Monday, December 30, 2013

Cheesy Cajun Pasta

Do you ever throw together dinner using whatever you have in your refrigerator and pantry and it turns out so much better than you expected? This is one of those meals. It was super delicious given how few ingredients were needed and the amount of time it took to whip it up!

In fact, it was so good that I made it again the following weekend - just to make sure I wasn't imagining how tasty it was, and also to measure the ingredients to create an actual recipe to share with you. One thing to note: I like my food a bit spicy, so if you prefer your food on the mild side, I recommend using less Cajun seasoning. 

Cheesy Cajun Pasta
Serves 4-6

8 oz spaghetti noodles (You can use any pasta shape you like)
4 Andouille chicken sausage links (I used Amylu brand)
1 can diced tomatoes w/green pepper, celery and onion
1 cup corn
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used 2 percent)

 Cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. 

Meanwhile, slice the Andouille chicken sausage and heat in a large pan. Add the diced tomatoes, corn and Cajun seasoning and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Next, stir in the cooked spaghetti noodles. Remove from heat and top with the cheddar cheese. Cover the pan so the cheese melts. Serve immediately. 

Share, share share: What is your favorite throw-together dinner?

- ST

Friday, December 27, 2013

Last Year, Next Year + A 2014 Race Schedule!

Hey Everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Can you believe we'll be counting down to 2014 in just a few days?

With another year gone by, it's the perfect time to reflect a bit on this past year of running - and move forward by setting new goals for the New Year.

Here were my goals in 2013:
  • Log more miles
  • Run with a friend or group 4x/month
  • Strength train 2x/week
  • Run a new PR in the 5k, half marathon and marathon distances
  • Eat well to fuel training
  • Run a Boston Marathon qualifying time

I knew going in that these were ambitious goals and I'm okay with not being able to cross off everything on my list. It was a rough year with all the injuries and time off! 

But even with the setbacks, there were still a lot of great things that happened in 2013. It's always best to focus on the positive - such as, I've now been running for three years! I'm still a bit of a newbie, but with every year that passes I can tell I'm learning and becoming a better runner. Every experience is a lesson learned. 

With Mom after the Lake Country 5k - one of my favorite races in 2013

Starting with a clean slate in 2014, here are my goals for the upcoming year:
  • Log more miles
  • Run a new PR in the 5k and 10k distances
  • Run a Boston Marathon qualifying time

This year's list is much shorter than last year's, but fewer goals means being able to focus more on each one. Logging more miles is a goal I'll have every year, but especially this upcoming year. Last year, I didn't come close to running as many miles as I wanted so I'm extra set on running the type of mileage needed to achieve my other two goals. 

Lake Park - a favorite spot to log miles!

 The first half of 2014 is going to be dedicated to training for shorter speed events - the 5k and 10k. I've only run one 10k (45:53!) so I'm excited to see what I can do in that event this spring. And the 5k is my favorite distance so I can't wait for some fast races - hopefully at least one that results in a new PR!

After my goal spring races, I'll move into marathon training. I have to shave at least 8:XX off my current marathon time to run a BQ time. I think it's entirely possible - as long as I can stay healthy this year and get in more consistent training. 

After this year's Lakefront Marathon - Getting closer to a BQ time!

As for races, here's what I tentatively have on my schedule for this upcoming year: 

  • Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay
  • GLM Expo Race 5k
  • The Big Chill 5k
  • Luck of the Irish 5k
  • Door County 5k
  • Madison Twilight 10k
  • Rock n Sole 5k
  • Firecracker Four
  • Race for the Bacon 5k
  • Strider Half Marathon
  • Lake Country 5k
  • Lakefront Marathon

Although not a race, the other thing I'm mega excited for in 2014 is the Oiselle Team Camp in August. Five days of running and running-related activities with running friends? Awesome :) 

My questions for you:
  1. What are your goals for 2014 - running or otherwise?
  2. What races are you planning to do in 2014?
  3. What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?

I can already tell that 2014 is going to be a great year :)

- ST

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Treats!

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking Christmas cookies. There are a few that I always enjoy - for example, Coconut Snowballs (recipe to come) and Peanut Butter Balls. But every year, I also like to try a few new recipes. 

Here are two recipes that I recently made for an office treat - the first is a new one and the second, an old favorite. I definitely recommend making both :)

Holiday Blondies 
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

One stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup holiday-theme sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter with sugars. Next, stir in the egg and vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. Then, stir in the sprinkles. 

Add the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before removing blondies from the pan and cutting into squares.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
Recipe by Katie Lee

Two sticks unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and peanut butter. Stir in the vanilla, then remove from heat. Carefully mix in confectioners sugar until a stiff dough forms. While still warm, shape the dough into small balls - about the size of a ping pong ball. Place balls on the prepared baking sheet. 

Add the chopped chocolate to a microwave safe bowl and melt in 25 second increments. Be sure to stir after each increment to ensure the chocolate does not burn. 

Spoon a bit of melted chocolate on top of each of the peanut butter balls. Then, place the tray in a refrigerator and allow to chill until set - about one hour. 

My questions for you:
  1. Did you do any holiday baking this year? If so, what did you make?
  2. What is your all-time favorite holiday cookie/treat?

I hope you are all having a delicious week :)

- ST

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tis the Season for Maintenance

Since I started running three years ago, I've always had high expectations for myself come December. This year, my goals included building my weekly mileage to 40 miles per week, getting in a few monster speedwork sessions and the big one, racing a new 5k PR.

Yesterday, reality kicked in. I'm still sick (although getting better!). I still need to buy several Christmas presents. Holiday baking hasn't happened yet. And my apartment? It's a disaster. With all of these other obligations, the time has come to ease up a bit on training. I'm still trying to get over feeling like a slacker, but am telling myself that this time of year, it's a win to just maintain fitness.

So, here's this week's training plan:

Monday: Rest Day - aka Shopping for Christmas Presents//Writing Cards/All the Holiday Stuff
Tuesday: 6 mile run; 60 minutes strength training
Wednesday: 6 mile run (Runch?)
Thursday: 4 mile run
Friday: 4 mile run; 30 minutes core work
Saturday: 10 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day - aka Holiday Brunch/Humane Society Donation

Total: 30 miles

Given this week's frigid temps, snow and ice, I just may have to try runching for the first time ever. Things must be at least a few degrees warmer mid-day, right? :)

As for diet. I'm going to eat healthy for the most part but will not freak out about Christmas cookies, holiday treats, etc. I saw this Tweet from Oiselle teammate Lauren Fleshman the other day and totally laughed at my desk. It's so true!

My questions for you:
  1. How do you train during the holidays? Is it business as usual or do you cut back?
  2. What are your best tips to make time for fitness?
  3. And, just for fun, what is your all-time favorite holiday treat? Both sweet and savory :)

I think the classic treats will always be my favorite!

- ST

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Update: Recovering From a Nasty Cold

Last week's Turkey Trot? Sadly it didn't happen. The nasty cold that has been going around got the best of me and I spent most of last week coughing up my lungs. It was a sad week with absolutely no running or exercise . . . but, I'm finally getting better, which means I get to run again! 

My first run back on Monday was pretty gross - literally - waves of nausea and a bloody nose midrun! But yesterday's miles were spectacular. I absolutely adore running in the rain and the temperature was perfect, especially given it's already December. 

I've scaled back on training this week since I'm still recovering but if everything goes well, I should be back on track by next week. Here's this week's plan:

Monday: 4 miles @easy pace
Tuesday: 4 miles @easy pace + 60 minutes strength training
Wednesday: 4 miles @easy pace + 60 minutes strength training
Thursday: 6 miles @easy pace
Friday: 8 miles @easy pace
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Rest Day/Crosstraining

Total: 26 miles

A 5k PR before the end of the year might be a bit of a reach at this point, but I'm going stay optimistic. After all, anything is possible if you're willing to work for it!

Today's questions:

  1. What goals are you trying to meet before the end of the year?
  2. Do you run/exercise when sick? 
  3. What steps are you taking to avoid getting sick this winter?

I hope everyone is having a wonderful - and healthy - start to the week!

- ST