Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Southern Broccoli Casserole

With Thanksgiving upon us, you've probably seen your share of recipes for lightened-up holiday favorites. This recipe isn't one of them. With tender broccoli in a creamy sauce, tons of cheese and butter and a crunchy cracker topping, this will be one of the first items to disappear from your Thanksgiving table!

 The definition of indulgent - but that's okay around the holidays, right? ;)

Southern Broccoli Casserole
Recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen

6 cups broccoli florets, steamed
1 can cream of celery soup (original recipe calls for cream of mushroom)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 medium onion, small diced
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine broccoli, cream of celery soup, mayonnaise, butter, eggs, onion salt, pepper, plus 1 cup of shredded cheese. Mix until combined.

Add mixture to a medium greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with cracker crumbs.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow 10-15 minutes to cool and set.

Tell me: What are you making for Thanksgiving this year?

- ST

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Random Survey

I'm going to start off this post with asking everyone, has anything exciting or surprising happened to you lately? Someone asked me that last week in lieu of the usual and boring how are you small talk and I thought it was a great question. It makes you focus on the positive plus it's something you're not asked every day!

So today's post is all about questions and getting to know each other better. The questions are a mix of ones from random blog surveys. I hope you'll also answer at least a few of the questions!

Where are you most happy
I have a few: Lake Park because it's peaceful and if you run in the early morning or at dusk, you might come across bunnies, turkeys or even a cute red fox or two; Chicago in the summer because even though it's hot and sticky you can't beat the energy of a big city; and the sofa in my apt living room, curled up with Eddie.

Running in Lake Park

Eddie loves to tell me all about his day!

What is your biggest fear?
That I'll end up trapped in a boring, unsatisfying life thinking about all the coulda, woulda shoulda's.

If you could eat only one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
For someone who loves food as much as I do, this is a very tough question! It would probably involve guacamole, tacos, mac & cheese and a gigantic Peanut Butter Cup Crumbs Cupcake

I would love eating one of these every day. My waistline, not so much!

If money were no object, what would you do?
I would travel to a new place every week. And when at home, I would sleep in, run and try a new restaurant every day. Or maybe I'd just spend my days - the warm ones at least! - laying out at Bradford Beach with a stack of magazines. Really, I think it would be less about what I did and more about the freedom to do whatever, whenever, wherever!

What's your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving - because stuffing your face and being lazy after is encouraged ;) Plus, it's the day before Black Friday, which brings me to the next question ...

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?
Right now, it feels like shopping on Black Friday. People love to hate on this day but I've been going Black Friday shopping with my mom since I was a little girl. For us, it's less about buying tons of stuff and more about the tradition of getting up super early (we never go earlier than 4am) and enjoying a day of browsing and making a few purchases here and there.

What was the last book you read?
Once a Runner. It was okay. I really wanted to love it since it's always touted as a classic running book but it was a slow read for me - I found it boring at times and the main character a tad annoying.  

Are you a clean or messy person?
Both! I am a clean person in that I shower twice a day and am always washing my hands and slathering on hand sanitizer. I also always make my bed and can't go to sleep without doing the dishes first. BUT, there are stacks of magazines, shoe boxes, tennis rackets, etc. stacked around my apartment with small (sometimes large) dust bunnies scurrying around in between. When there's a choice between running a few extra miles or dusting, running always wins ;)

What is a pet peeve?
When others try to convince you that your path is wrong because it's not the same as the one they took. I say, live and let live!

What is the most interesting thing you can see from your kitchen window?
The view's not too interesting from my kitchen window but from my living room you can see the lake! 

How would you describe your style?
Classic/preppy with a dash of boho - I will forever wear bellbottom and flare jeans!

Who knows you best?
My mom - I'm so fortunate to have a mother who understands me so well!

With Mom (also a UW-Madison alum) with Bucky cutouts in Chicago!

Join the conversation: Tell me more about you - answer one or more of the questions in the comments section!

- ST

Friday, November 13, 2015

Super-Fudgy Brownies

While brownie mixes will do a pinch, I've found the flavor is usually lacking. It's like eating fast food - it might taste okay in the moment but afterward you realize it was totally unsatisfying.

So the only thing to do is make homemade brownies! Honestly, they are not much more work than the box mixes and the result is so much more delicious. I tried this recipe last weekend and it is my new favorite. Rich, fudgy, decadent brownies ... definitely worth spending an extra 5-10 minutes!

Super-Fudgy Brownies
Recipe from Martha Stewart

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. 

In a microwave safe bowl, combine butter (I recommend cutting the butter into smaller pieces) and chocolate pieces. Microwave in 25 second increments, stirring between each, until chocolate is melted. Be careful not to burn! Stir in sugar, followed by the eggs.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add in chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. Do not overmix!

Add mixture to prepared baking pan and smooth top. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes. Using paper overhang, lift brownies from pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Place cooled brownies on a cutting board and cut into squares. 


- ST

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Try It: TKO Soft-Grip Jump Rope

When I think about jumping rope, I'm instantly transported to back to my childhood and playing games during recess. Back then, it never seemed like work, probably because I was having too much fun! 

As an adult, jumping rope takes a bit more effort, but it's still a fun way to blast calories and get in a great cross-training workout. Jumping rope provides even more great benefits for runners. In addition to strengthening your calves, it can also help you build speed - always a plus in my mind!

So when TKO contacted me to see if I'd like to try out one of their Soft-Grip Jump Ropes, I was immediately onboard. 

For someone like me, who loves to run fast, this is a fantastic training tool. The 9-foot, vinyl rope is the perfect length and can be easily wiped clean at the end of a sweat session. And I really liked the rubber-coated grips on the handles. It made it easy to hold the rope even as my hands sweat. Also, what's not to love about the cute pink/purple color combo? :)

While testing the rope, I did a workout used by pro-runner Sarah Brown. It's best done in combination with strength training or after an easy run. Another way runners can use the rope is as a warmup tool before a workout. It turns out that jumping rope is a great way to get your muscles primed to run fast!

If you're interested in getting a TKO Soft-Grip Jump Rope of your own, they can be purchased at Macy's or Amazon. And keep it in mind with the holiday season - a jump rope is a perfect stocking stuffer for a family member or friend who is into fitness!

Tell me: Do you ever workout with a jump rope? If so, what exercises do you do?

- ST

 *I received a free TKO Soft-Grip Jump Rope to review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Four Weeks Til Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio!

It was nearly a year ago when I decided to race Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio this year. I had just watched a travel special about all of the wonderful Christmas season festivities along the city's famed Riverwalk and decided it would be a fun place to visit this year. The race seemed so far away at that time but now ... race weekend is only four weeks away!

I couldn't be more excited for my first true destination race. I've raced in different spots around the Midwest before (Chicago, Minneapolis, etc.) but never anywhere that required a plane ride to get to the start line. Plus, I get to do this one with Rock 'n' Blog and am hoping to meet some fellow team members!

I'm signed up for the 10k on Saturday and the 5k on Sunday. Originally I thought I would just use the races as fun runs since this is my first destination race trip. But after chatting with Coach Matt, I'm now planning to use the 10k as a goal race. I'm a tad worried I'll be too fatigued/stressed from travel to race a good time but I'm arriving in San Antonio pretty early in the morning on Friday so will have the entire day to take it easy. Plus, I'll likely have no trouble falling asleep that evening since my alarm will have gone off at 2:30am earlier that day ;) 

So until race weekend, it's business as usual. Coach Matt sent me my next four weeks of training over the weekend and here's this week's plan:

Monday: 5 glue miles w/strides + Kettle Bell Intervals
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. 4.5 mile cutdown + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 6 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 6 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 12 mile run
Sunday: 5 recovery miles

Total: 41 miles

I'm both excited for and dreading the 4.5 mile cutdown! Just a few more tough weeks to get through before the race weekend celebration then a nice long break in December :) 

My questions for you:
  • What workout are you most looking forward to this week?
  • Have you done a destination race? If so, any tips for a newbie destination racer?
  • Have you been to San Antonio? If so, any recommendations on things to do or places to eat?

So far, I'm planning on taking a Riverwalk boat tour, touring Pearl Brewery and shopping at the Mexican market and La Villita!

- ST

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Milwaukee Running Festival 5k Recap

A few years ago, I ran my first ever 20-miler with my friend Chris. During the run, he told me about his idea for a Milwaukee running event - something major that would bring the community together. Back then it didn't have a name but in the years since that run it turned into the Milwaukee Running Festival, a big-city running event with marathon, half marathon, 5k and 1-mile races.

This past weekend was the inaugural event - the result of years of hard work from Chris and his team - and it was such a success! I really could not have been more impressed by a first-year event.

Normally I would not use a first-year event as a goal race but knowing Chris was in charge, I knew it would be okay. I've always enjoyed his other races - the Indoor Marathon Relay, Race for the Bacon and Town Bank Turkey Trot to name a few. So I felt comfortable telling Coach Matt I wanted to use the Milwaukee Running Festival 5k as a goal race.

And I felt ready for a good race. Workouts leading up to race week indicated I was ready to run fast and I spent the week mentally bracing myself for the pain that comes with a hard effort. On race morning I knew I could do it.

My mantra for this race was "Be brave". I selected this mantra because I know I sometimes don't push as hard as I should during the middle of a race or don't kick as hard as I should at the end of a race because I worry about running out of gas before the end. So I did a lot of visualization for this one, imagining the middle of the race, what it would feel like and how I would react. It all came down to I would have to be brave!

I lined up a few rows back because I didn't want the temptation of running too hard during the first mile. It turned out to be perfect. I got out fast but then settled into a nice Mile 1 effort. I didn't look at my watch a single time during the first mile but when it beeped I saw I was at 6:52. I couldn't have asked for better!

The start of the race!

During Mile 2, I focused on reeling in runners that had either started in front of me or passed me right at the start. I was starting to hurt during this mile but thought since I was doing all the passing that I was still on pace. I didn't look at my watch til it beeped for the mile split and was a bit disappointed to see that my pace slowed. Although I already felt like I was putting in max effort I knew I was going to have to bring it up a notch in the next mile.

Throughout Mile 3, I repeated my mantra to myself again and again. I passed one more woman about halfway through the mile then focused on staying with a guy that was running the same pace as me. It was definitely an advantage to race on a course I run on all the time. I knew the path so well and I knew how much distance I had left to cover which made the effort a tiny bit easier. In hindsight, I should have been a teensy bit braver and started my kick a bit earlier. Maybe I would have shaved a few seconds off my time! ;)

After the race with Mom - she also raced the 5k!

Overall, I thought it was a great weekend of racing. I really liked the 5k course and had fun spectating some of the other events. I would definitely recommend adding the Milwaukee Running Festival to your race calendar next year. It's a fantastic event and I'm sure it will be even bigger and better next year!

My questions for you:
  • What is your experience with first-year races? And if you raced the Milwaukee Running Festival, what did you think of the event?
  • What is your current race mantra?
  • What are you most looking forward to this fall?

Other than a hard few weeks of training leading up to Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio, I'm looking forward to crisp temps, in-season apples and lots of homemade chili!

- ST