Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another "Hangover"

I'm so happy to be back in CHICAGO at this very moment!! It was quite a long, long day. This morning I got up extraordinarily early to go to the nursing home to meet with one of my grandma's doctors, who ended up being a worthpiece *****. Then ran some errands, cleaned up grandpa's house since it was my last day there, had some Panera's hazelnut coffee with a soy top-off. (How do people get up early without this stuff, seriously?!?!) A Green Monster would be have been incredible, but my spinach stash sadly was depleted by this point.

Gpa and I headed off to the nursing home to visit Gma, where I enjoyed another enormous bowl of homemade quac with some red pepper spears. My grandmother seemed surpised to find out that after having a couple bites, she actually enjoyed my "liberal hippie food", haha! So maybe vegetarians AREN'T aligned with Communists, after all...

Then I left my grandparents to enjoy their processed, tasteless nursing home food (ok, I make it sound pathetic but they enjoyed it, which is all that matters!) while I took their car to get a tire fixed.

I waited about an hour, but it actually wasn't too bad since I got to catch up with Lisa on the phone for a bit, and also read some of my new book - Natalia Rose's The Raw Detox Diet. After my hour wait, the nice guys at Discount Tire told me that there was no charge. What?!??! I'm still trying to figure out how these people make money... Indiana folk are just too darn nice for their own good :)

Then off to buy Gpa some groceries for the week, and picked up myself a couple cukes - I have big plans for these later this week - and a Lindt 70% dark chocolate bar..... !!!!!! :) !!!!!!!

Back to the nursing home for a bit, and then I went to catch my train back to Chicago. It was about 3 hours, and I was delighted to finish the book. It was very interesting, albeit perplexing at times.... I will be sure to talk more about the main points of the book once I start posting pix again.... I know I'm like the girl who cried wolf here but that should be tomorrow for sure!!

My sweet husband was nice enough to pick me up from the train stop, drove me home, and after I changed clothes, drove me across town to meet friends Clair and Vanessa for sushi. We found an awesome place in the West Loop - Butterfly Sushi - that was not only a BYOB, but the prices are INSANELY cheap. As in, an order of sushi for $4.00!!! To me this is almost as cheap as those gosh darn Indiana prices, haha. I got 2 California rolls because I always like them, and I wasn't in the mood to get something that may end up being spicey or too fried that I wouldn't enjoy as much. Vanessa supplied the BYOB wine, which was a Beringer muscat that was incredibly sweet but also very light and delicious! I loved the sushi, and even more I loved that Butterfly Sushi gives every table a complimentary dessert - a small cheesecake with fruit compote drizzle - to split! I would definitely recommend this place, and I would go back if it was just a bit closer. I DID take a picture, but the silly flash on my camera is busted so it's impossible to make out the pic. I am reaaaaaaaally craving that iPhone right about now...

Clair and I raved all through dinner about how hilarious The Hangover was, and V hadn't seen it, so we decided to see it after dinner. It was probably not quite as fabulously witty and hilarious the second time around, but part of this may have been that I'm exhausted from that loooooooong train ride and getting up early. I still loved it though! The picture roll at the end of the film is almost as funny as the rest of the movie, so make sure you don't skip out early, whatever you do!

I'm so enthused to sleep in tomorrow!!! The weather also looks great for a run - let's hope it stays that way! :) Goodnight!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Running through my childhood

Here's Mike and I with my grandparents a few years ago :) Hello! :)

Today will be a food picture-less day today... again, my apologies! I will be back at home with my trusty camera and laptop tomorrow!

Today I woke up a bit disoriented, until I realized where I was. I had spent the night in a teeny tiny, twin bed in my grandparent's house. It used to be my oldest uncle's room back in the day, and it still had all sorts of paraphernalia from the 50s and 60s... I found it slightly amusing to find an "I heart Nixon" pin in the drawer, since these days my uncle is a devout Democrat! ;)

I had a 1/2 pint of blueberries for breakfast, and then my grandpa and I headed over to visit my grandma in her nursing home for lunch. Well, my grandpa and grandma had the nursing home lunch, and let's just say I didn't feel like eating a 2" square of meat lasanga with a super small side dish of something unidentifiable. So, I brought a lunch with me - a HUGE salad made from spinach, slices of red peppers, and an enormous amount of guacamole. It was so good!!

My grandpa and I later toured a couple independent living and assisted living centers, which ended up dragging on, and my tummy was rumbling. Once we got home, I made a Green Monster with the only ingredients I had on hand - spinach, soy milk, and nectarines. I miss my Amazing Grass and bananas, but it was still good! The best part was freaking out my grandpa with my green smoothie! :) I was still hungry after this, so I had a few spoonfulls of PB straight, and then decided I should be a bit more civilized about it so I then had a plate of cut up red pepper spears with a ton more PB. ** It should be noted that I am in the process of transitioning myself to a raw diet (something I am TRYING, not necessarily going to do forever, don't freak out Dora!) More on this during a later post!

* We went back to see my grandma later that evening, and then once I got back I knew I needed to go for a run soon before it got dark. I ran my 3 miles, per my training schedule, and then walked home - probably about 20 minutes or so.

I had a lovely run - the weather was nice and breezy, and I ran along a pretty scenic path by a golf course and then along the St. Joseph river... saw some duckies chillin on a log... then ran through the riverside park where my grandma, sister, and cousins used to go to feed bread to the ducks. It totally brought me back to my childhood! Funny how that was literally our FAVORITE thing to do for years... better than putting your kids in front of a video game for hours.. but don't get me going on that tangent or I'll never get off of it ;)

Once I got back to gpa's house, I snacked on some cashews and I think I'm about to go have some strawberries, perhaps immersed in a bowl of soymilk. I also set up my first Marathon Monday posting to post itself automatically, but it hasn't shown up yet haha so I better go get that done. Check back for it soon, goodnight everyone! :)

*** MaRaThOn MoNdAy ***

Today is my first posting for my series "Marathon Mondays!" One of my main focuses of this blog is to talk about my experience training for my current (as well as past) marathons. I am NOT an exercise science major, a personal trainer, or an expert in this field. However, having two marathons under my belt, I have a fair amount of knowledge - both from my own experiences, and from reading an abundance of info from various sources.

When I was training for my first marathon I could not find a blog out there that talked about these topics, so that was part of my motivation to make this blog, hoping it would be a blog that both novice and experienced runners could enjoy!

Today I'm going to start from the very beginning, and to talk about how I became interested in running.

When I was young - we are talking elementary through middle school - I was pretty much the epitomy of a non-athlete. My father was a huge sports nuts, and poor Dad, he tried so hard to get me into various sports as a kid. I tried gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming, karate, pretty much everything under the sun! However, I didn't like sports AND I didn't seem to have any natural ability whatsoever. As an adult I realize that natural ability is not really that important, that it's your dedication and how much effort you put into something that matters. But as a kid, when you aren't naturally good at something and you don't enjoy it, it's tough to want to continue it.
I especially hated gym class... and the WORST of the WORST was when we had to complete a mandatory one-mile run as part of the President's Physical Fitness Challenge! Did you guys have to do this as a kid?? Or was this just some miserable form of torture that was solely inflicted on children in Indiana? I work in Chicago schools and our kids don't have to go through this...

Let's just sum it up by saying that until high school, I was NEVER able to run the mile the whole way through... I always walked most of it. I can't remember what happened in high school - there may have been a time once when I SLOWLY ran the whole thing - but more likely than not I walked part of it.

At the very tail end of high school, for whatever reason I started to go to the local YMCA and go more into working out. Slowly this segued into me actually sometimes running, on my own, because I wanted to. I never went far though.

In college I would sometimes run 2-3 miles around the track at the university gym (the good old SRSC at Indiana University). I would always work out early in the morning before class, and my 2-3 miles gave me a great boost of energy that usually carried me throughout the rest of the day. One day during the summer after my freshman year I found myself drawn to a book called "Marathoning for Mortals", by John Bingham ("The Penguin"). For whatever reason, I got an idea in my head that a marathon would be a cool, crazy thing to do, and I read the book cover to cover within a few days. Then, I went back to running my 2-3 miles for quite a while after that, and was perfectly content with this.

One day my senior year... I remember it was a Wednesday - I had more free time on my hands because I didn't have class that afternoon and had no homework to do - I found myself at the SRSC. I started my run around the track.... and after 3 miles... I KEPT GOING!!!! And going, and going, and before you know it, I was the little Hoosier Energizer bunny that could. I ended up running 7 miles that day!!!

It was one of those GREAT runs too - that makes you feel like you are flying - and I was HOOKED that instant. At the time, 7 miles was completely unheard of. I was so giddy and could not stop talking about how far I ran to anyone I talked to after that. About 15 hours later, before I knew it, I had signed myself up for the Chicago Banco Popular half marathon - the race date was 8 months from then! I figured since I had already accomplished 7, then a half marathon was the next step. (I was also super inspired by my older cousin, Liane, who had completed a marathon the fall before, and also went on later to complete her second the year after!)

I think my enthusiasm was contagious, because I convinced my friend Lisa to run the half with me.

The training was tough at times - especially because Lisa and I were in different cities for much of it so I was often running alone - but completing the half marathon felt like a huge success!!! It was actually a really hot day (which doesn't bode well for my temperature-sensitive self!) and it wasn't the easiest run due to the high temps, but we both finished strong!

After completing the half... of COURSE the next step was to sign up for a full marathon!!! More on my first marathon experience during the next segment of my "Marathon Mondays" series!

What was your "magic moment" that made you want to become a stronger athlete or to take on a new challenge?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

iWant an iPhone!!!

Hello readers!

I hope you all had a fabulous weekend! I know I did! :) I know I'm a bad blogger for not posting about Saturday ON Saturday, but I am out of town and it's been tough having internet access.

Yesterday, I woke up bright and early (but not exactly bright-eyed and bushytailed) so that I could get to my 6am running group. When I attended the first training run of the season two Saturdays ago, to my dismay I realized that there were NO bathrooms by our meeting point. This is a problem because as all athletes know, hydration is crucial, especially when you are running long distances and especially when you are in hot and humid Chi-town!!! I also NEED my morning coffee on those 5am days - for the mental boost it gives me, and also, some recent studies have shown that it can actually help with physical performance, as well.

So, how do you down a cup of coffee and an adequate amount of water and not have to use the bathroom, you ask? After pondering this and some of life's other profound questions, I decided to: heat up a couple tablespoons of water, stir in my instant coffee, and chill in the fridge overnight. Then, in the morning, add a splash of soy milk, and there you have it: instant, chilled espresso shot! Ok that was an insanely long paragraph about an espresso shot haha, and for that I apologize. But it really was a great idea, you have to admit ;)

ANYHOO, it ended up being another good run - thank goodness since my last short run was so discouraging due to the heat. I ended up switching into a slighter faster pace group, and I felt a lot more comfortable at that speed so I was happy about that. All of the runners I've met so far have been very cool people, as runners tend to be! :)

After I got back to the condo, I made some waffles for Mike (drizzled with leftover melted walnut brittle - which is essentially walnuts in a caramel sauce mmmmm) - but I just stuck with a Green Monster.

We headed for Indiana, and for lunch at my parent's house I had an awesome caprese sandwich. I LOVE the combo of tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozz together with a bit of EVOO, balsamic, S & P - you really can't beat it! I also had some raspberries on the side. Sheesh, I feel so lame talking about food without showing pictures of it haha, but Saturday was quite a busy day as far as eating goes, so I'll keep talking....

Went to the wedding ceremony which was gorgeous - I've never heard of the color combo of lime green and deep purple, but together it looked very cool and Katie looked gorgeous! It was a full Catholic mass, and afterward we went back home to kill time before the reception.

...and began the process of stretching our stomachs for what was to come.... meaning I had a sip of a bloody Mary but decided it was entirely too boozey and too spicy for me, and then to get rid of the spicy flavor I had FOUR chocolate covered cherries. At least they were small :) And some blue cheese which was delightful as always.

The wedding was also completely studding. Props to the fam of the bride to putting together such an extravagant event!!! I will post some pix once I can. I had a couple apps, some salad (skipped the bread because I knew I would go crazy during the dessert course.... and I sure came through in this department ;) !!) The vegetarian entree was skewered grilled veggies, with a side of more veggies and some potatoes. I then had FOUR pieces of cake (yes, four seemed to be the magic number of the evening ladies and gentlemen) over the course of the evening. I also had a few drinks, mostly just some white wine and some Bailey's on ice!

After we got back, Mike and I were somehow still hungry, as astonishing as that may seem. Soooo I made him his favorite, "nacho surprise", which of course I helped him eat like any good wife would. I also finished off the night right with some of my Grandma's homemade cookies.... I knew they might not be there by the next morning... so I wanted to grab them while they lasted ;)



I woke up naturally feeling the wrath of the night before - not so much the drinking, but the overindulgence of food!! So I went for an hour walk and did some crunches. I would have loved to gotten in a long, sweaty workout at the gym, but I am not a member at the gym in my parent's town so a walk was the only option (I couldn't run since I ran Saturday, and try not to run back-to-back days).

For breakfast, I made a GM, and then made a HUGE batch of guacamole for my lunch today, and also so that I would have enough for tomorrow. I snacked on some of the guac and some red pepper spears while driving with my mom to my grandparent's house, who live about an hour away. We visited my grandmother in the nursing home for a bit - my grandma is having a hard time dealing with having to be away from her house, husband, and cat, but overall she seems to be much healthier thankfully! Here are some pix I found on my grandparent's computer: these were on Thanksgiving of 07 when Mike and I first told my grandparents that we were engaged!!

My grandpa and I left the nursing home to go to my FAVORITE restaurant of all time, The Olive Garden. Ok, ok, I know there is better food out there in the world, but I have loved the OG since I was little and I am always a happy girl to go there! :-) My grandpa and I split an app of stuffed mushrooms (his choosing). They were good, but doused in butter so I just had two tiny ones. We both got the unlimited soup-salad-breadsticks deal, which I took FULL advantage of. I gave my grandpa my soup, only had one breadstick, but had 4-5 bowls of salad!! That stuff is truly like crack. I think the teenage waiter was a bit scared of my voracious appetite for their salad!
Gpa and I headed back to the nursing home for a bit, and now we are back at his house for the night. I am going to be staying with him for a couple days, and I don't have the ability to connect my camera to his comp and don't have wireless for my laptop, which is why I won't be putting any pix up today or tomorrow.

I truly apologize for this because I know you guys like to see pix! However, please bear with me and keep checking back :) I promise to get back to my normal schedule on Tuesday or Wednesday!


Also, tomorrow don't forget to come back tomorrow for my first posting of the Marathon Monday series!!! :)


P.S. I REALLY, really want an iPhone!!! I'm desperate to have the wireless internet function wherever I go.

I'm also not happy with the clarity of my camera photos, and I'm hoping the iPhone pix will turn out better. The main features that I want are the camera, wireless internet capability, and a GPS function, which I assume it has.

I haven't done much research yet about this but I think there are a few different types of iPhones out there now - do any of you have one? Which one? Would you recommend it? I'd love to hear some feedback from you guys! Thanks! :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Great day for a white wedding

Whoah, what a night!! I'm just now getting home from the wedding of one of my neighbors from back home in Indiana. Congrats to Katie and Matt!! Katie was a couple years younger than me but went to the same elementary, middle, and high schools as me, and our parents have been good friends for years. It was an outdoor wedding and was absolutely beautiful!

It was a fun, crazy night (she married an Irish man which I'm finding out is similar to me marrying a Greek man in terms of their affection for booze, haha) - and I'm just about to get to bed. My camera died today so I'm going to charge it, and I will also be at my grandparents' house over the next few days so I am not sure that I will be able to upload pix if their wireless internet is not up to par, but I'll "hit it with my best shot" - ok, someone needs to go to bed and stop singing classic karaoke songs from the 80s! ;) Good night everyone!

Ketchup from Friday

Ok, tell me if I am the only one like this... when I was in elementary school, often teachers would talk about "playing ketchup" when we were behind in a subject and they wanted us to get caught up. Well, silly, hungry me, I was always disappointed when I found out they weren't talking about food! I guess I have been a foodie since Day 1 :)

So here is the "ketchup" from Friday:

Naturally I started off the morning right with a Green Monster. I used the Amazing Meal Wheatgrass, which was great, despite the fact that I am out of protein powder until my next shipment arrives :(

Then, I attended an all-day workshop at Erika's Lighthouse. There I got trained in the Red Flags program, which is a depression awareness program that is geared toward middle school students. Erika's Lighthouse was started a few years ago by the parents of a 14-year old girl who committed suicide. It's an awesome program, and I encourage you to learn more about it by going to their website at http://www.erikaslighthouse.org/

At the training, we were generously given a full spread from Panera - thanks Peggy! :) I enjoyed a 1/2 Mediterranean sandwich, a kosher dill spear (my fave), and a bit of salad with Italian dressing. The Mediterranean sandwich was full of veggies and some cheese, and was so good that I am ashamed to say that I didn't even notice what kind of cheese it was since I gobbled it down so quickly! Unfortunately, though it only took me 40 minutes to get there during my morning commute, the ride home took almost 3 hours (stinkin Taste of Chicago traffic!!) Out of boredom, I snacked on this:
And then went to the mecca that we like to call WHOLE FOODS. I stocked up..... on delicious items such as dark choc PB, hummus, agave nectar, and more!

Here's what I used to marinate my salmon for Friday's dinner - sorry the pic is dark, it's Soyaki sauce from TJ:

We decided to slice up some sweet potatoes, threw them into a ziploc with some EVOO, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and oregano - shake em up and voila!
A view of the Grillmaster's grill (those are his burgers on the bottom right)
My plate.... I only ate one of these tuna steaks though, I was so full! The rest will make a tasty tuna salad later next week (I froze it)

Me showing off Mike's handiworkMike and his BEEF = a happy man!!!
What are your favorite things to grill? We are new at this and welcome your suggestions and recipes! :)
For dessert I was itching to try my new dark choc PB - although really I wasn't even hungry - but it looked so good!! I had some on Ezekiel cinnamon/raisin bread. It was indeed as good as it looked, in fact so much so that I may have gone back for a couple tablespoons straight out of the jar...
Alritey well I was all set to do Saturday morning's post but I have to head to Indiana for a wedding tonight. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!! :-)

Friday, June 26, 2009

To be or not to be a vegetarian?

Well, for a while now I had been planning on having a few posts where I can talk about vegetarianism, why I am a vegetarian, and what the benefits are. However, when I saw Angela's post today on Oh She Glows about how our diet can increase or decrease our likelihood of developing cancer over the period of our lifespan, I thought this was an appropriate time to write about it.

Please note that I do NOT eat: beef, chicken, pork, duck, rabbit, lamb, venison, or deer.

But, I DO eat fish. So, although it seems like all non-vegetarians refer to me as a vegetarian (especially my Greek in-laws who are still coming to terms with this whole "no eating lamb" thing, haha), some vegetarians might not consider me to be "one of them" because I eat fish.

I eat fish for a few reasons. One, I do enjoy it! Most of all I love the taste of seafood, and I would have a hard time giving it up, although I have considered it (and tried to) on many occasions. Second of all, fish is a great source of protein. Yes it is very possible to get enough protein on a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet, but it's tough, and I guess I'm just not tough enough (at least not at this junction in my life - maybe I will be one day!) Third, I truly admire those of you who have more "strict" diets (like you, Gena!), because I often feel as if I am high-maintenance when I am around other people. It is often a challenge eating at other people's houses and especially eating at restaurants, as a vegetarian who does eat fish. I know there are lots of great veggie restaurants out there, but let's face it, our friends and family often don't want to ONLY frequent those healthy-eating joints! Eating fish makes me a little bit less of a pain in the ass during these occasions. Lastly, while meat and meat products have been proven to contribute to numerous health problems, many physicians actually RECOMMEND that we eat fish frequently (certain types of fish, in particular) to reduce our chance of getting coronary heart disease, prostate cancer, and depression, to name just a few benefits.

So: back to vegetarianism (if you call me a vegetarian - I think technically I'm called a pescaterian? Does anyone know?)

The very first reason that I became a vegetarian, back in 1995, was due to the fact that I stumbled upon a fascinating book one day at Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately, for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the book. However, while it touched on how vegetarianism benefits animals (we all know that eating animals is not exactly kind to those animals that are getting slaughtered), the point that most resonated with me was this:

*** If WE ALL became vegetarians, there WOULD BE NO WORLD HUNGER ***

Confused? That's ok - it's a hard concept to wrap your head around - sadly, I think most of us see world hunger as something that just "is" and that will always "be". However, this is simply not the case.

It takes approximately 16 pounds of grain to produce just ONE pound of animal flesh that can be consumed by humans. According to the USDA and the United Nations, using one acre of land produces just 20 pounds of animal flesh. Guess how many pounds of soybeans that same acre could grow? = 356 pounds!!!!

So, my friends, when you think of it that way and break it down mathematically (which some nice scientists and mathematicians have done for us so we don't have to!), you can see how world vegetarianism truly would eradicate world hunger. To be perfectly honest, even if people ate 10% less meat than they already do, that would translate to MILLIONS more people being fed.

Now, how can you argue with those kind of statistics?!?! Do you still want to tell me that "well, it just tastes good", and "people were meant to eat meat cuz the caveman did"?

Not to mention the environmental side of this: did you know that because of how much water it takes to produce a pound of meat, you will save more water by not eating one pound of beef than by not showering for an entire year???

On to the good stuff: HEALTH!

Although I became a vegetarian for the humanitarian reasons that I listed above, the main reason that I CONTINUE to be a vegetarian - and why I know that I will be forever - is for health reasons.

I could write a book about all of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet - except I wouldn't make much money since there are already 1000s of them out there :) - which shows you that this, thankfully, is becoming less of a "weird hippie thing" and more of a mainstream movement for those who are health-conscious.

Basically, I will just list some of the many merits of a veggie diet. Statistically, vegetarians have lower rates of:

* hypertension
* blood cholesterol levels
* Type 2 diabetes
* colon cancer
* prostate cancer
* breast cancer
* overall we have 40% LOWER RATES OF CANCER than meat-eaters

* we also have lowered risk of Alzheimer's, asthma, and osteoporosis
* we have stronger immune systems
* overall we live 6-8 years longer than meat-eaters (vegans live even longer than this!)
* PS, it's also usually cheaper to be a vegetarian, if you do it right!

I could go on forever about this, but I will get off my soap box for the day :) I wish I still had my copy of The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, but I loaned it out a while back. It is an EXCELLENT resource that focuses solely on the health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet. He has spent 40 years in nutrition resource and the book is based on an enormous, comprehensive study of thousands of subjects over 65 countries. In a nutshell, he found that many people were even able to REVERSE terrible diseases (such as cancer and heart disease) by removing meat products out of their diet. Please read this book - or at least check it out from the library and skim it since it's a long one :)

Another oldie but goodie is The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Save Your Life and Your World, by John Robbins. John was the heir to the multi-million dollar Baskin Robbins empire, and walked away from it all once he realized the many dangers of eating meat, and how your life can be extended - and improved - by converting to a plant-based diet. I own this one, so let me know if you have any questions about it!

I would be happy to talk more about this topic another time if anyone is interested as I am very passionate about it! I realize that vegetarianism is not for everyone, and I really am not out there to make or force anyone to be a vegetarian that doesn't want to be. But I do believe that some people WOULD make the switch if they had the facts, so I am just hear to put the facts out here for you.

So, I'd love to hear from my readers - are you a vegetarian? Carnivore? Flexitarian? Vegan? Have you considered trying out vegetarianism? Is anything holding you back?

Chill and grillin

I have been anxious to get on here to post all day - since I was gone at a social work workshop and didn't have access to the web! Mike is about to grill me a delicious feast, and afterward I promise I'll be back on shortly to post about:

* Today
* The workshop I went to (which was very interesting!)
* Some info about vegetarianism! Fun stuff - check back soon! ;)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Choc + Cantaloupe = Yuck

Just wanted to add to my earlier posting:
I don't have any exciting pix for you all since it was mostly repeats of what I've already posted earlier. For dinner, I finished off my cream of zucchini soup with oven-baked onions and toasted walnuts. I will be at a seminar all day tomorrow where they feed us lunch, so I wanted to use it up before I go out of town for the weekend!

I also made a GM with an entire cantaloupe. This tasted decent - but I thought that since chocolate makes everything better, I could improve the flavor by throwing in a T. of cocoa powder and a half packet of Truvia. Hmmm..... not my favorite food combo!!! I drank half, froze half hoping that it will taste better in slushie form tomorrow, and then spent the rest of the night nibbling on crap (the walnut brittle, meant for my dad's birthday, is still in "blob" form - not quite brittle but it tastes good and I'm afraid I've devoured about half of the recipe!)

I'm still not quite back on the clean-eating bandwagon after Vegas I'm afraid - but tomorrow is a new day :) Good night everyone!

SATC (Sweat and the city)

Hi friends!

Today I had a wonderfully relaxing, yet productive day! Despite going to bed late last night (reading blogs is entirely too addictive), I woke up at 6am today for a run. My sweet husband actually volunteered to run with me, even though he usually hates running! We knew it was going to be deathly hot today, which is why we got up so early.
Even so... at 6:15AM when we left the condo it was ALREADY extremely hot and muggy. I didn't check the temp at that time, but I can only imagine it was in the upper 80s with a very high humidity. Thank goodness my marathon training only called for 3 miles today!!! However, despite the short distance, I had a heck of a time today. Truly, it was a very, very, very tough run for me. I should note that I am a sweater - in the way that strangers at the gym have commented to me about how much I sweat! But in today's heat, I was just sweating all over myself, and yes it was very unpleasant. I tried my best to get some sips of water along the way and I stayed in the shade as much as I could, but I just could not escape the heat. Plus one unfortunate thing about running up the Magnificent Mile is that the exhaust from the cars is so hot, on top of the weather temps.
Mike had to get to work so he did a mile with me and turned around to head home; I had a very difficult time completing my 3 miles. I truly almost quit, but I knew I would have felt disgusted with myself so I pressed at it! But this was one hell of a run. It was up there with the Chicago Marathon of 2007 where temps were over 100.... that bad! I felt like I was going to pass out the entire time. I hate to be such a wuss, but today's run makes me very nervous for my upcoming runs. Saturday is only 5, and I will be with my group so that should help, but the ones after that (9 miles, 10 miles, and longer) will be super tough if the temps don't get cooler!!
What are your favorite tips on how to beat the heat while running???

I mapped out my run so that it ended at my gym, where I took a pilates class. It must just have been one of those days because even though I love pilates, I was still so tired from getting up early and from that brutal run that I wasn't fully into it. After class I did literally about 3 minutes of arms, and then walked home (20 minutes). I was glad to be done with today's workout!!

For breakfast, of course I had to have a GM. I knew it would perk me right up!! Today's had a twist: I tried my new Amazing Grass Wheatgrass, along with Almond Breeze almond milk. It was the first time I tried almond milk, and it wasn't bad. Not as sweet as the vanilla soy milk I am used to, but it has 1/3 the calories so that ain't bad! The flavor was ok - but not amazing - so I threw in 2 T. of PB2 and a banana. Voila, tasty Green Monster!!! I ended up loving the Wheatgrass addition. It actually did smell a bit like grass, but the taste was great. Very fresh and delicious!

About an hour after my GM, I got hungry - maybe from working out, maybe because I am used to protein powder in my GM which I did not have today? I really wanted something sweet - I think my body is still used to having about 10 desserts per day. I was going to have one of my Amazing Grass energy bars, but I decided that might not be enough, so I chopped it up into small pieces and threw it into my Kitchenaid mixer with some coconut, oat brain, and a splash of milk, trying to recreate the awesome cookie dough that I made last week. Well, the bar must be much harder than I thought because the Kitchenaid did nothing to mix it up! So I took the mixture out, plopped it onto a baking sheet and baked it for a few minutes. It was a nothing fancy or wonderful, but it was a nice snack :)
I had a few cups of cold tea throughout the day until lunchtime, where I had some leftover zucchini soup from yesterday. I loved the flavor of the soup (mostly zucchini and tofu blended together), but I wanted something a bit more "chewy". So, I loosely chopped an onion, dipped it into a bowl of egg whites, and then added in some bread crumbs that I had seasoned. I then baked this mixture (and toasted some walnuts at the same time) by baking it in the oven at 375 for 10-12 minutes. I put this mixture over the warmed up soup, and it was SO GOOD. I will definitely be making this easy, nutrient-dense soup again!!

FYI: Funnily enough, a little bit after I finished eating this soup I saw "Hungry Girl" on the Bonnie Hunt show, where she showed how she makes HER version of onion rings. She grinds up Fiber One cereal, dips the onion rings in some Egg Beaters, and then the crushed cereal, and bakes them. I love this idea of a healthy, whole wheat coating that has lot of fiber, too! But my recipe works great too if all you have on hand is breadcrumbs, although panko would be good too :)

For a mid-afternoon snack, again I was craving something sweet (chocolately in particular), so I threw a frozen banana and a 1/2 c. of chocolate soy milk into the blender. It was awesome (like a chocolate milk shake!) but not enough to fill me up, so I also had an Amazing Grass chocolate bar. Yum!!

After spending a lot of my day looking at recipes and food blogs, I was in the mood to bake. AND my dad's birthday is today (even though I won't see him until Saturday), so I decided to make him.... walnut brittle!!

Here's how I did it:

1 c. sugar
1 c. corn syrup/maple syrup/molasses/honey
½ c. water
1 T. butter
1 1/c c. chopped walnuts
1 ½ ts. Baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Heat up a pan at 200 degrees while you are making the sauce so that it remains hot – it will be easier to spread the mixture this way.

Then, line pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter in a pan. Cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Then, stir in walnuts and continue to stir over high heat. Then remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
Quickly pour mixture over pan; cool completely before breaking brittle into bite-sized pieces.

I used sugar-free syrup because that was all I had on hand (I don't eat the sugar-free crap, but we have it in the house because Mike likes it, and I knew my dad wouldn't care what the ingredients were!)

It is still cooling on my counter... I clumsily forgot to see if the pan FITS into my fridge (it does not!) so hopefully they cool ok by just sitting on in the open. So I can't tell you how they taste yet, but the warm sauce that I sampled tasted quite good! :)
Happy Father's Day (belated) and Happy birthday (today), Dad!!! :)

Bikram Spinning class??

Wednesday's posting:

Hi guys! It's nice to get caught up on here - it's hard work posting from being on vacation because there are always way more pix than usual and more fun stuff going on - I don't know how Meghann did it when she was on vacation last week!!

The last four days were chock-full of delicious, indulgent food, which was fabulous. But while I enjoyed every sip and bite, eating food that is less "clean" eating that I am used to makes my stomach hurt after a while and I woke up feeling a bit nauseous this morning. I was sooo ready to get back to my normal eating plan, starting of course with a Green Monster!! I had one of these bad boys before going to the gym.

At the gym I took a spinning class, which was a bit tough but it felt great. However, it was sooooo much hotter than normal, hence the title of this post. I don't know if it was hot because we were all working harder than usual or because it is a freaking sauna in Chicago today?!? I also did some weights and some crunches.

(I didn't mention this yesterday, but yesterday was my "off" day. Even when training for a marathon, it's important to have at least one day of complete rest so that your body can recover!)

When I got back from the gym I was starved (my body is used to having already taken in like 3000 calories by this time of day thanks to Vegas!), so I heated this soup up that I had had in the freezer. I made it a couple weeks ago so I don't remember the exact proportions of the ingredients, but it is mostly carrots, chickpeas, and spices, blended with my immersion blender. I threw some whole wheat croutons on top, and it was really good! Goodies from Amazing Grass!!! I love everything they make!!! Today I attended a workshop by Dr. Bruce Perry, who is a nationally recognized neurologist who specializes in child trauma. It was a very informative lecture, but the whole time I was half thinking about what he was saying, and half planning dinner....
I had some Gimme Lean sausage that I wanted to use up, and I wanted to be creative with it. I don't like the texture by itself, so I wanted to do something different with it this time, so I made it into a type of sloppy joe with sauteed onion, tomato paste, spices (oregano, S and P), and a bit of Truvia to make it a bit sweet a la sloppy joe style. Then I wraped up dollops of this mixture into some crescent rolls, and baked them for 10 minutes. The result: A+!!!! Even though these were total vegetarian food, even Mike devoured them.
On the side, I made a zucchini gazpacho - basically a cold soup made with zuccini, tofu, some veggie broth, and spices. It too was really good, and I purposefully didn't eat the whole bowl so that I could save it for lunch tomorrow. It will be SO good on a hot day!

Snack: Another snack, which was not as good as the chocolate Superfood, but was still VERY good by both Mike and my standards
Last snack of the night: I threw this into the blender with some ice and a cup of soy milk, and it was VERY good. It had a great, fruity flavor. But because the texture was too icy, I decided to throw a banana in too, which made it even better. I can't wait to try the rest of my Amazing Grass products! Talk to you all soon! :)

** I also had a late night snack of 100 calorie chocolate-baked almonds!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"What DIDN'T you eat?!?!?"

Yikes!! I just finished uploading all of the pictures I took from Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and being the novice blogger that I am, it took me FOREVER. Plus I am still trying to figure out how to upload them in the correct order, and after moving them all around by hand, I am out of energy so the captions will be short :)
First, here is the view from the Monte Carlo pool!! The pool there was awesome - there was a regular pool (which was actually pretty deep considering many Vegas pools are like 2' deep kiddie pools, I suspect to keep the drunken fools from drowning?), an outdoor hot tub, a lazy river, and a wave pool. We spent lots of time here!Sunday morning, while Mike and his parents hit the casino, I hit the hotel gym. As I mentioned before, it's a bit of a ripoff that they make you pay EXTRA to use their gym after you drop so much money at their hotel and into their slot machines - but I knew that I wanted to get a couple workouts in, so I sucked it up. They had a 2 for 1 special going on, so I paid for Sunday and got to go on Monday for free.

I did 40 mins on the reclining bike, 20 on the elliptical, crunches, and some of the weight machines. Then I met up with Mike and his parents, who said that they weren't hungry for a huge buffet breakfast yet, so I muched on the snacks I had brought - I LOVE Clif Mojo bars!!! They truly are the best combo of sweet and salty AND chocolately... yum yum!However....... immediately after I had finished my breakfast (plus a Starbucks coffee with a soy top-off, not pictured), they decided they WERE hungry after all!! Thankfully I can always stuff my face, even when I am not hungry, so this wasn't a problem for me one bit :-)

I enjoyed the make-your-own-omelette station (egg whites with lots of veggies and cheese) and also had some fabulous PRE-opened crab legs. It was the Father's Day brunch, so there was lots of extra-good stuff today, plus unlimited champagne, which I loved SO much (and had so many glasses of!) that I forgot to get a pic!

Dessert was a ton of french toast, and the insides of two chocolate croissants that I picked apart. Mike and I at the pool.... With Mike and my in-laws drinking our humongous drinks poolside - the pila colada was fabulous except that it only took me about 30 seconds to down it!!

After Mike and his dad won bushels of $$$$ (I had two coffees with Bailey's during this time), it was already way past dinner time so we took a walk down the strip and finally settled at Paris for their late-night buffet.

It was dark in there and my flash is broken, but there is a lot of cheese, potatoes, seafood, vegetarian dolmades (Greek stuffed grape leaves), quiche, etc! Sushi and cheesey spinach tortellini, which I later got more of..... Along with stocking up on CHEESE... the blue cheese and dill havarti were excellent!!! Dessert was some type of blueberry torte thing, and a homemade crepe filled with chocolate sauce. It would have been 1000x better if it was filled with Nutella, but obviously I am not complaining about a gooey, warm, chocolate crepe ;)*****************************************************************

This morning I started off the day right by getting a great run in!!! It is obviously WAY too hot to run outside in Vegas, plus you would demolish about 100 tourists per second on the crowded city sidewalks, so I knew that I had to suck it up and do a treadmill run even though I usually prefer to run outside.
I ran 4 miles on the treadmill and then did another 20 minutes of cardio on the elliptical. I followed that up with some crunches and then sat in the sauna for about 10 minutes while I chatted with my grandpa on the phone. (My grandma moved from the hospital to a nursing home today and is doing much better!)
Buffet: another delish omelette, some hash browns, and some smoked salmon. I've always loved salmon but the smoked stuff looked kinda yucky to me and very raw, sushi-esque - but it IS cooked and don't be scared, it's quite tasty!! Especialy with a squeeze of lemon and some capers on top! Seconds of salmon, plus some dessert...
And MORE dessert (I think I shocked my father-in-law by finishing the entire plate of this!!) Posing by the Paris fountains later that night
Posing on an *outdoor escalator* - one of my favorite parts of Vegas! :) So fun - why don't we have these in Chicago?!? The LaMonica crew had their heart set on hamburgers ALL night, and after walking for what felt like hours, we finally found Stripburger, which worked out well so we were able to eat outside. I had a HUGE helping of these sweet potato fries which I loved .... and a homemade veggie burger with avocado and cheese. I did pick off the top bun though - it detracted from the other great flavors! **************************************************************
Breakfast/lunch (depends on whether you consider me on Vegas or Chicago time) was a flatbread sandwich with lots of veggies, guac, and some pesto. It was great - and I had what you see in the picture, times 2

My MIL bought some See's fudge and this is my portion - it was phenomenal and I wanted more!!She also bought some chocolate covered peanuts that we enjoyed on the plane. I had about 1/2 of this bag.
Back in Illinois, here is some of Yaya's spanakopita (Greek spinach and feta pie).... and though I swore up and down that I wasn't the least bit hungry, somehow after eating this piece I also ate about 6 Greek cookies!! (not pictured) Once Mike and I got back to our condo, I was pleased to find that the package I had secretly ordered for him had arrived....
My husband LOVES HIS COOKIE DOUGH!! So once I saw this pictured on My Summerizations blog, I knew I had to get him some ASAP. We were both disappointed to find that it did not contain any actual cookie dough chunks (just had a chocolately flavor), but it was still quite superb!
Later last night I also made myself a quesadilla with goat cheese, basil, and salsa, and for dessert.... completely caved and had a huge bowl of walnuts and chocolate chips. Yes, it is ok to induge in stuff like this once and a while, but due to the fact that I had been gorging ALL week it was not a good idea and I felt pretty ill afterward. I guess I have to train my body to eat like a normal person again!
And that concludes my weekend in Vegas!!! Now it's time to get back to my normal life (and eating less than 10,000 calories a day) ;)