Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Recently, my friend Laura asked me what my favorite go-to dinner is during the week. I said salmon with vegetables. While I do love salmon, it's more of a last-minute-I-didn't-plan-ahead type of meal. My real favorite is homemade soup. The kind that involves chopping vegetables, roasting meat and slow simmering everything to perfection. Yum!

We all know I love Mexican and southwest flavors, so when I saw this recipe for Chicken Enchilada Soup, I knew I had to give it a try. Although you end up with soup that tastes like it was slowly cooked all day, it actually doesn't take too long to prepare and was simple enough that even a kitchen klutz like me could handle it ;)

Best of all, this soup tastes even better leftover. I definitely recommend making a pot of this soup this weekend!



Chicken Enchilada Soup
Recipe slightly modified from Fabtastic Eats

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 15oz can Rotel
1 4.5 oz can green chiles, diced
1 1/2 cups corn (I used frozen)
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 10oz can enchilada sauce
2 cups milk, divided (I used 1 percent)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and Pepper
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese

Add olive oil to a large soup pan and heat over medium heat. Add diced onion, red pepper and garlic and cook until tender. Then pour in the Rotel, green chiles, corn, black beans and shredded chicken. Next, add the enchilada sauce and 1 1/2 cups milk. 

In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once fully melted, add the flour and whisk until thick. Add 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup chicken broth and a few cracks of salt and pepper. Continue to whisk until combined and thickened - this will take about 4-6 minutes. Once thickened, pour into the soup. 

Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and Monterey Jack cheese. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the soup from sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

Serve topped with additional cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream and/or cilantro!

Tell me: What is your go-to fall and winter soup recipe?

- ST

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Big 5k Race Weekend Recap

It's no secret that I love racing the 5k distance, but this weekend was the first time I've attempted two events in one weekend with just a tad more than 12 hours recovery between races.

To sum it up, it was an experience! I wasn't quite sure how to approach the races. Should I go hard during the first one and take it easy during the second? Run slower during the first race and save it all for the second? Or, race them both?

Of course, who am I kidding?? I decided to race them both and hope for the best. Here's how it all went down:
 

Race 1: Haunted Hustle 5k
I tend to run well at evening races so I had high hopes for this one. My legs were feeling pretty good and the weather conditions were near perfect - just a bit of wind but nothing too major.



Since most people around me were wearing costumes or pushing gigantic strollers (read: did not look very competitive), I decided to line up near the front by a woman who looked like she was there to race. My plan was to stick with her as long as possible.

This turned out to be a bad decision. This woman went out at a fast-for-me pace and since I don't use a watch when I race, it didn't really hit me how fast we were going til I felt like death around mile 1. Yikes! I had to hit the brakes at that point and slowed considerably.

Several women passed me during the next mile, which was pretty demoralizing. I HATE getting passed, but all I could do was keep plodding along. Toward the end of the race, I somehow ended up all alone. Like no one at all in front of me that I could see. It was lonely and made it difficult to hold my pace during the final mile. I couldn't wait for the race to be over and thankfully there was just another quarter mile or so after I made one final turn.

So relieved the race was over!!

Here are my results:
 

Time: 23:13
Pace: 7:29
AG Place: 2/52
Gender Place: 5/297
Overall Place: 11/458

 

Ugh, I was really unhappy when I saw my time and pace. Going out fast for this one proved to be a mistake. My big takeaway: I need to stick with my usual race strategy of lining up a bit further back - further back than I actually need to go - because my best races happen when I go out slower and speed up throughout the race. 

Mom and I after the race with our 'medals'

But, no regrets - every race is a lesson learned :) As for the woman I tried to follow - she ended up averaging around 6:30 pace! My legs can't handle that pace yet for a 5k but someday . . . ;)
 

Race #2: The Pumpkin Run 5k Out of the two races this weekend, this is the one that I really wanted to do well at since it is the first in a six-race series. Points are awarded at every race to runners who place high enough, and at the end of the series, additional series prizes are awarded to overall series winners.

 

After the disastrous race the night before, I wasn't too excited about having to race another 5k just a few hours later. However, I know I can race a lot better than a 23-minute 5k and this was my chance to redeem myself. Plus, a new 5k PR has been calling my name, which means giving nothing less than my best effort. 


This time, I was much smarter and lined up near a few runners who I know run closer to 25 minutes for the 5k distance. I know this sounds like I lined up too far back, but it's actually perfect for me - as the race started, I felt comfortable and confident. 

Now, the only thing with starting further back is you do hit bottlenecks at times. One of these happened within the first half mile and one girl went down hard. She was right next to me one moment and the next had tripped and was sprawled on the pavement. So terrible. It made me nervous, which provided an extra adrenaline boost that made me run a bit faster.

I've raced this course two times before, which is such an advantage because I knew what to expect. A slight incline into a turnaround, then another 1.5 miles back to the finish line. I felt like I was flying through the 2 mile mark . . . and then it started feeling harder. I resorted to using my old count to 100 trick for the next mile. And then using the runners in front of me to pull me along. Although it's tough summoning a kick at the end of a race, I managed to sprint the last bit into the finish line - my favorite way to end a race :)


Here are my results:


Time: 21:46
Pace: 7:01
AG Place: 3/64
Overall Place: 81/657

 

No PR this weekend, but I was pretty close at the second race - just six seconds off my current PR! After the race, a guy came over to me to tell me he paced off me the entire race then sprinted past me at the end. Ha! I will watch for him at future races - and be ready to kick hard when the time comes :)

Although I probably won't race two 5ks in the same weekend again anytime soon, it was a fun and challenging experience. I'm happy with the way things turned out and am already looking forward to my next 5k race in a few weeks!

My questions for you:
  1. Did you race this weekend? If so, how did it go?
  2. Where do you usually line up when you race? 
  3. What is your race strategy? Go out hard and hope to hang on? Start slow and speed up throughout? Run even splits? 
  4. For the non-runners - what was the best Halloween costume you saw this weekend? 
Since I didn't get to party this weekend, I'll have to live vicariously through the rest of you ;)

- ST

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wisconsin Fiesta Cheese Dip

Last night, I attended an Olallie MKE foodie event. This one's theme was Made in Wisconsin - all foods featured included at least two locally made ingredients.

I decided to bring a recipe I've had earmarked for awhile - Wisconsin Fiesta Cheese Dip. I remember seeing this recipe posted on Twitter by the Wisconsin Cheese awhile back and thought it looked absolutely delicious. Turns out, it was even tastier than expected - if that's even possible :)

Forgot to take a pic before everyone dug in so this was the only corner left intact!

Obviously there's plenty of cheese in this recipe but it's made slightly healthier with the addition of chopped tomatoes and spinach. And, like all of my favorite recipes, this one is simple and cooks up fast. Perfect for a football party or any type of get together!

Wisconsin Cheese Fiesta Dip
*Recipe from Iowa Girl Eats and EatWisconsinCheese.com

1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup yellow onion, minced (Local)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (Local)
1 Tbsp green chiles, diced
1 10oz package chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (Local)
1 can sliced black olives, drained
Tortilla chips (Local)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish and set aside.

Add olive oil to a medium skillet and saute onions for five minutes - or until tender. Add tomatoes and chiles and cook for two additional minutes. Remove skillet from heat and allow mixture to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine spinach, cream cheese and Monterey Jack cheese. Stir in the olives and tomato mixture.

Transfer to the dip to the prepared dish and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

My questions for you:
  • What is your favorite dip or spread?
  • How do you incorporate local ingredients into your everyday eating?

I hope you're having a delicious week!

- ST

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monster Run Race Recap

Between Lakefront Marathon and this past weekend's Monster Run, I logged a grand total of . . . 5 miles. Naturally, I was a tad concerned going into the race. 

Race bib and a super cute medal!

Fortunately, right from the start, I could tell my legs were turning over well and a faster 5k race was possible. I passed several people within the first half mile and hit the Mile 1 marker right around 7 minutes. Soon enough, I hit the turnaround point, when I counted four women in front of me. But I still wasn't quite sure how many were in front of me for the 5k race since the Quarter Marathon turn off wasn't for another half mile or so. 

The grassy areas of the park started to look quite appealing about midway through. I was definitely feeling the pace and the fact that I had done hardly any miles in the past two weeks. Huffing and puffing were the theme throughout the second mile. 

It was during the third mile that I made a bit of a miscalculation - I somehow managed to forget that the other race was a quarter marathon, not a 10k. When I saw the Mile 6 marker for the quarter marathon, I thought there was only 0.2 left in the race and started my kick to the finish line. Except the finish line was still more than half a mile away. Oops. Needless to say, I was frantically looking for the finish line and ended up fading - just couldn't maintain the pace.

As I got to the finish line, I was in for a fun surprise - the announcer said I was the 2nd female! Now, I'll admit, this was a slower race - my time would maybe get an Age Group prize at most in the majority of local races - but it was still quite exciting. I've been wanting to crack the top three overall for awhile!

After the race, trying not to collapse in the grass on the side

Here are my race results:

Time: 22:07
Pace: 7:08 min/mile
Age Group Place: 2/77
Gender Place: 2/442
Overall Place: 14/657

I was pretty happy with these results and feel it puts me in a good place going into my late fall and winter 5k races. With some actual training in the books, I'm pretty sure I can get some decent race times :)

On a side note, I did this race with my mom and niece, Kyley. The kids raced before mom and I lined up so we got to watch Kyley run. She was so nervous before the start, which was just adorable, but I totally understood how she felt since I get the same way before most races! It was so cute to see how excited she was when she got a medal at the finish line. Perhaps she'll end up coming to more races with us in the upcoming year!

Three race finishers!

I'd like to know:
  • How soon do you race again after a marathon?
  • What are you dressing up as for Halloween?

I saw some great costumes at the Monster Run - made me wish I was more creative when it comes to that kind of thing :)

- ST

Friday, October 18, 2013

Last Year Vs. This Year

It's been nearly two weeks since Lakefront Marathon - just enough time to have properly reflected on the race. Naturally, I couldn't help but start drawing comparisons between last year and this year. 

Obviously no two training cycles are going to be the same but there were a few major differences between last year and this year. To be honest, I'm still scratching my head as to how this year's training somehow led to such a great race. 

Last Year: Peak mileage weeks at 60-65 mpw
This Year: Peak mileage weeks at 40-45 mpw
I prefer to run higher mileage, but unfortunately a series of injuries kept me at low mileage this time around. 

Lake Park is one of my favorite MKE spots to log miles

Last Year: Five 20-22 mile runs within the marathon training cycle
This Year: Three 20-22 mile runs within the marathon training cycle
Three 20-22 mile runs is sufficient but my confidence is higher when I can log more long runs.

Last Year: Weekly speedwork
This Year: No speedwork til the month before the race
I love speedwork but I tend to peak quickly so too much early on in a cycle is a recipe for burnout. It's too hard to maintain peak fitness for an entire marathon training cycle. 

As much as I love the track, I have to run on it sparingly during marathon training

Last Year: Two full-effort half marathons in September
This Year: No races in September
This one is just common sense. Don't get greedy the month before the big event. Or you will risk ending up with an injury that will ruin your race plans.

Last Year: Cut back on strength training to fit in miles
This Year: 2-3 strength training sessions weekly
Cutting back on strength training meant losing strength. A key factor in getting injured during last year's second September half marathon.  

Dumbbells are my friend

Last Year: 10 pounds lighter
This Year: Umm ... 10 pounds heavier
No one likes to be put on a diet, but weight is something that is 100 percent controllable. I once read every 10 pounds lost equals a savings of 20 seconds per mile. Over a 5k, that's about one minute, a 10k about two minutes, and so on. 

My takeaways for the next marathon training cycle:
Increase mileage again to 60-65 mpw but keep doing strength training. No racing the month before the marathon. Fast track repeats should be saved til the end of the training cycle to avoid peaking too early. Lose 10 pounds. 

This should be easy, right? ;)

Because I like asking questions:
  1. What are a few differences you've noticed in your own training between cycles?
  2. What is your ideal weekly mileage?
  3. Speedwork - Do you do it throughout a training cycle or just use it to sharpen at the end?
  4. Would you or have you lost weight specifically for running performance?

Tell me everything and more!

- ST

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shorts That Go The Distance + A Oiselle Giveaway!

True Story: Back in the day, I used to pin gels to my shorts because the ones I wore did not have pockets. This was okay during training runs because I could just take a little walk break whenever I needed to take a gel. But during a race . . . this wasn't the smartest strategy. After accidentally stabbing myself with a pin during a race, I knew it was time to find a new style of shorts.

Enter Oiselle Lori Shorts. These were my first Oiselle shorts and how I was introduced to the brand. I loved these shorts because of the wider waistband and most important of all, a zippered pocket! I soon owned these shorts in every color. They were discontinued awhile back, but by then I had discovered Distance Shorts - another style of Oiselle shorts that had even more pockets for storing gels and other essential on-the-run items.


Here are a few must-know details about these shorts:


  • Three pockets! A rear-zip pocket, a side-zip pocket and an internal key pocket.
 
 Room for plenty of gels in the side pocket . . .

 
And more room for gels plus a tube of Nuun in the back pocket!

  • Comfortable and flattering (read: no muffin topping) elastic waistband.
  • Flattering leg shape and length - not too short, not too long. 
  • Wicking fabric + built-in undies. 

The shorts are perfect for every type of run - short, long, easy or fast - and easily go from workout to post-workout activities! Here's how my friend and Oiselle teammate, Sheila, and I recently wore the shorts both during and post-workout. 


By this point, I know you're all dying to know how you can get your legs into a pair of these fabulous shorts. And lucky for all of you, Oiselle has generously offered up a pair of these shorts for one Eat. Host. Run. Style. reader! Here's your chance to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
A special thanks to Sheila for coordinating the photo shoot and editing all the pics. Kudos to you, Sheila!!

Best of luck, everyone!

- ST 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chicken Verde Enchiladas

Is there anyone out there who doesn't like Mexican food? Okay, if you raised your hand, we can't be friends ;) The rest of you, read on for an amazing recipe for Chicken Verde Enchiladas!

I had my friends Sheila and Sara over for dinner last night and this recipe was super easy to prepare and delicious to boot. I found the original recipe on Plain Chicken and decided to slightly modify it to make it healthier knowing Sheila is doing Chicago Marathon this weekend and wouldn't want to eat a heavy, fatty meal. 

So, here's the recipe - I recommend trying this one stat :)

These are not quite as cheesy as they appear in this pic :)
 
Chicken Verde Enchiladas
*Recipe slightly modified from Plain Chicken

8 whole-wheat flour tortillas (I recommend Trader Joe's - fewer ingredients = fewer preservatives)
2 cups cooked, shredded boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 small zucchinis, grated
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 6oz container plain Greek yogurt (I used non-fat Chobani)
1 4oz can diced green chilies
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt butter then whisk in the flour and cook for an additional minute. Add the chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Allow the sauce to thicken, then remove from heat. Add the Greek yogurt and chilies.

Meanwhile, combine shredded chicken, pumpkin and zucchini in a mixing bowl. When the verde sauce is ready, spoon a small amount into a baking dish - just enough to coat the bottom of the dish. Then roll up the chicken mixture in the tortillas and place in a baking dish, seam down. Top with the remaining verde sauce and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 20-25 minutes then remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving. 

I'd like to know: What delicious eats have you made recently?

- ST

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lakefront Marathon 2013 Race Recap

The days before a big race, every runner spends at least a little time visualizing the best-case scenario for the event. If you can't see yourself achieving your goals, you never will. As they say, seeing is believing :)

Going into this year's Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, I felt a bit like a marathon newbie. And in a way, I really was. Last year was my first marathon, but I ran it with a badly injured left hamstring. It was far from a best-case scenario but at the time I was just happy to complete the race without having to DNS or DNF. That year, any time that allowed me to cross the finish line was okay with me. 

A pic from last year's race. Hobbling throughout!

During the two weeks leading up to this year's race, I was buzzing with nervous anticipation. Since I didn't go through a taper period last year due to my injury, this was a whole new experience. I probably drove certain friends - you know who you are - nuts with all my silly questions!

After spending a good portion of this summer doubting myself and even wondering if I could get to the starting line of this race (winter, spring and early summer injuries), things started coming together late summer and I could feel myself hitting a training peak right in time for the race. It was a race that I felt anything could happen and it was exciting knowing that I just might surprise myself.

Race day finally arrived and I woke up ready to run! As usual, I ended up lining up a bit late - this is something I really need to work on - and ended up back with the 4:30 pace group. This was not where I wanted to be, but told myself to relax and use the first mile as a nice, slow warm-up just like I practiced nearly every Saturday morning this summer.

As the race got going, I was just so happy to be running without all the fear that I had last year. I settled into a nice, easy pace and the first few miles passed by so quickly, especially since I ran into a few friends along the way. Before I knew it, I had worked my way up to the 3:50 pace group and the miles were just flying by. I couldn't believe it when we hit the mile 9 marker and even more so couldn't believe how easy the race felt. 

The next several miles were pretty uneventful except for the fact that I was extremely giddy. A little voice inside my head kept me going by chanting "believe, believe, BELIEVE" and reminding me of everything I had to believe in - Believe in your training, Believe in the possibility of today, etc. 

Around mile 17.5 - still feeling fantastic!

I stuck with the 3:50 pace group until we hit mile 20 and at that point I knew I had to say goodbye and strike out on my own. I was feeling way too good to not try to push the pace a bit and wanted to see how close to 3:45 I could run. I kept waiting to hit the wall, but it never happened. 

As I ran down the little hill from Lake Drive to Lincoln Memorial Drive, I knew I was practically done with the race. I knew I could not only get close to 3:45, but I could actually go sub-3:45 if I pushed the last bit of the race. That voice inside my head started screaming a little line from my Oiselle Team friends, "Go Fast, Take Chances." I ran that final mile in 7:50, the entire time loving the race. 

Only another quarter or so to go!
 
All focus on the finish line ahead

Here are my results:

Time: 3:43:59
Pace: 8:33 min/mile  
Age Group Place: 26/216  
Gender Place: 145/1,499  
Overall Place: 542/2,158

A 38 minute marathon PR!! I was definitely thrilled with this result and never in my wildest dreams could have imagined this outcome. All I can say is that if you truly believe, anything can happen :)

Rehydrating after the race!

Although I am very pleased with this race, if I had to change one thing it would be to push a bit harder during the middle miles. Because it was in a way my first marathon, I didn't want to end up running out of steam before the end so played it a bit safe. I know I could have run a bit faster because I recovered way too fast from the marathon effort - I even wore heels the day after the race! Next time, I'll have the confidence to go a bit harder. 

This year's finisher's medal

Up until this race, I had been considering not doing a marathon in 2014 and instead, focusing bringing down my time in shorter distance races. But now . . . I feel it would be foolish to not do another marathon next year and try to get a BQ time. All I want to do is get back out there and start training.

So that's my extremely long story from last weekend.  Here are a few questions for you:

  • Did you race over the weekend? If so, how was your race?
  • Have you ever experienced a perfect race? Do you think such a thing even exists?
  • If you don't run, what was the most interesting thing you did over the weekend?

Thanks for sticking with me :)

- ST