 
  • Have you ever tried a meal delivery service? If so, what was your experience? If not, why/why wouldn't you like to try one?
  • Consignment shopping - love it or hate it? Also, what's your most exciting shopping find recently? 

Take care!

- ST

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Milwaukee Running Festival 5k Recap

Earlier this year, I planned on using the Milwaukee Running Festival Half Marathon as a goal race. However, plans changed and I ended up switching down to the 5k earlier this fall with plans to chase a fast time. BUT, plans changed again and after a messed up right leg left me unable to train for several weeks, I ended up with a goal of just finishing the 5k. 

I had my doubts about 'just running' the race. I typically don't get a lot of enjoyment out of jogging a race without a time goal or place goal or any type of goal. But in the end I decided it would be a good way to get in a few miles with a few thousand other MKE runners. And I'm sure glad I decided to run - it was a perfect weather day and it was wonderful seeing a few running friends. Also, there's nothing like the excitement of a race to get motivated to get back into training!


The Expo
The expo was once again held at the Harley Davidson Museum, and Mom and I picked up our race packets on Saturday morning. While waiting in line, I ran into Montel, who was volunteering. It was great to meet her in person as we had previously only connected on social media! While at the expo, Mom and I checked out the New Balance booth as well as the Milwaukee Running Festival merchandise booth. We also said hi to Micaela, who owns Minerva Running - an awesome company that makes clothing for active women. 

Up until the expo I was still feeling like I might end up skipping out on the race. But after being in the festive atmosphere where everyone was excited about the races the next day, I knew it was going to happen. I wouldn't run fast but at least I would get to participate. A step in the right direction toward reclaiming fitness and getting back to running the way I want. 


The Race
Mom and I arrived at the race around 6:30am. We were lucky to have VIP access (thanks Chris and Tracey!) so we also able to hang out for a bit in the heated tent. Since it was only in the upper 40s around race start, this was a pretty nice perk! While in the VIP tent, I ran into Ruth, who was running the marathon. I also saw Sue, who was also running the 5k. I'll be forever grateful to Sue for introducing me to the Y a few years ago :) 

I thought I'd feel all sorts of nerves by the time I lined up at the start line but surprisingly I felt nothing but an eagerness to get going. I think knowing I wasn't in this race to compete - only to finish without worsening any injuries - made it a lot less stressful. I really had nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

This year's course was different from last year's and spent more time on Lincoln Memorial Drive and around the Veteran's Park area. I thought it was great - not a lot of turns and plenty of room to pass other runners. Not that I was doing any passing during this one ;) 


As expected, the race felt hard even though I was running significantly slower than my usual 5k pace. I was also very conscious of not pushing too hard because I didn't want to crash & burn or re-injure anything. So I purposely kept the effort comfortably hard but nothing more. One thing that surprised me during the race was the course differed slightly from the route on the race website. Instead of doing a hairpin turn during mile 3, the course went around a little peninsula area. It wasn't a big deal - just unexpected!

Side note: I decided to wear Oiselle Flow Tights for the race and this was a total mistake. I love these pants for doing things like running errands but for running a race ... not so much. They slipped down my hips throughout the entire race despite having the drawstring yanked in as tight as it would go. It was mega uncomfortable and distracting. So note to self - always wear shorts!

Anyhow, I was good about staying controlled during the race so I let myself kick in the very end. I was nice and warmed up by that point so it felt nice to get a little taste of speed. 

After I finished up my race, my hamstrings started cramping, probably because I haven't done any speedwork in more than a month. I knew if I stopped for even a moment they would full on cramp so I kept on moving and went back on the course to look for Mom. She looked great as always and I ran with her for a bit before cheering her on as she finished the race. 


My race time was my slowest since the summer I started running. My actual pace wasn't too terrible (7:28) but I somehow ended up running 0.15 extra so the additional distance made my time super slow! When I first saw my time I was mega depressed but then realized this is just the beginning. Running was not in the cards for me this fall but that will change. Heck, it's already changing. I'm finally able to run with a bit of consistency again and am getting in my gym work, too. If I can keep it up this winter - I WILL keep it up this winter - I'll be back in fighting shape just in time for Carlsbad 5000, which I've already decided is my next goal race. 


So that was my race weekend! I definitely recommend adding the Milwaukee Running Festival to your race calendar in 2017. If you live in the MKE area it is a nust-race and even if you're a bit further away it's worth making the trip. 

My questions for you:
  • Did you race over the weekend? If so, how did it go?
  • Have you run Carlsbad 5000? If so, have any race or travel tips for me?
  • Do you ever race in tights or capris? If so, what brand do you wear and do they stay up?

- ST   

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Rock 'n' Roll Denver Recap

Hey everyone! Sorry I've been a bit MIA lately - life caught up with me and every time I tried to sit down to write this post I ended up having to do something else instead. However better late than never, right? :)

A few weeks ago, my mom, sister and I went to Denver for a girls weekend. Our main reason for going was to race Rock 'n' Roll Denver but we were also looking forward to seeing a different part of the country (hello mountains!). 


Here's how the race weekend went down:

Race Expo
In all honesty, the Rock 'n' Roll Denver expo was a bit of a letdown compared with other Rock 'n' Roll races I've done. It wasn't as big as the other ones and the atmosphere was pretty subdued. Some people probably wouldn't mind at all, especially if they don't get into browsing around the expo, but I really enjoy trying on gear, going to the Brooks experience area and visiting all the other booths. In Denver, there was not a Brooks area and less gear than usual. At every other Rock 'n' Roll race that I've done, I've bought a magnet, but they were sadly not available in Denver. I chatted with a volunteer about them and he said participants will get an email about ordering them after the race so fingers crossed this is true.

On the plus side, a smaller expo meant that I got through it faster so I could get back to the hotel sooner to start resting up for the race the following morning!

 Outside the Expo, waiting for a ride

Race Day
The race started in Civic Center Park, which is bordered by the State Capital, City and County buildings. It was a beautiful sunny morning and everyone was excited to get going. I so wanted to race this one, especially since I've never run at altitude, but sadly it just wasn't in the cards. I tried running but the pain from my recent abductor muscle injury forced me to stop after just a short bit. So I ended up walking pretty much the entire race with Mom, who was also unable to run due to a back injury (my sister opted to walk ahead of us during the race). Fortunately the race was very walker friendly and the course was scenic. We walked through a few neighborhoods and it was fun seeing some of the houses in the area. The race finished up back in Civic Center Park so Mom and I collected our finisher medals and took a few pics. Even though I would have preferred to run, the race still ended up being a nice experience!



Play
After the race, it was time to kick back and have a little fun. The hotel we stayed in was near the Larimer Square and 16th Street shopping areas so we spent an afternoon exploring those spots. I picked up a few things including a pretty bracelet at a small boutique and a cute dip spreader at an eclectic home accessories store.

We also spent an afternoon at the Denver Zoo. Mom and I especially loved seeing the penguins :) 



Eats
Trying new restaurants is probably my favorite part about traveling. Denver did not disappoint as there were plenty of delicious eats to indulge in.


Trial by Fire - a roasted poblano, cheddar and jack cheese omelette smothered in pork green chili and jalapenos (Tom's Urban)


Salade du Marche - spinach, warm lentils, butternut squash, pickled apples, lemon goat cheese, balsamic brown butter vinaigrette (Bistro Vendome)

 
Steak Frites (Bistro Vendome)
 

Chocolate Secret Garden - tres leches chocolate cake, white chocolate coffee mousse, chocolate cookie soil, edible flowers (Tamayo)

The salad and the chocolate cake were my favorite eats that I tried in Denver. The salad was so amazing and I must figure out a way to recreate it at home. The cake was so pretty in its presentation (my pic does not do it justice!) and I loved the deep chocolate flavor. 

It was great to get away from Milwaukee for a few days and visit someplace new. Sadly I did not get to the mountains during this trip (I stared longingly at them during the ride to and from the airport) but I guess that means I'll just have to go back at some point ;)

My questions for you:
  • Do you enjoy walking around race expos? What do you like/dislike about them?
  • Have you been to Denver? Why did you visit and what did you do while you were there?
  • What's the best dessert you've ever tasted?

Until next time ... 

- ST

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Try It: StrideBox

Subscription boxes have been all the rage for the past few years. There are beauty boxes, food boxes, clothing boxes, pet boxes - pretty much every niche you can imagine has a subscription box. This even includes running!

I was recently sent a StrideBox, which includes nutrition, accessories, gear and motivation items specially selected for runners. There is a nice mix of items from both well-established companies as well as smaller companies that you may not have already heard about. 


The box I received contained the following:
  • Protes Protein Chips
  • Lightload Towels
  • Glukos Sports Drink Mix
  • Prince of Peace Ginger Chews
  • Nature Nate's Honey Packet
  • Zippered Waist Pack 

All of the items except the Glukos drink mix were new to me. I was especially excited about the Protes Protein Chips (who doesn't crave salt after a long run??) and the Lightload Towels, which I have stashed away in my desk for use after extra sweaty runches. 


To get a StrideBox, you sign up for a subscription that auto renews every month. It's $15 each month and you cancel at any time. The boxes can also be gifted so keep it in mind as a fun holiday gift option for the runners in your life!

It was really fun to try a few running items that I might not have otherwise discovered or bought on my own. Give StrideBox a try if you're interested in spicing up your next run with something new! 


Tell me: Have you tried StrideBox? If so, what did you think? Or, have you tried another type of subscription box? 

- ST


*Full Disclosure: I received a free StrideBox to review, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Classic Lasagna

Last week I was hit with a sudden - but strong - craving for lasagna. A full-fat, regular-noodle, meat-filled and cheese-smothered lasagna. Exactly like the type my mom made when I was growing up.

I thought I could maybe get my fix with something ready made at the grocery store. But after wandering around the prepared foods section and then the frozen food section, I realized only homemade would do. 

So I piled lasagna ingredients into my basket and when I got to leave work in the early afternoon on Friday, I knew exactly how I was spending my time off. 

This one took a bit of time to make but from the first bite I knew it was well worth it. Lasagna craving satisfied :)


Classic Lasagna
Serves 9-12

1lb ground sirloin
1/2 cup yellow onion, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups marinara sauce (I used Hunt's No Sugar Added)
5oz raw spinach
16oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tsp dried parsley
12 lasagna noodles, slightly undercooked
8oz whole-milk mozarella cheese, shredded (I recommend shredding your own)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, cook the ground sirloin, onion and garlic over medium heat. Crumble the meat as it cooks. After the meat is cooked through, drain off excess fat then stir in the marinara sauce. Simmer the sauce over low heat for five minutes then remove from heat and set aside. 

While the sauce is simmering, steam the raw spinach. Allow to cool then squeeze off the excess liquid. Add the spinach to a medium bowl and stir in the ricotta cheese, egg and parsley. 

In a 9x13 casserole dish, add a thin layer of the meat sauce to the bottom. Top with three lasagna noodles, then top with a layer of the ricotta cheese and a layer of the meat sauce. Then, it's lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, meat sauce. Lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, meat sauce. Lasagna noodles, meat sauce ... and finished off with the freshly shredded mozzarella cheese. 

Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. After removing from the oven, re-cover the lasagna with the foil and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

For serving, top each slice with a fresh basil leaf. This one is great paired with a salad of baby kale, cucumber, red pepper and balsamic vinaigrette + garlic bread!

Tell me: What have you been craving lately?

- ST