Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One step back

Hello to all my loyal reader.  I'm sorry I haven't posted in the past week.  I was hit by the trifecta of blog road blocks: super stress at work, a broken camera and a barrage unhealthy choices.

After missing a couple of posts, I noticed my choices get worse and worse.  So I really think the blog has been helping keep me motivated.  My plan of attack is to take Friday off from work and enjoy a fabulous four day weekend, fix my camera or purchase a new one, and get back to posting! 

Even more importantly I'm going to get back on track with my running program  and make sure to eat lots of fruits and veggies. 

Thanks for being here wonderful blog world! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op

The ten o'clock news on abc last night had a segment on"environmentally sustainable" restaurants.  The Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op just announced the initial group of restaurants.  This co-ops mission is to group together to make sustainable options more feasible for local restaurants. 

This is the list of restaurants currently in the co-op:

Big Jones
Bleeding Heart Bakery
Blind Faith Cafe
Dining Room at Kendall College
Frontera Grill
Keefer's Restuarant
Poag Mahone's
Roti Mediterranean Grill
Simone's Bar
Sopraffina Marketcaffe (5)
Trattoria No. 10
Uncommon Ground (2)

Amazingly one of the restaurants on the list, Sopraffina is in the lobby of my office building and Roti is just one block away.  Both of these lunch places are super tasty, but I could never get out without spending at least $10.  Knowing they support environmentally sustainable practices, I will be more willing to drop a little extra mullah! 

I'm really excited about this news and think I need to visit the Frontera Grill and sample some Rick Bayless cuisine.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fleet Feet's Women's 5K, 10K & Festival

It's been a little over a week since my half marathon and I am ready for a new challenge.  I really want to get faster and while the long races to give me a great sense of accomplishment, they deter me from the speed training I need to do if I want to get faster. 

I signed up for the Fleet Feet's Women's 5K which is on July 18th.  So I have about a month to train to try and get my speed up.  My first and only 5K time was 34:28.  I really want to get my 5K time to under 30 minutes.  This might be agressive for this timeline, but there will always be another race.  A PR would be fantastic!

I also joined a Summer Hockey Mixer, so I will be playing hockey 1-3 times per week for the next couple of months.  Hockey is a very sprinty sport and after doing mainly longer runs the past couple of months, I have noticed that I am a bit slower on the ice than ussual.  So speed work should help more than just my running.  I also want to incorperate a step class here and there because they are so much fun and a great workout.   

Knowing I wanted to play hockey and do step, I was worried that I wouldn't have time to run enough to get my speed up.  Bobbi at NHerShoes just posted about how she trained for a marathon and got a Boston qualifying time while just 3 running days a week, so I'm going to try to incoperate some of her tips.   
This is a rough outline of a schedule.  The Hockey nights are pretty set in stone, but the other nights might switch around a little.  I'm also going to try to fit some weights in.
Basically in addition to other workouts I am going to try to have 1 sprint workout, 1 tempo run and 1 long run per week. Sprints will be a good warm up and cool down with 1-2 minute followed by 1-3 minutes recovery with probably 4-10 total sprints. Tempo runs will be 3 miles at a fast pace - hopefully they will get faster and faster. Long runs will be 5-6 miles.

Have you increased your speed as a runner?  How?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cedar Valley Sustainable Meat Share

After seeing Food Inc, I knew I wanted to purchase meat that didn't come from the large CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations).  I looked on the Internet and found several meat CSA's that deliver locally.  I ended up choosing Cedar Valley Sustainable because they raise chicken, pigs and cows, so we'll get a nice variety. 

I picked up our first package from Cedar Valley last week, which was perfect timing because I was just finishing reading Omnivore's Dilemma, which really left me wanting to support local sustainable farmers.  This is what we got in our first month's share. 
1 dozen eggs
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 lb Italian sausage
1 package bacon
1 large chuck roast
2 half chickens
1 whole chicken

I was really excited to try this meat because I had heard that farm raised/ free range/grass fed meat tasted better.  First off this weekend I made some meatballs.  I used the pound of ground pork and mixed it with 3/4 of a pound of ground turkey.  These turned out great, but meatballs always taste great to me. 

For dinner Saturday night we had one of the half chickens marinaded in BBQ sauce on the grill.  I think we might have cooked these on too high heat, so they ended up a little oddly cooked.  I'm hoping the next chicken we make comes out better because this was a little disappointing.

Yesterday morning, I broke into the bacon and eggs.  I like my eggs cooked hard and these were tasty but no super fresh farm taste.  The bacon was different looking out of the package, but it was super tasty (although I think all bacon is super tasty). 
TJ liked his breakfast too. 
So while I have yet to try all of the different sustainable farm meat, I have to say I don't think the taste is much different than what we are used to.  Well the chicken was different, but definitely not better.  I think we are so used to the commercially raised meat anything that taste different will take some getting used to.  So for now we can be happy that we are supporting local farmers.  Perhaps our taste buds will change to enjoy these meats more. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: Omnivore's Dilemma

I have been reading the Omnivore's Dilemma for the past couple weeks, and I think everyone should read this book.  I'm going to be giving several of these books out for Christmas or maybe forth of July because this book is seriously eye opening and everyone should know this stuff. 

Michael Pollan takes the reader through the American food industry examining the inputs to four separate meals:
1) McDonald's fast food
2) Organic dinner made from purchases at Whole Foods
3) Dinner made from locally & sustainably produce food
4) Dinner made from foods personally grown, foraged or hunted

Most of us 'aware' consumers know that the food that goes into McDonald's empire is not ethically raised by any sense of the imagination.  Unfortunately I don't think the masses understand the extent to how unethical the production of this "Food" is. 

The entire perfection of nature is turned inside out to make things "cheaper" and quicker for right now.  The true cost of production is not taken into account.  Following the meat for a McDonald's hamburger was one of the most upsetting things in this book.  Cows are forced to eat corn which makes them sick and in need of constant antibiotics because corn is cheap(thanks to government subsidies).   

Surprisingly, when Michael starts tracking back the organic food people purchase at Whole Foods, the reader sees that consumers aren't getting what they expect.  While no(or very little) pesticides are used in producing their food, the practices are not sustainable at all when production is at such a massive level.  Whole Foods does not buy from the local farmer, but from the massive farms in California, Chile and Argentina (for example). 
The way Michael explains why massive organic farming isn't sustainable is by sharing his experience spending a week at a very sustainable farm Polyface.   Joel Salatin, one of the farmers of Polyface, shows Micheal's the ins and outs of his farm.  He explains how the cows and the chickens and the pigs all work together over the same land to create a perfect equilibrium. 
While the cows eat the grass, their manure fertilizes the fields which produces grubs that feeds the chickens who spread out the manure to better fertilize the fields.  It is all a big circle and becomes hard to see which piece is feeding the next.  Over a generation of farming Joel, his father and his son have developed movables chicken coops and cow pastures to optimize the symbiotic relationship. 
While reading this book, I became so upset with myself.  I understood how terrible the mainstream meat production was, but I still wanted this food.  My brain doesn't want to support this, but my stomach is still hungry for convenience.  I love to eat out, but I know 99.9% of the restaurants are buying antibiotic pumped meat and pesticide covered produce. 

I am working on changing my families habits so we can support local farmers.  After watching Food Inc, I felt it was important to vote with my dollars.  This book made me understand where I really want to put those dollars.  I don't feel like I have given this book justice, so please just read this book.  Michael is so good at explaining everything. 

Please support your local farmers.  There are more and more of them and with more demand, this 'opt out' option will get bigger and bigger.  Check out to find local farmers and CSAs. 

Have you read this book?  If so, what did you think?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coconut Butter Three Ways

I bought this coconut butter at Newleaf, the organic grocery store I pick up my produce box from every Saturday.  I had seen this all over the blogs and thought I would give it a try. 
This week I have tried the coconut butter three different ways.  First I made it on a twist of one of my normal breakfasts. 

Toasted whole wheat English muffin with dark chocolate dreams and coconut butter drizzled on top.  The dark chocolate peanut butter and coconut flavors meshed great.  I think the coconut butter made this muffin richer than usual.  I also think I needed the added fat because I had been feeling hungry just a few hours after this muffin pre coconut butter. 

Next I tried some coconut butter on my first ever batch of overnight oats.  I have seen overnight oats everywhere in the blog world and knew I needed to give them a try. 
Overnight mix:
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup skim milk
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup walnuts
drizzle of coconut butter

This was a bust for me.  I think I need to try the oats again and either leave out the strawberries or leave out the coconut butter.  Not a great combo.  Also I'm not sure about adding the coconut butter to cold dished because it hardens completely which is kind of odd for texture. 

Lastly, I made some multi grain pancakes.  I bought this pancake mix from Costco and it is really fantastic.  It is 100% whole wheat with different seeds in it.  The pancakes are super filling.
The only downside is a batch is too big for me and too big for my family.  I keep it in the fridge but end up having to eat pancakes for a few days in a row when I make these.  Check out the nutrition facts.
I had three pancakes and for variety I dressed each one differently.  From left to right I have dark chocolate dreams, then naturally nutty butter toffee peanut butter, then coconut butter with unsweetened coconut flakes.  All pancakes had banana on top. 
I was a little intimidated by the coconut butter after the overnight oats fiasco.  But they were fantastic like this.  The butter melted into the pancake and it was delicious! 

Have you tried coconut butter?  What is your favorite way to have it?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Northshore 1/2 Marathon Race Report

My friend Jody convinced me to sign up for the Northshore half marathon shortly after finishing my first race ever.  My spirits were high and while the race was only a 5K, I thought of course I could do a half marathon.  Why not?  Well a couple months later as the race approached, I lost some of that confidence.  The race was this past Sunday.  It was VERY tough, but overall I had a fun time and I finished!  

On Sunday, I got up at 5am and had a toasted whole wheat English muffin with butter toffee peanut butter (delicious) and strawberry jam.  I planned on having a banana as well, but I ended up forgetting it at home.  I made myself an ice coffee, grabbed my ipod, garmin and phone off their chargers and hit the road. 

On the drive five miles or so from my exit, I randomly look at my gas gauge and notice I am passed empty!  Ahhhh!  The gas light never came on.  I got off at the next exit, fueled up and then followed the detour signs to get back onto the highway.  Of course I got off where you can't get back on.  It is about 6am at this point and I am starting to get a bit nervous about time.  About then my friend Jody text'd me to say she was running late and wouldn't be there until 6:30. 

Once I get to the race, I easily found a parking spot and headed off to find the bathroom and scope out the starting line.  I met Jody back at the car geared up and realized my Garmin was dead!  So much for it charging all night.  Grrr! 

We went for a quick warm up jog and then got situated for the start.  Jody started with the 8-9 minute milers and I started with the 12 minute milers. 

Miles 1-5 went really well.  I was averaging about a 12 min/mile pace which is what I was planning.  The course was through a suburban neighborhood and it had a slow incline at the beginning.  This was pretty cool because you could see the sea of people ahead of you. 

About mile 5 I noticed the blister on my toe starting to form.  I should have planned ahead because I have had this blister before and it probably could have been prevented with a simple band aid.  My lungs and legs were still feeling great though. 

At the end of mile 6 we went down this HUGE hill.  It kind of hurt my knees going down so steep.  I had heard of this infamous "Park Avenue Hill" and had foolishly thought it was one of the previous hills. 

Once we got down the big hill, we turned a corner and there was just as big of a hill up!  Ouch - I made it to the top running but seriously huffing and puffing.  There was even an ambulance waiting at the top for the hill's victims.  I had past the mile 7 marker on the hill, so I was officially more than half way. 

I kept trudging along and felt pretty good.  In the middle of mile 8 we turned a corner and were running the opposite direction of the racers that were a few miles ahead of us.  This was really neat and I was hoping to see my friend Jody, but no luck she had already passed. 

While it was cool to see the other runners, this did kind of bum me out a bit.  I was running mostly alone with a few people in front and behind me, but the group already heading back was packed.  I felt a little bit SLOW at this point. 

We were running into onto an Army Base and eventually split off from the other runners, to run a circle around the base.  At this point a little into mile 9, my legs were tightening up.  I was feeling tired.  I kept trying to pump myself up only 4 more miles to go!  I got to mile 10 and was DRAGGING. 

A bunch of people had been running up to me, passing me, then walking and me passing them.  We had done this probably 10 times over the course of the past 10 miles.  I had been running the whole way and thought maybe I should walk a little, my legs we killing me.  Once I stopped, I realized my legs were tightening up immediately.  I decided I better just run, but at this point my legs were bricks, so I walked.  I didn't want to hurt myself and reminded myself this is my first one, just finish. 

I walked to mile 11 and started running again.  Not 100 ft later my calf spasmed.  OUCH.  So I had to walk.  I tried running several more times, but it wasn't happening.  I was in serious pain and the nicely manicured Army lawns looked very inviting.  All I wanted to do was lie down and cry (pain serious pain at this point).  But instead I trudged along, probably scaring some camera men with my pained expressions. 

Eventually and finally I heard the music at the end.  Jody came running out to finish with me.  I had to walk, but once I saw the finished line I managed a hobbled run, my calf's were full on locked up as I crossed the finish line, but it was great!  I did it!
My official time was 3:08:39.  Not great, but I finished.  Honestly the last 3 miles took more than an hour, I was in so much pain.  I am really proud of myself that I finished. 

I don't think I'm going to run another half marathon anytime soon.  I really want to work on speed, and I want to make sure I have enough time to seriously train before I do this again.  Perhaps a Northshore 1/2 in 2011? 

This was way out of my comfort zone. I almost decided not to do it weeks ago, and early Sunday morning I was considering not going (lazy bum!). I'm glad I went and did it. I do think it was a little much for my current running ability, but I am really glad I completed the goal I set.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recipe: Potato Pancakes

When I had 4 large organic potatoes growing sprouts I knew I needed to come up with some way to use them.  I really don't cook with potatoes very much so my friend google, helped me figure out what to do. 

I found Emeril's Potato Pancake recipe and after reading several reviews thought it was worth a shot.  I'm not a big measurer, so I didn't follow the recipe exactly.   

- 4 large potatoes (pealed)
- 1/2 large onion
- 1 egg
- handful of parsley (I grabbed a few leaves from the garden)
- 1 tbsp of flour
- 1 tbsp of italian breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper 
Step 1 - grate potatoes and onion
Step 2 - squeeze excess liquid out of potato and onion mixture.  I just got my hands dirty and grabbed gobs of the mixture and squeezed.  There might have been a cleaner/classier way to do it, but this worked.  Below is a picture of the excess liquid. 
Step 3 - Mix in egg, flour, bread crumbs, parsely, salt and pepper.  Mash up together - again I just used my hands. 
Step 4 - heat oil in frying pan.  I used probably a half a cup (not the healthies recipe - but worth it!)  Add scopps of batter and mash down into a pattie.  Fry for about 5 minutes per side. 
Step 6 - Enjoy!  These are fantastic with apple sauce on the side.

This recipe is not very nutritious and is kind of loaded with fat, so I decided to pair this with some healthy grilled chicken and veggies.  The plain skewers are for my veggie hating husband. 
Tasty dinner!  I ended up having 2 skewers and a side salad and maybe a second potato pancake :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Raspberries and Slip n' Slides

Check out my post from yesterday to hear briefly about my half marathon.  I will be putting out a detailed race report in the next couple of days. 

Last year when I was starting my garden, I knew I wanted to grow some fruit.  I planted strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.  Unfortunately raspberries don't produce any fruit their first year, strawberries only put off a kind of pitiful crop in their first year (at least for me) and the blackberry plant died. 

But raspberries come back STRONG in the second year.  I planted one small plant and this year I have probably 20 or 30 shoots.  The shoots I don't believe put out fruit this year, but the branches from the original plant are already giving me berries.
There are many many berries already formed from last years wimpy branches.  I think I am going to be hit with a surplus when these puppies ripen.  Have you ever frozen raspberries?  Is there anything special I need to do - I was thinking to just throw them in a freezer bag and freeze. 
I am excited to see how many berries I get next year.  Wikipedia warns about raspberries taking over gardens with their shoots.  My garden is so big and kind of hard to keep up with, so I am happy for the raspberries which don't take much work to take over a good piece of it. 
More fun in the garden, we have more lettuce than we know what to do with!  Any advice on how to package this up to give it away? 
My broccoli plants grew a bunch more shoots after the main head was cut.  Score!

Not really related to the garden except that we set this up right next to the garden and it keeps my son very happy while I am gardening, the toy story slip n' slide.  Possibly the best $7.99 I have ever spent.  He hasn't quite gotten the slide part down yet. 
I'm not going to lie, I went down this a few times.  So much fun. 

What childhood toys have you played with recently?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I finished!

I completed the Northshore half marathon this morning!  It was tough and I have a ton to say about it.  I want to give it the attention it deserves, so I'll probably post a full race report later this week. 

Plus I want to wait for the pictures to come out.  I brought my camera. I was limping so much afterwards, so I was to tired to run back to the car to grab it. 

I'll leave you with this beautiful souvenir I'm left with.
I was going to get a pedicure today after the run, but I think I might give this blister a couple days to heal. 

Do you have advice on what to do to help with the extremely sore muscles? 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Final Preparations

I'm keeping this post short and sweet.  Right after I hit publish I'm hitting the hay.  I'm really excited for my race in the morning.  The weather looks like it should be good, not too hot and no rain.  I'm crossing my fingers that it stays that way. 

My plan is to get to sleep by 9pm tonight and wake up at 5am for a total of 8hours.  I haven't had 8 hour of sleep in weeks.  I have all my gear layed out, so I should be able to hop up get dressed grab an english muffin and a banana and be on the road by 5:15.  I can be quick :) 

I'm hoping to get there by 6:15 and the race starts at 7:00, so I should have enough time to hook up with my friend Jody and scope out the start and finish lines. 

I'm hoping I have enough enery to write a race recap tomorrow.  If not tomorrow, expect it on Monday. 

Thank you for all the nice comments on my post yesterday.  You guys really helped pump me up. 

Are you doing anything exciting this weekend?

Friday, June 11, 2010

1/2 Marathon Jitters

There is something about driving through Chicago on Lake Shore drive in the Spring or Summer that makes me want to go out and run.  It is the beautiful lake and beaches, but probably more so the many many Chicagoans that are out there enjoying the sun and running!
My marathon is this weekend, wait no it must be qualified, my 1/2 marathon is this weekend.  To me it feels like a marathon.  I am definitely feeling a bit scared.  I have to drive up Lake Shore Drive to get there, so hopefully there will be some early morning runners to help pump me up. 
I have yet to run more than 6 miles in one go.  I kind of fell off the training program because the long runs we so daunting that I wasn't doing anything.  After about a week and a half of that, I decided to just try and run.  So for the past couple of weeks I have been running between 3-6 miles every couple of days.  I feel ok and I am just going to do my best on Sunday, I can't do any better than that. 

I am hoping to run the whole way, but if I have to stop and walk I'm not going to beat myself up.  I don't think I gave myself enough time to train for a race of this distance.  Honestly I'm ready to mix up my workouts.  I feel like everything has become runcentric and I have to run a certain distance and keep a certain time.  I'm looking forward to getting past this race. 

My plan is to have a pasta dinner on Saturday night and a normal breakfast in the morning.  I have to pick up my packet tomorrow, so when I get there on Sunday I wont need to worry about too much.  Wish me luck!

Have you run any long races?  How did it go?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Garden Thieves

There are thieves in my garden!  Stealing my strawberries. 
I know they are delicious, but birdies beaks off!  The birds are getting several strawberries, but they 100% stay away from the one planted in the pot on my deck.  I think my son and/or dog have scared them away.  Plus there are so many in the garden, they don't need to venture close to the house.  I have been thinking about getting a second pot for the deck. 
Even with the thieving birds, I am getting lots and lots of strawberries.  It is honestly shocking to me.  Last year I really only got one or two berries every few days.  This crop was pulled in one day!  Two days later I pulled another handful out.  
My husband thinks it is great.  He thinks we can freeze them, so he can use them in his tea and we wont have to buy frozen strawberries.  I don't think he realizes how wonderful fresh strawberries are and that most will end up like this:
And devoured within 30 minutes of being picked! 

Gardening is so much fun!  This is my second year and we are getting so much wonderful produce.  If you have never gardened before don't be intimidated.  The worst that could happen is the plants die, but you could end up with tons of tasty fruits or veggies!

Do you have any suggestions on how to keep birds away from berries?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Green Monster! Really Green!

Green Monsters are all over the blog world, but I made my first one based off of Bobbi's recipe sometime last summer.   I used to make "Green Monsters" after hard workouts.  I put "Green Monster" in quotes because these always came out purple for me.  I'm not one to measure, so I think I put in too many blueberries and not enough green (Kale, spinach or whatever).  They were delicious and not quite as scary being purple so I just kept at it. 

Lately I have been overrun with produce.  I had some spinach that was going bad and decided to make a truly Green Monster.  You could never taste the spinach or kale in my purple monsters, so I thought a green one might not be bad either. 

- bowl ful of spinach
- 1/3 cup frozen blueberries
- 3 large frozen strawberries
- 1/2 frozen banana
- milk

I think I might have over blended this because it came out very frothy!  TJ would not have anything to do with it, but I enjoyed mine alot.  I think I might start adding this to my daily routine.  It is pretty low calorie, but super nutrient dense, plus it will help me use up some of my aging produce!

Do you have any tasty variations of the Green Monster?

Check out Eating Journey for a great giveaway!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chicago Healthy Living Challenge

When I heard that Bob Harper from the biggest loser would be at the Chicago Healthy Living Challenge at Navy Pier this past weekend, I thought it would be great.  My friend Taryn is a big fan of Bob's.  I am a huge fan of Biggest Loser and while I am a bigger Jillian fan, I thought it would be really neat to meet Bob. 
We decided to get there around 11 because Bob was due to show up at 12.  When we got to the expo around 11:15 there were already probably 100 people in line to meet Bob.  We decided to just walk around and see Bob from afar. 

There were a couple of booths that I found interesting including CARA, VitaMix and a child fitness course which TJ liked.  Aside from the few interesting booths, it felt like we were in an infomercial.  We could have lost fat and inches in 45 minutes or 3 dress sized in 90 seconds.  Ugh - not my cup of tea!
Bob eventually showed up which was exciting.  I have to say that I was really not impressed by his speach at all.  He was saying 'why aren't you where you want to be?'  I just got the impression he was very much like if you aren't at your goal you must be doing it wrong.  Maybe I was just cranky because someone had just handed me a packet on lapband surgery, but his message didn't come across great for me. 

I love the biggest loser and think it is very inspiring, but I don't believe it is the right way to loose weight.  I am much more into gradual changes with some room to wiggle.  I am completely aware that it will take me longer to reach my goals this way, but I am hoping I will be much more likely to remain successful this way.

Michael Ventrella, this years Biggest loser, also showed up.  This man is inspiring!  He lost 260+ lbs and looks great.  His mother, Maria was also on the show and she too looks fabulous!  They were both really gracious and are truly inspirations. 
While it was great to see Bob, Michael and Maria, the expo was dissapointing.  At a healthy living expo, the only true swag we were given was a candy bar and a bag of potato chips?!?!  Truly odd. 
We did get some coupons for interesting foods and I got some information on the Chicago Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon.  Maybe I will do this one next summer. 
I am signed up for the Healthy Living Summit coming up in Chicago in August.  I have much higher expectations for this because of the women who are throwing it.  If someone hands me a lap band  information or reccomends some booth where I can loose 3 inches in 45 minutes at that conference, I will be truly shocked!

Is anyone else signed up for the Healthy Living Summit?