Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuna Chickpea Salad

I love salads year round, but they always taste especially delicious once warmer weather arrives. One of my all-time favorite salad recipes is tuna with chickpeas. Although I love a classic tuna salad, this recipe is lighter and healthier. Try serving it on top of a bed of fresh spinach or with whole grain crackers. It's also great paired with a chilled vegetable soup.

Tuna Chickpea Salad

Serves 3-4

1 can light tuna in olive oil, excess oil drained out

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 small red onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp dried dill weed



Optional: 1 bag fresh baby spinach, 1 cup chopped grape tomatoes

Combine the tuna, chickpeas, onion, lemon juice and dill weed in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
If using spinach, divide between four plates and add a mound of tuna chickpea mixture to each. Garnish with grape tomatoes.

What's your favorite summer salad recipe?

- ST

Friday, June 24, 2011

On Your Mark . . . Get Set . . . Go!

There are few things I love more than fast running. Whether it's challenging myself at the end of a long run outside or racing someone around the track, these are some of my favorite training moments.

No question about it, the only way to get fast, stay fast and become faster is to incorporate regular speed workouts into your training. Lately my focus has been doing longer intervals so this plan builds on that objective.

Note: If doing this workout on a treadmill, set incline to 1.0.

  • Warm up for one mile
  • Complete 4-6 intervals of 800 meters (about half a mile) at 10-20 seconds faster than 5k race pace
  • Between speed intervals, do 400 meter (about a quarter of a mile) recoveries at a comfortable jogging pace
  • Cool down for one mile

If you're not sure what your 5k race pace is, try this test from Active.com. If you're new to speed workouts, you may not be able to complete 4-6 repeats. Instead, try completing two and build up over time. Remember - at the end of your workout, you shouldn't feel completely spent. You should still feel like you could do one additional repeat, if needed.

Looking forward to racing toward the finish line!

- ST

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Finding an Ideal Weekly Mileage

With the Summerfest Rock 'n Sole half marathon only a little more than two weeks away, I've been focused on running more than ever before. Specifically, am I doing enough training and the right type of training to meet my race day goals?

Lately, I've been considering how many miles I should run each week to optimize performance. Even while training for this half marathon, I haven't run more than 25 miles in one week. It makes me wonder, if I could increase my mileage by just an additional five miles per week, would it significantly improve performance? What about adding an extra 10 or even 15 miles per week? Note: I realize these miles would need to be added gradually to avoid potential injuries!

Twice a day, twice the benefits?
I recently read an article in Runner's World magazine touting the benefits of running twice a day. The basic premise is, the more you run, the more efficient and conditioned your body becomes. I think it's an interesting idea. I'm not much of a morning exerciser (I usually only do morning workouts on long run days and when I can't fit in an evening workout) but I'd give this a try to see what type of results it yields.

Quality counts as much as quantity
On the other side, the last thing I want to do is add miles simply for the sake of a higher mileage count each week. I've been following Ryan Hall's blog and enjoyed reading his recent post about weekly mileage. I couldn't agree more that hard, quality workouts are the backbone of any training schedule, more so than adding "junk miles."

Although it's a bit too late in the game to change up my training plan for the upcoming half, increasing my mileage for future races is something I'll definitely consider.

How many miles do you run each week? Would you consider running twice a day?

- ST

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chicken and Rice Fiesta Bake

Casseroles remind me of dinners I ate growing up. As an adult, I still enjoy them, but don't especially like the high amount of calories and fat in most.

That's what I like about this recipe.
I created it last weekend, the night before the Lombardi 5k, and I like to think the combination of carbs and protein helped me achieve my goal time. It combines simple ingredients for a healthy and delicious Mexican-inspired meal.

Chicken and Rice Fiesta Bake

Serves 4-6

1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can Mexican style diced tomatoes

1 10 oz can enchilada sauce

1 cup corn

2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 medium onion, diced

1 cup fat free shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add diced chicken breast and cook until done. Stir in onions. Next, add corn, black beans, tomatoes, rice, enchilada sauce and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

Transfer skillet contents to an oven safe dish (I used a 9x9 dish) and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Next time I make this casserole, I'd like to use a homemade enchilada sauce. Anyone have a good recipe?

- ST

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Racing Strategy, New 5K PR

One of my 2011 goals was to run a 5K in less than 25 minutes. I'm happy to say I've now crossed that item off my list.

Here's the breakdown from Saturday's Lombardi 5K Run for Cancer:

Time: 24:59
Average Mile Time: 8:03
Age Division: 17/149
Women: 32/340
Overall: 99/563

I credit my new racing strategy. At past races, I've gone out too fast at the beginning and it ended up costing me later on. On Saturday, I decided I would run conservatively for the first two miles then gradually increase my pace to a sprint for the final half mile. Although it was hard feeling slow at the beginning and having people pass me, it was worth it at the end to be able to sprint to the finish line and run past several people who had passed me earlier!

At my next 5K race, I'll follow the same strategy, but try maintaining a slightly faster pace for the first two miles to reduce my time a bit. Upcoming races are as follows:

Superun 5K: June 22 (I'm a maybe for this one - I hear it's a super hilly course, which is kind of exciting!)
Summerfest Rock 'n Sole Half Marathon: July 10
5K Famous Racing Sausages Run: July 30
Hank Aaron Trail 5K Run: August 13

What's your racing strategy?

- ST

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things to Try This Weekend

Happy Friday! I don't know about you, but this week seemed extra long for some reason, so I'm thrilled it's about time for the weekend to start. However, before shutting down my computer for the day, I thought I'd leave you with these thoughts:

This weekend, why don't you:

Add herbs to your favorite sugar cookie recipe?
It sounds weird, but it's actually quite delicious. My favorite sugar cookie recipe is from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food publication, and the last time I made a batch, I added a sprinkle of thyme and rosemary. Delicious!

Host an impromptu pre-bar party?
It doesn't take much to host a small, last-minute gathering. Round up a few friends and set out a few bottles of your favorite types of alcohol and mixers. If you want to do a bit more, you can also include a few dishes of olives, nuts and baked chips.

Run sans iPod?
I scoffed when I first saw this suggestion in Women's Health, but believe it or not, it's actually quite liberating to run without music. Instead, focus on the environment, your breathing and the sound of your footsteps. Although I won't always leave my iPod behind, it's nice for a change of pace.

Wear a bright lip or eye color?
Many women shy away from bright make up colors, but they are actually quite flattering and easy to wear. Before heading out on Saturday night, try a fuchsia, watermelon or coral lipstick or gloss. If you prefer highlighting your eyes, lime, violet or teal will do the trick.

Have a great weekend!

- ST

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Caramelized Onion Dip with Bacon

Onion dip is a summer picnic and party classic. But most versions are loaded with fattening ingredients that aren't very figure friendly. This lightened-up version provides all of the flavor, but without as many calories and fat!

Caramelized Onion Dip with Bacon

(Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa's Pan Fried Onion Dip)

1 large vidalia onion

2 Tbsp Smart Balance

4 Tbsp vegetable oil

¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

½ cup plain Greek yogurt (I like 0% fat Fage)

½ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

¼ cup lean turkey bacon, baked and crumbled

Cut the onion in half and then slice it into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. Heat the butter and oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, Greek yogurt and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and prepared turkey bacon crumbles and mix well. Taste for seasonings.

Serve at room temperature with raw vegetables and/or baked crackers and chips.

What's your favorite lightened-up recipe?

- ST