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perfect pepper puzzle

This morning Jon and I rolled out of bed just in time to head out for a run.  I was absolutely determined to have a good run…which can actually be quite dangerous:)

The weather was decent this morning – in the high seventies with a very light breeze – so off we went.  And praise the Lord – it went well!  I have been feeling so discouraged about our training, even to the point of thinking to myself “why the heck are we doing this?”  Have you ever been there?  Thankfully this morning restored my faith in believing that I really can train for and run a half marathon.

Before we headed out I honestly didn’t have a clue what I was going to do to help matters, but throughout the course of our run I tried several different tactics.

What worked:

Paying extra attention to my form.  Sometimes when I’m running, I find that I sort of hunch over and stoop my shoulders and back.  Today I kept checking in to make certain that my back was straight and my shoulders were down away from my ears.  I used a move that I do in my PiYo classes often: scrunch your shoulders up toward your ears as high as you can, and then release them down and back towards the floor, elongating the neck.  This helped tremendously today!

Break up the run into smaller segments. Not rocket science right?  The thing is that I usually do this with longer runs, but never with shorter runs.  I go into shorter runs thinking “well, it’s short already!”  But I have to say – in certain conditions, three miles can almost feel like a long run.  In fact, I’d rather do a long run over a short run anyday.  That’s anyday…not everyday, mind you. ha!  This morning, however, I kept telling myself things like “only .4 more miles until one mile is left.  You can run one mile easy!”  Sounds kind of silly, but it totally helped my mindset.  And Jon’s.

Frequent updates on mileage.  Sometimes I try to just zone out during a run and not think about the time.  Today, however, Jon and were both starting to struggle, so I was giving updates every half mile, and then every .2 miles towards the end.  I was somewhat doing this for Jon, since he wasn’t wearing the Garmin, but it totally helped keep my motivation and energy up as well.

Breathe.  Again, rocket science I know.  But sometimes I really truly forget to breathe.  I’ll realize that I’m either holding my breath or breathing very short and shallow breaths.  Today I focused on getting frequent deep breaths in, and I didn’t get near as winded throughout the entire run…even at the end.

Stretch.  We all know it’s important to stretch after a run, but what about during?  At about the halfway point, we both agreed that our legs felt pretty much like lead.  So, we stopped and stretched it out for about 30 seconds.  When we took off again, I felt much lighter and faster.

I’m not saying these tactics would work for everyone, but they definitely helped change my game this morning.  We finished in under 30 minutes including a short walk/stretch break.  For us, this was a great improvement!

After our run, I waited awhile for breakfast because I just wasn’t that hungry for some reason.  Very uncharacteristic of me.  When I finally got hungry awhile later, all that sounded good was a bowl of cereal.  I usually shy away from cereal for breakfast because it seems to go right through me, leaving me hungry soon after.  But I decided to go for it anyway.

Kashi Heart to Heart, Peanut Butter Puffins, sliced banana and soy milk

I love cereal so much…I wish it just was a little bit more filling.  A couple hours later I was already ready for lunch.  Jon had to work through lunch today, so I was flying solo.

I decided to throw together a quick concoction – and stuff it in a big bell pepper!

Bell pepper first.  I cut the top off, cleaned out the insides and set it on a cookie sheet in the oven at 400 degrees.

For the stuffing, I decided to start with a grain as a base, and after some inspection of the cabinets decided on bulgur.  Bulgur is one of my favorite grains because it’s easy to cook and so nutty!  Plus, 1/2 cup has only 75 calories but boasts 3 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber.  Into the boiling water it went.

After studying the fridge for a moment, I pulled out some leftover canned corn and leftover chickpeas and dumped them in the skillet.

Protein…check!

Hmmm….I still need some greens.  That’s an easy one.

Oops!  Leaf overboard!

Lastly, I added 2 tbsp of homemade hummus for creaminess and flavor + 1 tsp oregano and a sprinkle of salt and ground red pepper for a little kick!

By the time this mixture was cooked through, my bell pepper was nicely browned and wrinkled.  I carefully (it’s hot!) filled the pepper with the creamy bulgur mixture, stuffing it in deep to make it all fit.  Then I stuck it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so, turning on the broiler for the last couple.  I just love the broiler.  It soothes my impatient soul.

While I waited, I cleaned up the skillet and cutting board and said hello to this little visitor:)  She’s not dead, I promise.

When the pepper appeared super brown and wrinkled, it was ready to go!

Perfect.

With a sweet and juicy peach on the side.

So, so good.  Sorry dear…you totally missed out on this one;)  The pepper was perfectly soft and somehow the random flavors I threw together fit like a perfect little puzzle.  And I love the way the boiler makes the exposed part of the stuffing a little crispy!

After lunch I decided to book it to the coffee shop.  Without some lunch company, the house gets a little too quiet.  I’ve gotta get some work done and prepare for a call with an Outbox client this evening.

Hope you’re all having a great end to your week – let’s finish strong!

Random Question – what are you most looking forward to about fall?

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work it. own it.

Wow.

That’s all I have to say about this evening.  I have spent so much time attempting to get my computer/photo problem under control, and tonight was no different.  I’ve definitely made a lot of progress at getting my photos transferred from iPhoto to Flickr, but I still have a long way to go!  Come on little Macbook – you can do it!

As predicted, Jon and I headed to the gym this morning for our 3 mile run, and it was the best run I’ve had in awhile.  To be perfectly honest, it was the first run in awhile during which I didn’t walk.  Even though I’m a big proponent of walk breaks, I have to say it felt fabulous to kick it into gear this morning!  I owned that run:)

In fact, I feel so good today that I think I’ve gained a renewed motivation to kick butt on my runs from now on…even when they get really uncomfortable…and even outside.  Once you taste the feeling of success, you don’t want to let it slip away!

Anyway, once I got home and showered I was having a serious craving for some greek yogurt.  I have no idea where it came from, but it came upon me suddenly and with such force that I actually drove all the way to Walmart and bought some just for breakfast.  Absolutely nothing else would do.  I also decided that I couldn’t live without these beautiful raspberries while I was there, so I brought them home with me too.

greek yogurt over a toasted Van’s flax waffle with raspberries and sprinkle of chia seeds

This meal was so pretty and fun that I had to break out our nice flatware.  It actually might be only the second time I’ve ever used this flatware.  whoa.

Lunch and dinner were easy – Pita Pit and leftovers.  That’s the way it’s gotta be sometimes, ya know?

Tonight was the last yoga class I’ll go to and not be the instructor!  Kind of a crazy feeling.  I am loving teaching PiYo so far, and I’m super stoked to start yoga as well.  It’s such a fun challenge to come up with new classes each week, and I am so excited to build on each one and see everyone improve throughout the rest of the year.

Yoga is just cool that way:)

Well, guys, I gotta cut this short and get to bed.  Dealing with technology all day has completely zapped me of all energy.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a less frustrating day as far as that goes!

Yay for Thursday!

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how to make an epic salad

Thanks for all the sweet and encouraging comments on yesterday’s posts.  Every single comment on this blog truly means so much to me!

Today has been pretty uneventful really…I’ve spent the morning working away on the blog and Outbox stuff, breaking just long enough for breakfast and lunch.   I do, however, have a new “eats” page at the top to show for it – so go check it out if you get the chance!

Jon and I did go out for a run this morning, which unfortunately turned into a half run half walk.  We intended to crank out 3 quick miles, but the return of the heat and humidity plus Jon running late for work got the best of us.  I think we may start hitting up the treadmill for our short runs until this heat lets up a little bit.  I am not a big fan of the treadmill, but I’m even less of a fan of sweltering heat.

Breakfast this morning was one of my all-time favorites

Cinnamon raisin Ezekiel muffin with 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter and half a sliced banana

And lunch was one of my favorites from last year.  When I was a teacher, I would make my lunch before I went to bed every night.  A version of this salad was one of quickest, easiest, healthiest and most popular meals I ever took!  Popular because several of my coworkers would always ooh and ahh over it’s color and beauty.  Now that I am at home for many lunches, I don’t make it as much, seeing as how I don’t have to worry about being on-the-go…but today it was resurrected!

So, in honor of our last few weeks of summer, here is a quick little tutorial on how to create an awesome salad.  Salads don’t have to be just lettuce. I’ll be the first one to say “I don’t like salads” if we’re talkin’ lettuce and a few tomatoes thrown on top. I know some people really dig that, but for me – they’ve got to be loaded with different flavors, textures and colors to be enjoyable and to keep me going throughout the afternoon.  So, here we go.

Pick your base

  • spinach
  • spring mix
  • romaine
  • kale

*Next, chop your greens and put them in a large bowl. This salad could get big, so leave plenty of room:)  I always chop mine up because I want every bite of salad to have a bit of everything.  Plus, I try to avoid shoving giant lettuce leaves in my mouth in front of my lunch buddies (which granted, now mainly include Olive).

Choose and chop your veggies. I like my salads to be bulky.  Lettuce really ends up being a smallish part of the overall masterpiece.  But you definitely want to create volume by tossing in lots of different veggies.  I usually use anywhere between 3 and 5 of the options below.

  • squash
  • zucchini
  • mushrooms
  • artichoke hearts (a must in my opinion!)
  • onions
  • celery
  • carrots
  • bell pepper
  • broccoli
  • snow peas
  • sprouts
  • corn
  • cold peas
  • asparagus
  • beets, shredded
  • green onions
  • tomatoes

Choose your protein. Every good salad has to have protein.  I’m going to stick to vegetarian suggestions.  For beans, I usually add in about 1/3 – 1/2 of a cup.  Sometimes I’ll go with 2 different types of beans and add 1/4 cup of each.

  • beans (kidney, black, chick peas, navy etc)
  • chopped egg
  • nuts (sliced almonds, walnuts etc)
  • tempeh
  • tofu

Choose your healthy fat.

  • avocado
  • nuts/seeds
  • olive oil

Choose your dressing.  Now we all know that a bad dressing can ruin the most healthy and delicious salad.  The great thing is that with all the flavorful elements you’re adding to this salad, you don’t need much of a dressing!  Here are a few of my personal favorites – just to add a bit of moisture.

  • balsamic vinegar, straight up.  I poor on about 1-2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and call it a day.  It adds the perfect amount of flavor, in my opinion.
  • olive oil
  • lime or lemon juice
  • salsa
  • hummus

And now for what I consider to be the best and final add ins. These are things that really add a huge punch of flavor or texture.

  • dried fruit without added sugar (cranberries are my favorite)
  • chia seeds
  • fresh fruit (apples, mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, pears, grapes)
  • seasonings – sometimes just a sprinkle of ground red pepper or oregano can add the perfect touch

Now that all of your ingredients are in a huge bowl, it’s time to mix it up!

This is one of the most important steps because if you just add everything onto a plate, layer by layer, then you won’t get a little bit of every ingredient in most bites.  And we definitely cannot deal with that.  So mix it up really, really well!

Lastly, dump it all out either onto a plate or in a to-go container. Now off you go with a super healthy, filling and tasty lunch that will make you the envy of everyone you know! ha.


Note: obviously some of these suggested ingredients can serve for more than one category.  For instance, olive oil could serve as your healthy fat and your dressing.  Or chia seeds could serve as a fun, crunchy add on or as a source of healthy fat or protein.  You get the picture.

If you’re someone who is always in a hurry when making lunch like I was was, I suggest using some time on the weekend to pre-chop your veggies that need it (rocket science, right?).  Then reserve a small space on one shelf of your fridge for “salad fixins.”  That way, when you get ready to create your salad, everything is ready to go – you can just snatch it out of the fridge, toss in a little of this and a little of that, throw a lid on it and go!

Along with creating this salad for lunch today, I also made a new and improved batch of hummus.

Spicy Garlic Hummus

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper

Directions

  • toss everything into a food processor minus 1 tsp minced garlic and process until smooth
  • transfer hummus to a small bowl and add remaining tsp of garlic to the very center
  • garnish with a sprinkle of ground red pepper

Well, I’m off to have a (hopefully) productive afternoon!  See you all later;)

What is your favorite salad topping?

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counting and cookies

Hi!

Today has been a pretty low key day.  Jon and I took a rest day today, so no workout this morning.  We got up just in time to get ready and head to the coffee shop.

One of my favorite things in life is local coffee shops. Now, you all know that I love my Starbucks for a quick and tasty cup of coffee, and it’s a good thing because unfortunately our favorite local coffee shop is only open between 7 and 3.  So, outside of those hours, we head to Starbucks.  But on mornings when we hit up The Daily Grind I seem to have an extra spring in my step, like everything is right with the world.

However, this morning as we sauntered up to get our coffee fix, we ran into this

Another unfortunate fact about hometown coffee goodness is that if something goes wrong – the whole shop closes down.  Charming on one hand, yet very disappointing on the other.

By that point my stomach was growling up a storm, so I headed home to make some breakfast.

For some crazy reason I seem to be on a bit of an egg kick.  Not sure how I feel about that – but I decided to go with it.  I cooked one organic, free-range egg + one egg white in the microwave for 2 minutes and then sandwiched it between 2 Van’s flax waffles for a simple, delicious and filling breakfast.

After a few hours of work and tutoring, I met up with my friend Grace for our weekly Panera lunch date.  I ordered a half Mediteranean Veggie sandwich and half Garden Vegetable soup with an apple.

It hit the spot as usual!  I packed up the apple to take home.  Fun fact about Panera apples: My love affair with apples began at Panera.  I had never really loved them before, and then one day I ordered one at Panera just because I didn’t want chips or more bread – and I totally fell in love!  After that I had an apple almost every day for months on end.

Today I started something new in my life that I want to tell you about.

I started counting calories. Over the course of the summer I have slowly put on a few happy pounds.  I call them happy pounds because they’re a result of carefree summer days and nights, eating whatever I please and enjoying every second of it.  Sounds lovely, right?  Well, it has been fun, but now I’m starting to really feel it.  Fall is coming on fast and all my flowy skirts will soon be tucked away in favor of warmer tighter jeans.  While I’m more than ready for jeans, jackets, football games and cold morning runs, I’m not really feelin’ the tight uncomfortable feel these extra pounds are plaguing me with.

I am in full support and favor of intuitive eating and not worrying about the numbers.  It’s a well-known fact that calorie counting is….how do I put it…frowned upon in the blog world.  The reason for this is because it can be more hurtful than helpful for many people.  Oftentimes people become obsessive or bogged down by the numbers, and it becomes a negative factor in their lives.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have tried to intuitively cut back in smalls ways, but because I’ve gotten into the habit of eating however much I feel like eating, I’ve sort of lost touch a little bit with my hunger signals and with appropriate portion sizes.

In addition to that, race training can add difficulty to listening to hunger cues.  And I don’t just mean overeating.  I also mean under-eating.  Yesterday could serve as a perfect example.  Knowing that I’m trying to cut back a little bit, I was focusing on eating smaller portions; however, because we had run 5 miles yesterday morning, my body was feeling extra hungry all day and I wanted to make sure I was fueling it properly, while not overdoing it.  On long run days it’s easy to have the mentality that because I ran this morning, I can eat however much I want.  If I really want to feel better and fit into my jeans in the coming weeks, that’s not gonna cut it.

So while calorie counting has sort of a bad reputation, it can also be helpful for getting back on track and being more diligent about giving your body exactly what it needs through discipline.  I plan on counting until I feel that I’ve gotten back in the groove as far as listening to my body and gauging portion sizes, and then I’ll be able to carry on with my normal intuitive eating as usual.  Counting calories is not something I’m interested in doing for the long term, but for the next several weeks I’m counting (ha) on it helping me out:)

I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going.  Feel free to ask me if you have an questions about it.  I don’t plan on posting calorie amounts, but will of course still be posting my daily eats.

And now, on a slightly different note, I bring to you the promised recipe for

Super-Charge Me Cookies from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 2/3 cup spelt flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/4-1/3 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit (I used dried cranberries)
  • 3-4 tbsp carob or chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup flax meal
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp nut butter (I used peanut)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp organic canola oil (I settled for non-organic)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut, dried cranberries and carob/chocolate chips, sift in baking powder, and stir until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flax meal, syrup, nut butter, and vanilla and stir until well combined.
  • Stir in oil.
  • Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until just well combined (do not overmix).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Spoon batter onto baking sheet, evenly spaced apart, and lightly flatten.
  • Bake for 13 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out).
  • Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

See you all later!

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a hoax

Only a few more hours left to enter the chia seed giveaway!

Yesterday I was MIA…at least here on the blog.

There was, however, a lot of action going on off the blog.

Cookies were baked (and eaten!)

Walks were taken

Delicious food was prepared and consumed

And the moon was watched.


Not sure what that other object is – it wasn’t visible except in the photo.  Must have been something to do with the lense?

Yes, that’s right.  I said the moon was watched.

My lovely sister sent me a text message on Friday evening tell me that at 12:30 am I would be able to see Mars and that it would appear as big as the moon.  Well, I’m not one to miss out on an event this epic!

So, while Jon fell asleep by about 11pm, I burned the midnight oil, waiting for my chance to get a glimpse of the red planet.  At exactly 12:28 I shook Jon awake and told him, “you have to get up!  we have to go see Mars!”

He faithfully stumbles after me, down the hall and out the front door, where he sleepily plops down on the porch while I stand in the middle of the yard, camera ready.

I watch…and watch….and watch.  Waiting.

And nothing.  There was nothing but the trusty moon and a sprinkling of tiny stars.

So, after about 10 minutes, we traipse back inside where I immediately hop on the computer to get the lowdown.  It’s at this point that I find out that we’d been duped!  Apparently this email goes out every year, and it’s all a hoax designed to get fools like me to stare up at the sky, hoping to see a once in a lifetime event.

Bummer.

Luckily the husband is very sweet and forgiving of my crazy antics.

But Cristen, you better watch your back ;)

Onward and upward.

This morning we got up super late for our weekly long run.  Because we cut back to the half marathon, our weekly long run was cut back as well.  So we went out for 5 miles.  I think I underestimated it.  I was a little too cocky.

We’ve been running seven plus miles, so I thought we had this one in the bag.  It didn’t go so well, however.  By the time we got out there the sun was beating down with a vengeance, and despite the drop in temperatures as of late, it was blazing hot.  With the help of a little walking, we finished it out though.  Bad runs always happen, so we’re not too bummed.  The walking time was actually kind of nice:)  We’ll get revenge next week.

I’m off to get caught up on some work that piled up a bit while we were playing all day yesterday. I’ll be back with a recipe for the second batch of cookies later.

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

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