Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One-Pot Artichoke, Kale & Lemon Linguine

Let's be real: Is there anyone who doesn't love a good bowl of pasta? My all-time favorite way to eat it is smothered with meat sauce but there are so many ways to prepare pasta it's impossible to get tired of it. 

I recently came upon this recipe for Artichoke, Kale and Lemon Linguine in my Twitter feed (thanks for Tweeting, Katie!). I thought the flavors would taste amazing together and also loved the one-pot aspect of the recipe. Anything to cut down on the number of dishes to be done after cooking!

I made a few slight modifications to the recipe - I cut down on the amount of pasta because it seemed like too much for the amount of liquid. I also added extra garlic for flavor and more kale ... well, just because! 

I definitely recommend giving this one a try - it's simple, hearty and delicious. Going back for seconds is pretty much a given ;)

Served with grilled ciabatta

One-Pot Artichoke, Kale & Lemon Linguine
Recipe from A Cozy Kitchen 
Serves 6

12oz dried linguine (I used De Cecco)
3 cups water
1.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
1 shallot, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1.5 cups artichoke quarters (I used canned)
2 cups kale, cleaned, stems removed and chopped
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 2 percent)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large Dutch oven, add the dried linguine, water, chicken broth, shallot, garlic, artichoke quarters, kale, salt and crushed red pepper. Cook uncovered over high heat. When the water starts to boil, use a pair of tongs and begin stirring frequently to help the pasta cook evenly. After 7-10 minutes, or when your pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and stir in the Greek yogurt, butter and lemon juice/zest. Cover your pasta and allow it to sit for 3-5 minutes to soak up any excess liquid. 

For serving, place pasta on plates or in bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. 

Tell me: Have you tried making one-pot pasta? If so, what did you think of the cooking method? Any one-pot recipes I should try next?

- ST

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Getting Ready for Fall Racing + This Week's Training

Hey friends! So I totes meant to do a training update post last week but somehow the days got away from me. But to sum it up, things are going well right now, and I'm looking forward to my half marathon in two weeks. It won't be a super fast time but it will be a nice tune up for my goal race in November.

Over the weekend, MKE had its first taste of fall with evening temps dropping into the upper 50s. And with the fall-like weather, I started thinking how much I love fall running and racing. I even got a tad overexcited and started adding too many races to my schedule for the upcoming weeks. As much as I would love racing every weekend, it's just not practical! 

But speaking of races, I may do one this weekend. I've been waffling back and forth on it. It's a 5k and while that's only 3.1 miles, if you race this distance, you know it's a hellish 3.1 miles. I know I could sit back on the pace a bit and take it easy, but I find it next to impossible to do when racing 5ks. If I'm at the start line, I want to be all in - especially now that I'm feeling fitter again!

In anticipation of a race on Saturday, here's this week's training plan:

Monday: 6 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz + Core Work
Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 1/2 mile intervals w/faster paces & decreasing rest
Wednesday: 7 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 7 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz + Core Work
Friday: 10 mile run + Core Work
Saturday: Run/Walk for Wishes OR 6 glue miles
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 44 miles

After a few more than a few diet splurges last week (too many cocktails, McDonald's fries, Mexican food (the greasy variety), etc.) I have a bunch of healthy meals and snacks planned these next several days. I'm most excited about all the garden-fresh produce in my fridge. Green peppers, green beans, kale, Swiss chard, tons of basil, etc. Here's a sample day of eating, including the garden treats!

Breakfast: 2 Eggs Scrambled + 1 Slice Toast w/Peanut Butter Bliss
Snack: Greek Yogurt + Raw Veggies
Lunch: Tuna, Chickpea & Sweet Potato Salad + Banana
Snack: Picky Bar
Dinner: Spinach Tortellini w/Marinara Sauce + Steamed Kale & Swiss Chard + Blackberries

And because life is more than training and racing, here are a few non-running things that made these past few weeks great!

Cheering on Team USA - I suppose technically this is running related given all the Olympic track events that I watched. But beyond track I also watched plenty of swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball. I was thrilled to see so many inspiring performances and that the USA won so many medals!

New Books - My nightstand is overflowing with new books. Currently on my shelf: Run Fast. Eat Slow;, Eligible and The Singles Game. I'm about four chapters into The Singles Game and so far I love it! I used to play tennis about as much as I run now - I even have a silver medal from Badger State Games from back in the day ;) - so I'm really enjoying this lighthearted read. It tempts me to pick up the sport again. 

Pedal Tavern Tour - One of the things I love best about my workplace is all the fun stuff we do as a group throughout the year. Last week it was a Pedal Tavern Tour to celebrate the company's 21st birthday. We pedaled around town and stopped at several bars, my favorite being the Sangria Bar, a newer place in the Walker's Point neighborhood. It was a perfect summer afternoon outing!

Bold Lips - I usually prefer a natural lip but Make Up For Ever recently sent me a few lipsticks to try so it's been fun wearing a new look. I wore a red lip for brunch over the weekend and can't wait to try out the other colors. 

 My questions for you:
  • Did you watch the Olympics? Which event(s) is/are your favorite to watch?
  • Have you signed up for any fall races yet? If so, what are you racing?
  • What's something exciting or fun that's happened in your life recently?

Happy Hump Day!

- ST

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

High Altitude Meatballs & Marinara Sauce

If you're a runner and a foodie, you might be interested to learn that top American marathoner Shalane Flanagan's cookbook, Run Fast. Eat Slow., is finally available for purchase! My copy is yet to arrive (Amazon pre-order!) but I've been eagerly checking out the recipes that have been published online and in magazines these past few weeks to promote the new book. 

One of my all time favorite foods is spaghetti so I decided to try Shalane's High Altitude Meatballs & Marinara Sauce recipe over the weekend. The result did not disappoint - it was a mega flavorful meal that was also super simple to prepare. Just the thing to make for a night before a long run or race meal!

High Altitude Meatballs & Marinara Sauce
Serves 4-6
Recipe from Run Fast, Eat Slow

For the Meatballs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 cup finely minced kale (I substituted spinach)
1/4 almond meal or breadcrumbs (I used breadcrumbs)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 lb bison or ground beef (I used ground beef)
1 Tbsp olive oil

Combine egg, Parmesan cheese, kale/spinach, almond meal/breadcrumbs, garlic, oregano, fennel seeds, salt and crushed red pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the bison/ground beef and use your hands to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. From the mixture, create 12-16 meatballs.

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Carefully add the meatballs in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd the pan (you may need to cook the meatballs in two batches). Cook and turn the meatballs until they are browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

For the Marinara Sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4-1/2 tsp ground black pepper

In the same pot that you cooked the meatballs, add the garlic and cook over medium heat. Stir continuously to make sure the garlic does not brown. Add the tomatoes, sugar, basil, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the meatballs to the sauce and allow to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes (I simmered the sauce for about 30 minutes), until the sauce thickens. 

For Serving
12oz dried spaghetti, cooked al dente
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Fresh basil

To serve your pasta, add 2-3oz cooked spaghetti to a plate or bowl. Top with 2-3 meatballs and a ladle of sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and freshly torn basil. 

Tell me: What do you eat the night before a long run or race?

- ST

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

My Fall Goal Race + Training & Everything Else!

Has anyone else noticed that the fitter you are, the more motivated you are to train hard? But during times when you're feeling less fit, training is ... meh? At least, that's how it is for me. And it seemed for the longest time as I was recovering from my back injury and then working through plantar fasciitis, there was a whole lot of meh.

But lately, I've been feeling extra energized about training and working out, and I think it's because I'm finally feeling fit again. It's like I have an extra gear during workouts that I was lacking for awhile and my recovery between runs/workouts is faster than ever. All good signs as I start really working toward my fall goal race, the Milwaukee Running Festival Half Marathon.

I'm in a bit of disbelief that I'm training for a half marathon since at the start of the year I thought I would work toward a fast 5k and 10k this year. But plans change - it turns out my body had other ideas and right now my strength is running strength, not speed. I recently did a quarters workout and the fastest I could muster up for the last interval was 5:56 pace. So that was a tad depressing but I know I'm on track for a great longer distance race given other recent runs/workouts.

Here's this week's plan from Coach Matt, the first week of the fall half marathon training!

Monday: 7 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz + Core Work
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. 3x3 hills + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 4 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 6 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz + Core Work
Friday: 13 mile run
Saturday: 5 glue miles + Core Work
Sunday: Y Beach Camp

Total = 42 miles + 5 non-running workouts + 4 core sessions

I had to switch a few things around - mainly the way the weekend is arranged. I swapped Friday and Saturday because I really have to get to Y Beach Camp on Sunday. At the beginning of the summer I bought a set of six classes but have failed to make a single one. So this weekend I'm determined to get there for what will surely be an incredibly tough hour!

To fuel this week's training, here's a sample meal plan for a day. You'll notice it includes chili, typically more of a cool/cold weather food. But I love it any time of the year and while this week's chili is more traditional, I sometimes modify my recipe to include more summer vegetables, i.e. zucchini, summer squash, corn, etc.

Breakfast: Summer Cooler Smoothie*
Snack: Greek Yogurt + Raw Veggies
Lunch: Power Salad + Banana
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Chipotle Beef Chili** + Spinach/Snap Pea Salad + Blueberries

*Summer Cooler Smoothie =  Pineapple, Tart Cherry Juice, Almond Milk, Vanilla Protein Powder, Ice
**Chipotle Beef Chili =  Lean Ground Beef, Black Beans, Sweet Potatoes, Corn, Onion, Garlic, Chipotle Pepper, Chili Powder

To wrap up today's post, here are a few things that made this past week marvelous!

Planking - When I first injured my back in January, I could barely hold a plank for 30 seconds before pain would force me to collapse. After several PT sessions and some very effective dry needling, I was finally able to start working on core strength again in April. Since then I've been challenging myself to increase the amount of time I can hold a plank. My recent best is 4:15. I'd love to get that to an even 5 min by the end of this month! 

National Cheesecake Day - I went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch on Saturday and saw a sign about National Cheesecake Day when I arrived. Of course this meant I was having cheesecake for lunch. I had a slice of Caramel Apple Struesel Cheesecake, which is mega sweet. So sweet I couldn't even finish my slice! 

Fun With Friends - I had the most fun on a recent night out with a few really great friends. We had a blast getting dinner (we somehow went through three orders of guac before even looking at the dinner menu!) and then going out dancing after. There were several times I laughed so hard I cried and had to check for mascara smudges ;) These are the kind of friends that I know I'll be laughing with for years to come!

New Running Shoes - I've been on a bit of a running shoe kick lately. I recently bought a pair of Saucony Run Pops, which I absolutely love. And since the newest Saucony Kinvara model didn't seem like the best fit for my foot, I stocked up on two pairs of the previous model. But my most favorite of the new shoes is a pair is the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v2. I love the color and feel of these lightweight shoes. I know they're going to be perfect for days when I need to feel speedy as well as days when I just want to look speedy ;)

My questions for you:
  • What are your fall running goals? Have you already picked out a goal race?
  • Chili during the summer - yay or nay?
  • What is something that made your week marvelous?

I have a feeling this week is going to be nothing short of excellent :)

- ST

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Current Faves & Obsessions

Lately I've been all about trying new things. New workouts, new shoes, new gear, new shops, new treats - it's fun to mix it up a bit!

Here are a few of my most recent favorites. I have a feeling these items will soon find their way to my tried-and-true favorites list :)

Saucony Run Pops
It was love at first sight when I noticed these shoes during a recent trip to Performance Running Outfitters. I was immediately drawn to all the bright-colored shoes on the wall - red, turquoise, orange, yellow, lime and purple! I really wanted the orange shoes but it turned out that the colors correspond with particular shoe models. I tried on Saucony Rides several years ago and remembered them fitting well so I was able to get the lime shoes. They are so cute and will be perfect for all the glue miles Coach Matt has me run every week.

Portillo's Chocolate Cake Shakes
Portillo's recently opened its first Wisconsin location and it's just a short 20-25 minute drive from where I live. The restaurant is known for its hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. But the thing I was most excited to try was a Chocolate Cake Shake. Not too long ago I read an article about these shakes and how they are made by blending an entire piece of chocolate cake with ice cream. I couldn't wait to see if the shake would live up to the hype - and it turns out it did! It was super rich and the perfect consistency. I can't stop dreaming about another one of these shakes!

Momentum Jewelry Motivate Wraps
I've seen Momentum's Motivate Wraps on Instagram but wasn't really interested til I saw a display of bracelets during a recent trip to PRO. I instantly liked the sayings on the bracelets and was impressed with how comfortable they are - a perfect fit for any wrist! I also like that they can be worn during workouts and races since a lot of jewelry isn't made to withstand lots of sweating and/or isn't too comfortable while moving around. The bracelet I chose is a mantra I'll use during the rest of my summer races and into the fall season: "Earned Not Given". A great reminder to put in the work every day during training and during every second of a race!

Yes to Grapefruit Facial Wipes
People often ask me how I can workout in the middle of the workday without returning to my desk a sweaty mess. These wipes are part of the solution! I go through about a pack a week and give myself a thorough wipe down after every runch. I love the grapefruit scent and they leave my skin feeling so refreshed!

Sarah Marie Design Studio Tanks & Ts
I would like one of every single tank and t-shirt in this online shop. I recently purchased the Track Queen tank and I absolutely love it. I sized up so it fits extra loose, which is perfect for gym workouts. I'm also a fan of the Elite Women Marathoners t-shirt and the Run All The Miles Eat All The Tacos tank. 

Tell me: What are your current faves & obsessions?

- ST

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k Recap

Warning: A very long post follows this message ... 

During the days leading up to this year's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k, I had a lot of mixed feelings. I was pretty unexcited about the weather forecast - upper 80s and stormy - and also wasn't feeling the race given my fitness has been a bit touch and go lately. Some days are fantastic and others the absolute worst. But I also knew that a race like RNR CHI could be just the thing to snap me out of this training funk. 

Turns out I was right! Everything aligned for this race. The weather was as good as it gets for a July race in Chicago and the course was lovely. I had the most fun racing and it was a total confidence booster as I continue to increase mileage for a fall half marathon. I can honestly say this was, in my opinion, the best RNR CHI yet.   

Before the Race
At most races I skip the expo. But at Rock 'n' Roll races they are a must-attend event. I ended up buying a bunch of stuff at this year's expo. My haul included four tanks, a baseball-style 3/4 sleeve t-shirt, three shoe charms, two Sparkly Soul headbands, a Rock 'n' Roll Chicago magnet, a pair of sunglasses (prize) and, of course, the race t-shirt. 

After the expo, Mom and I headed over to Pizano's Pizza and Pasta for some pre-race carbs. On the way back to the hotel, Mom pointed out a little coffee shop/bakery that had a bunch of cakes and pastries in the window. Of course I was not about to walk past a bunch of desserts so we went inside. This was a total mistake. Mom and I each got a slice of Rainbow Cake. I told myself it would give me an extra boost of energy during the race. Instead I'm pretty sure it led to feeling a bit heavy/sluggish at the start. Oh well - live and learn!

The Race
So ... the race. After several days of worrying about the weather it turned out to be the best weather I've ever experienced at a RNR CHI race. It was about 69 degrees and overcast with a bit of a headwind.  Although the weather was much better than expected, I decided to stick with my race plan from Coach Matt

My corral was packed so I was excited when we were finally able to get moving. I ended up getting stuck behind people a few times during the first mile so didn't really get into a good rhythm until the 10k runners separated from the half marathoners. Once the 10k turned onto the Lakeshore Path it was all good and I was able to settle in. Nothing too crazy - more like a nice and steady pace that felt more like half marathon effort. 

Since I usually think of RNR CHI as having a pancake-flat course, I was pleasantly surprised that this year's new course featured a few small hills. These were great for changing things up a bit plus I like having a few hills during a race for variety. They are also a really great opportunity for catching and passing other runners ;)

I felt really good during the miles and soaked up the race experience - I loved the on-course music and all the friendly volunteers at the water stations. There was also a band toward the end that totes made me giggle with a silly song about donuts at the finish line. If only there really were donuts at the finish! 

I picked up the pace a bit during the final two miles and kicked in the final 0.2 (really 0.33 for me since I didn't run the tangents!). I haven't had a big sprint finish at the end of a race in awhile so it felt great to be able to really get after it

My race results:

Time: 48:01
Pace: 7:44 min/mile
Gender Place: 16/1,710
AG Place: 2/241

Although my time was not too impressive - in fact it's a personal worst for me for the 10k distance! - I still feel good about the race. I felt good enough during the miles that I know I could have kept with the pace for a few more miles which puts me on track for a nice half marathon race this fall.      
VIP Experience
After walking through the finish area and picking up my gear check bag, I headed over to the VIP section to rest up while waiting for Mom. This was my first Rock 'n' Roll VIP race experience and it surpassed my expectations.

The first thing I did was wash my hands at one of the sinks. I don't know about you but I always feel kind of grimy after finishing a race. So it felt great to wash up a bit. Then I hit the hosted bar area for a Diet Coke with extra ice. There were tons of empty tables so I made myself comfortable and sipped my soda while people watching. I noticed a massage area not too far from where I was sitting but decided to skip it even though there wasn't a line. There was also a changing area which I will definitely take advantage of next time. 

After awhile I decided to get a cup of coffee and saw a bunch of people were getting food. So I decided to check it out and found an amazing spread. Eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon, sausage, pasta salad, mini sandwiches, tons of fresh veggies & fruit, hummus, cookies and brownies were just some of the items on the tables. I loaded up a plate with bacon, veggies and fruit. It hit the spot! I definitely recommend adding on the VIP Experience if doing a RNR race.

I was sorry to have to leave the lovely VIP area but needed to get back to the finish line area to find Mom. So after eating I headed toward the finish line and then walked along the course a bit til I saw Mom running. I jumped in the race and ran with her a bit and then hopped back over to the spectator area to wait for her at the end of the finisher's chute. As you can see, she looked fantastic and finished strong!

Fun in Chicago

After the race, Mom and I enjoyed Chicago. We shopped along Michigan Avenue and indulged in several delicious eats and drinks. A few of my favorites:

Brunch at Mercadito

Dinner at Chicago Q

Deep Dish at Gino's East (with Bucky!)

Macarons from Alliance Patisserie

So that was my race weekend! I highly recommend adding Rock 'n' Roll Chicago to your 2017 race calendar. I'm already looking forward to next year's race :)

My questions for you:
  • Have you raced a Rock 'n' Roll race? If so, what was your experience?
  • A night-before-the-race treat - do or don't?
  • Where are your favorite places to eat in Chicago? 

- ST    

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

All The Updates!

Hey Everyone! Are you all feeling rested after a long holiday weekend? Having an extra day or two off always makes me think ... all weekends should be long weekends ;)

Anyhow, after a few days of partaking in all things a holiday weekend should include, I'm ready to get back to the usual routine. Coach Matt sent me a new training plan over the weekend and I'm ready to dig in! 

This week includes:

Monday: 6 glue miles w/strides 4 glue miles - I indulged too much on the 3rd
Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 5 miles w/pickups + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 5 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 5 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz + Core Work
Friday: 10 mile run
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: 5 glue miles + Core Work

Total: 37 miles

These past few weeks I've been tweaking my diet a bit after noticing I'm consistently low on several nutrients, particularly potassium, iron and sodium. I believe this deficiency is playing a role in the awful calf cramps I get every Wednesday evening after Y-Fuse. These cramps are the worst - my leg (it varies which one) seizes up at an odd angle and won't move or bend until I can manually work out the cramp. Mega painful, not to mention inconvenient since it usually happens in the middle of core class.

I've been trying to get in more potassium by adding sweet potato to my meals and eating other potassium-rich foods like bananas, leafy greens and yogurt. However, I'm still way short on potassium pretty much every day. Anyone have tips for getting more in my diet?

Breakfast: Protein Oatmeal* + Plain Kefir
Snack: 6oz Greek Yogurt + 2 cups raw veggies
Lunch: Light & Delicious Tuna Salad + Banana + Nuun All Day Tablet
Snack: Popcorn + BeFit PreWorkout Drink
Dinner: Chicken Chorizo Tostada** + Spinach Salad + Blueberries

*1/3 cup old fashioned oats + 2/3 cup unsweetened plain almond milk + 1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice + dash of cinnamon + sprinkle of sliced almonds and dried cherries

**1 whole wheat tortilla, baked + 1 cup arugula + 1 AmyLu Chicken Chorizo link, cooked and sliced + 1/3 cup diced and roasted sweet potato + 1-2 Tbsp fresh salsa + 1 Tbsp contija cheese

That's how I'm training and eating this week! To wrap up this post, I'll share a few recent favorites/obsessions. Here's what I'm loving lately:

Walks along the Milwaukee Lakefront - Lately the weather in MKE has been nothing but gorgeous. I've been taking full advantage of it with plenty of walks along the Lakefront. It's been wonderful - I hope things stay this way all summer!

All the treats - These past few days have been pretty treat heavy. It started with a batch of Chocolate PB Cup Cupcakes. I immediately put half in the freezer and packaged up a few to give to my parents. But I did end up eating three cupcakes over the course of four days. I also did quite a bit of indulging at Summerfest, Milwaukee's big annual outdoor music festival. It's tough to say which treat I enjoyed most - it's a three-way tie between bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, a chicken & waffle cone and a triple scoop of Cedar Crest ice cream!

Track & Field Olympic Trials - I've been super excited to watch America's best runners take to the track to see who will get to represent our country in Rio. My favorite moments so far have been Galen Rupp winning the 10,000 and Allyson Felix winning the 400.

But enough about me! How about you tell me:
  • What have you been up to lately? Any recent or upcoming races? 
  • Have you ever dealt with mid-workout cramping? What are your tips for preventing it?
  • Have you been following the Track and Field Olympic Trials? If so, who are your favorites to make the team and/or what are your favorite Trials moments so far?

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

- ST