Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Summer Zucchini Sauce

There are many reasons people love summer: longer days, warmer temps, fun at the beach, outdoor festivals, and more. I love those things, too. But one of my favorite things about the season is all the amazing garden-fresh veggies and fruit. 

Every year, my parents have the most amazing garden with tons of produce - and lucky for me they like to share! Lately, my kitchen is overflowing with zucchini. Fortunately, I discovered this recipe, which features zucchini as the star. This sauce is so simple to make and is delicious paired with pasta or toasted crostini. The key is slow cooking the sauce so make sure you have a few hours set aside to prepare it!

Summer Zucchini Sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large zucchini or 4 medium zucchini, large diced
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes
2-3 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 14oz can garbanzo beans
Parmesan Reggiano cheese, freshly grated

Add olive oil to a large pot and warm over medium heat. Add diced zucchini and chopped garlic. Cook uncovered and stir occasionally until zucchini begins to soften and break apart, about 30 minutes. Add grape tomatoes and continue to cook uncovered while stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Turn heat to low and stir in vegetable bouillon cubes, Italian seasoning and garbanzo beans. Continue to cook for another 30-45 minutes, or until the zucchini and tomatoes are completely soft and broken apart. The finished consistency should be like a thick sauce.

Serve the sauce over pasta or as a crostini spread. Top with Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

Tell me: What's your favorite summer vegetable and how do you prepare it?

- ST

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Spring Tilapia Bake

Lately, I've been trying to eat more protein. You would think this would be easy but it's actually been somewhat of a challenge. I find I naturally gravitate toward foods with less protein, like pasta or soup. Give me all the carbs! 

But this simple tilapia dish hits the spot. It's high in protein and packed with flavor. Make it for dinner this week while asparagus is still in season!

Spring Tilapia Bake
Serves 4

1 pound tilapia (I used fresh but you could also use frozen)
1 pound asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
2 cups grape tomatoes
1 lemon, sliced with seeds removed
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp seasoning blend of choice (I used Penzey's Sunny Paris)
Salt & Pepper 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle 1 tsp olive oil in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Add asparagus in a single layer. Top with tilapia and grape tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning blend, salt and pepper. Top with lemon slices. 

Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check your fish a few times as it cooks. When it easily flakes with a fork, it's ready. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

I served this with farro - a delightful grain with a slightly chewy texture. For dessert, try a blueberry/blackberry mix!

Tell me: What's your favorite way to prepare fish?

- ST

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Rough Start to 2018

Hey Everyone! Sorry for the recent silence - I've been battling the flu and complications these past several weeks - and I can say from experience this year's flu is nothing to mess around with. Since coming down with symptoms on Dec. 31 (what a way to end the year!) I've been to the doctor twice, urgent care and the emergency room. As you can see, it's been an awesome start to 2018!

But I think - knock on wood - I'm finally getting better. The latest round of meds seem to have made a huge difference and I think this time the sickness might really be on its way out. The only symptoms left are mild congestion and cough as well as healing up a rib muscle strain (caused by a coughing fit two weeks ago). 

As you can imagine, I'm itching to get back to my normal workout routine. I've been trying to maintain some type of routine these past few weeks but it's been impossible. I know I've lost a lot of fitness but hopefully I can start slowly rebuilding now that I'm getting better. 

One mistake I've made is foolishly thinking I can do hard doubles while recovering. When I'm healthy, I often do a hard workout during the noon hour and then do another one after work. Attempting to do this while sick is a bad idea. So this week, I'm really cutting back and aiming to do one moderate effort workout per day. If I feel up to it, I'll add in a second "workout" of walking on the track or treadmill. 

Monday: 30 minute walk + Y-Blitz (I'll dial down the effort to keep this moderate)
Tuesday: 30 minute walk + WAC Fitness Test
Wednesday: WAC Arms & Abs (depending on rib muscle) + WAC Small Group Training
Thursday: 30 minute walk + Y-Blitz (lower effort)
Friday: WAC As Many Reps as Possible 
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Rest Day

You may be wondering about the WAC Fitness Test. It's there because another round of Lose It started last week. I missed doing the Fitness Test with the rest of my training group but am planning to do a make up this week. Like everything else on my workout plan, it will probably be at a lower effort so my expectations are not very high. But I guess that means I'll see more improvement when I do the test again at the end of the 12 weeks!

My nutrition has been all over the place these past several weeks. There have been periods when I've wanted to eat nothing but other times when I've been ravenously hungry. I haven't been following Weight Watchers since I think while sick and during recovery the best approach is to feed my body what it wants, when it wants it. But this week I'm going to transition back to being on a more Weight Watchers friendly diet. 

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Breakfast Wrap
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad
Dinner: Classic Beef Chili

Snacks will include clementines, light string cheese, veggies, popcorn, QUEST bars - or whatever I feel my body needs, even if it's a cookie or two!

Despite being sick for weeks on end, there have still been a few good things to start the year:

Lots of Brunching - For some reason, while I've been sick/recovering, I've felt best on Sundays. So after getting over the initial flu sickness, there has been lots of brunching. In the past few weeks I've been to a few favorites: Engine Co. 3, Lake Park Bistro, Blue's Egg, Smoke Shack and Cafe Bavaria. 

Delish pastries start the meal at Lake Park Bistro

Caretaker Charlie - My little darling has been an absolute doll as I've been stuck at home. There has been lots of snuggling and he brought a smile to my face even during the lowest points. 

Vacation Planning - In just a few weeks I have my first trip of the year - a ladies weekend in Savannah, GA. It's a place I haven't yet visited so I'm really looking forward to exploring someplace new. My friends and I have already made a few meal reservations and selected a few sites we want to visit. We've also started outfit planning because when in the south, you better make an effort to look good ;)

A Few Good Books - Given all the spare time I've had lately, I've gone through quite a few books: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories, The Comfort Food Diaries, China Rich Girlfriend, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Forward: A Memoir, Falling. Some of these were delightful reads while a few were duds. I don't regret reading any of them though!

That's the update to start the year! Tell me:
  • How has 2018 treated you so far? 
  • Have you visited Savannah? If so, any must-visit places I should add to my list?
  • Have you read any good books lately? If so, what book and what did you like about it?

We're already one month down - and one month closer to spring!

- ST

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lose It Wrap Up + My Results!

After taking the summer off from running and training, I was feeling rather out of shape and pudgy. Lucky for me, the Wisconsin Athletic Club started its Lose It program mid-September. The 12-week program was focused on losing weight and body fat and improving overall fitness through small group training sessions.

And what a difference 12 weeks can make! Going into the challenge, I was hoping to see results but was a little unsure about how much change I could actually make. However, I was focused and made it a priority to succeed. Although I'm not yet sure how I did compared with others in the program, here are my results:

Weight: -12.5 pounds
Body Fat: -9%
Fitness Tests: 
  • 1-mile run (improvement)
  • Timed plank (improvement)
  • Timed push-ups (improvement)
  • Timed stair climb (improvement)
  • Timed walking lunges (improvement) 

I'm thrilled with my results and I can tell that my fitness is so much better. Looking back, there were a few key things that really helped me be successful:

Working out all. the. time. I went to as many Lose It workouts as I could fit in my schedule (there were typically 3-5 in addition to my 1-hour training session). I also did additional workouts at the Downtown YMCA. A typical week for me included two-a-days on Mon-Thurs and a workout on Friday and/or Saturday for a total of 8-10 workouts per week.

Focusing on strength. Before doing Lose It, I believed for a workout to be effective, it had to be fast paced. I quickly learned HIIT was not the only way to shed pounds. One of the trainers forced me to slow down, lift heavier and do every single rep correctly. It was a total mindset change for me as I've always been used to banging out a high number of reps as fast as possible. I totally fretted that these sessions were not going to help me achieve my weight loss/body fat loss goals, but in the end I think they were the most helpful. So while I lost weight/body fat, I gained a lot of confidence in my strength and ability to lift heavier (thanks Travis!).

Joining Weight Watchers. I knew I had to clean up my diet to go along with all the working out. Joining Weight Watchers really helped. While no foods were off limits, I knew exactly how much I could eat. And because the plan is pretty flexible, I could also enjoy small treats here and there, which really helped me stay motivated throughout the 12 weeks.

Eating the same foods. My breakfasts and lunches were the same almost every day. Turkey Bacon and Egg Wrap. Tuna/Chicken, Sweet Potatoes & Corn Arugula Salad. Popcorn. Veggies. Light String Cheese. It's boring to eat the same thing all the time but my body responded well to those foods and it made things easy.  

Now that Lose It is over, I'm focusing on maintaining my weight through the holidays. I'll continue working with one of the WAC trainers these next few weeks until Lose It starts up again at the end of January. During the next round of Lose It, I'd love to shave off another 4-6% body fat as well as lose more weight!

If you're in the MKE area and need a kick in the pants to help you lose weight - or just improve fitness and strength - you have to check out the WAC's Lose It program. I totes recommend it and can't wait to participate in the next round of the program!

Finally, many thanks to the Downtown Wisconsin Athletic Club and the trainers I work with - Ellie, Travis and Mike - you guys are great!

Tell me: What are your best weight loss tips?

- ST

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ALL the Christmas Cookies + It's the Last Week of Lose It!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love the holiday season with all the celebrating with family & friends, gorgeous decorations, festive music, delicious food and sparkles galore. 

Last week/weekend I really started getting into the holiday spirit and helped decorate two Christmas trees at work, put up stockings and a few decorations around my own home and went to the most amazing Christmas cookie sale with my mom. The cookie sale was so awesome that I somehow ended up with nearly 10 pounds of cookies. Oops. 

Those cookies went straight into the freezer since I can't afford to indulge these next few days. That's because ... it's the final week of Lose It!

With it being the final week, there will be a weigh in and multiple fitness tests on Thursday evening. So this week is all about bringing my A-game to every workout to sweat off every last tenth of a pound.

Workout 1: 2 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Workout 2: Y-Blitz

Workout 1: WAC Burnout Workout
Workout 2: Y-Blitz + Mini Kettle Bell Workout

Workout 1: 2 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Workout 2: WAC Sprints & Bodyweight Workout

Workout 1: WAC Supersets Workout
Workout 2: WAC Small Group Training

Friday - Rest Day


Sunday - Rest Day

I'm so tempted by all the cookies stashed away in my freezer. However, I'm determined to be strict and stick exactly to my diet plan. With the weigh in on Thursday evening, I'm avoiding all alcohol and carbonated beverages and limiting my bread/pasta/dairy/salt intake to reduce bloat.

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Wrap + Banana 
Snack 1: Raw Veggies + String Cheese
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad  + 2 Clementines

Snack 2: Popcorn
Dinner: Ham & Bean Soup + Spinach Salad + Apple

After this week, I'll be back in my normal workout mode and will likely start incorporating more running into my routine. I can't wait to see what my results are on Thursday and will be sure to report back!

Tell me:
  • Have you ever participated in a weight loss or fitness challenge? How did it go for you?
  • What is your favorite thing about the holiday season? 
  • What's your favorite type of Christmas cookie?


- ST

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2018 Race Schedule - A Work in Progress

Hey everyone! Can you believe how quickly 2017 flew by? We basically have just one month left this year and that means it's time to start planning next year's races. 

So this year was a bit of a wash for me as far as running is concerned. I pretty much stopped after a few spring races and took a much-needed break from racing. But after several months off, I'm looking forward to getting a few races on my schedule. 

I still haven't been doing a lot of running but my basic fitness is back. So come January, I'm going to start running more to get back into race shape. 

Here's what I'm thinking of racing this upcoming year:

Pettit Indoor Half Marathon Relay - I'm super excited to race this one with the same team of gym friends from last year's Indoor Marathon Relay. We'll be focusing on shorter, faster intervals this year. I'll consider it a good workout for my upcoming 5k races!

Luck of the Irish 5k - This one is a maybe, depending on the weather. If it truly sucks, I'll race the First Call 5k instead.

Nicolet Bay 5k - I love this 5k in Door County and hope to do it every year that I'm able to run. The course is flat and fast and winds through Peninsula State Park. This will likely be my spring goal race.

Kings & Queens 4 Mile - I ran the Kings & Queens Half Marathon a few years ago and really loved the course. This time I'll likely opt for the 4-miler instead - it's a new distance option for 2018. I haven't raced many 4-mile races - in fact, this will only be my second one! Being only one week after the Nicolet Bay 5k, this may end up being more of a fun run for me. 

Wisco Mile - I've had this race on my radar for a few years now but it's never worked out for me to run it. Depending on how fit/fast I feel mid-June, this may be the year. I really like the idea of racing a fast mile on the track!

Rock 'n' Roll Chicago - This is another one that will always be on my race calendar. I love racing Chicago in the summer and Rock 'n' Roll races are always super fun because they are large-scale, well organized and super high energy! The only thing to decide is which distance to race: half marathon, 10k or 5k - or maybe I'll do the Remix Challenge this year and do the 5k + either the 10k or half marathon.

Lake Country 5k - Yet another race that is always on my race calendar. I've been doing this one since I started running. It's a hillier course but I love the challenge. 

And then ... I'm not sure! I'd love to add a few more fall races but haven't picked any yet. Whatever I end up adding will likely be shorter distance - something in the 1-mile to 10k range. 

Tell me: What's on your 2018 race calendar? Any fall race suggestions?

Enjoy your Tuesday!

- ST

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Try It: Swanson Health Products

Let's face it - we're all incredibly busy these days. But that doesn't mean we want to resort to eating junk when time is tight. One way to make sure you're able to maintain a healthy diet at all times is to keep your pantry stocked with the basics so you always have ingredients on hand to whip up a delicious meal. 

A few months ago, Swanson Health reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in checking out their online shop and trying a few products. Of course I said yes! Healthy products + the convenience of online shopping? Score!

I had heard of the brand but wasn't super familiar with all of their offerings. It turns out the website has thousands of products. Everything from vitamins and supplements to food and cleaning products. There are even beauty products on the site! 

I immediately went to the food section to pick out a few items to stock my pantry. Here I found a great selection of nuts, oils, baking products, protein bars, pasta, grains, soups, and even cookies! I was expecting to pick from just a few products but it was like shopping the aisles of any brick and mortar health food store. 

A few of the things I added to my cart:

  • Pistachios
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Organic medjool dates
  • Honey
  • Almond flour

I was especially excited about the macadamia nut oil as it's a harder-to-find item. I like drizzling it on salads and pastas to add a nutty flavor. 

It's a good thing I stocked up on these things because I was recently in the mood to bake and found I had all the ingredients I needed to try Running on Veggie's Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies. These cookies are so easy to make - just add dates, peanut butter and 1 egg to a food processor, blend and bake. So simple and so good!

I would order from Swanson again (if you sign up for their email list you'll get discount offers almost daily) for the convenience and selection of products. It's definitely worth checking out - particularly if you don't have health food stores near you or if you don't have time to get to one!

Tell me: What's your go-to health food shop/website? 

- ST