Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Goat cheese polenta with spinach and roasted tomatoes

Yum!  I saw this polenta recipe from Pinch of Yum a while ago and knew I was going to need to try to make it at some point.  Well, we made it last week for dinner and it was delicious!  The polenta was creamy and pungent while the roasted tomatoes gave a depth of flavor and the spinach added freshness.  A perfect Spring meal, and it was pretty easy as well.

The recipe makes 4 servings, but I could see it being 2 -3 servings if you're hungry since it was so delicious.  You may want to serve it with a salad just in case. Here is my version of the dish.

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • salt to taste
I did this first step over the weekend, making it then an easy weeknight dinner to throw together. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place the tomatoes on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 10 minutes, gently turn the tomatoes, and repeat 2 more times for a total of 30 minutes.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large pot. Once the oil is hot, add the spinach, red chili flakes, garlic powder and salt to taste. The spinach will begin to wilt and reduce quickly so you won't need to sautee it long.  Just keep stirring it for a minute or two until it's the consistency you want it.  I wanted it to be wilted but not cooked to death so that it could still give some freshness to the dish. I then removed it from the pot and set it aside on a plate.

In the same pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the polenta slowly and whisk at the same time  to help avoid clumps. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until the polenta has thickened. Add the goat cheese and stir until smooth. Taste at this point to see if any extra salt is needed.  Some goat cheese can be quite salty so I didn't want to add salt to the polenta until now to see how much it needed.

And voila!  Serve the cheesy polenta in a bowl and top with some of the spinach and roasted tomatoes.  It was as beautiful as it was delicious!

I'm excited to be linking up with Deborah and Sarah for meatless Mondays. This is a great link up to find delicious vegetarian recipes.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Weekly Review

I had a pretty good week, but it was busy.  And my rest days ended up being at the beginning of the week again so all my workouts were concentrated toward the end.  But, I got in everything I wanted to get in so that's a positive.

Monday- rest day

Tuesday - rest day

Wednesday - Body pump and 15 minute warm up on the elliptical.  I pushed it again and I think I was sore until Saturday!

Thursday - 40 minutes on the elliptical at the gym

Friday - Runner's World yoga essentials. I had meant to get to body pump but couldn't get away from work to make it to class.  So I did a yoga video instead.  It was probably a good thing since I was still a bit sore.

Saturday - Ben's Run 5k with a 1.5 mile warm up before the race (full review later this week)

Sunday - 30 minute run before my volunteer shift at the Pike's Peek 10k.

I ran this race last year and had a bad experience (totally my own fault for not checking the weather report ahead of time) so I decided to just volunteer this year.  I was placed at bag check at the finish line so the job consisted of setting up the area, organizing the bags in numerical order once the trucks arrived, and then handing them out to runners as they came up.  It was super organized and there were just the right amount of volunteers.  Everything went so smoothly and it was a great experience. Plus, I got a lot of steps running back and forth to get the bags :)  I had around 5,000 steps when I started and around 12,000 when I finished.

My other bit of fun on Sunday was we went out for pub trivia with friends in the evening.  We ended up getting 3rd place, which meant we got to choose one of the categories for next week's trivia.  Which means we have to go back next week!

This week is going to be a bit tough to get in a lot of work outs because I have family visiting from out of town but I'm going to try my best and see what happens.  I'm linking up   with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Five - Photos

I hope you're all doing well!  It's Friday and that means I'm linking up with Mar, Cynthia and Courtney for the Friday Five link up. Today's theme is a "free" Friday.  Marathon Photo recently had a special where you could buy three photos for the price of one so I got some from the Rock and Roll DC Half.  So I figure today would just be a picture post where I share 5 recent photos :)

Happy to be finishing!

Not sure what I'm looking at here

All smiles at the end

Shelby - "He's right behind me, isn't he?"

A neighbor kitty has been visiting and Perry and Shelby are not fans.

So those are some recent photos from my life.  I'm working from home today which usually results in more cat snuggling and more cat photos :)  Hopefully it will be peaceful with no neighbor kitties causing a ruckus.  I'm running a hilly 5k tomorrow and volunteering at a local 10k Sunday and looking forward to both!  I hope everyone has a good weekend!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Weekly Review

I had a pretty full week last week and it seemed to fly by.  I struggled a bit with allergies but I got in most of my work outs for the week and the only one that had to be modified was one planned run turned into a walk instead because of some breathing issues.  Here are the details. 

Monday - rest day

Tuesday - rest day

Wednesday - strength training.  I did three circuits of jumping jacks, squats, crunches, glute bridges, clam shells, planks, push-ups and lunges.

Thursday - elliptical machine at the gym

Friday - rest day. I meant to go to a lunch time body pump class but work was busy and I didn't make it. 

Saturday - This is the morning I woke up with some allergy struggles so my planned run turned mostly into a walk. After the walk, I did my strength training circuit again since I had missed Friday's body pump class.

We also went dancing Saturday night since a DJ I really like from New York was in town.  We didn't leave the house until 10pm, which is past my bedtime.  I yawned the whole way there, but had a lot of fun working up a sweat dancing to some fun music. 

Sunday - 6 mile run with friends on the Rock Creek Trail.

I really enjoyed running with friends again and had a great time catching up.  This is also the first run over three miles I've done in about 3 weeks so it felt good to spend an extended about of time out there.  Afterwards, I cleaned up and met some other friends for a fun wine tasting.

So that was my week.  I hope that you all had some fun times this week too!  I'm linking up with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Five - Hamilton musical

It's Friday!  This week has sped by and the weekend has crept up on me.  But I'm never sad about it being Friday.  It means it's almost time for the weekend and of course, time to link up with Cynthia, Mar and Courtney for the Friday Five.  This week's theme is favorites and so I thought I'd talk about the things I've been enjoying about the Hamilton soundtrack as it's currently my favorite thing to listen to.

I think most people have heard of the Hamilton musical by this point.  It's had rave reviews and sell out crowds on Broadway.  For those who aren't familiar with it, it's been called a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, the first treasury secretary of the US.  The concept sounds almost ridiculous but it's amazingly well executed and really works much better than you would expect.

1. Writing - My favorite thing about the soundtrack is the lyrics.  The writing is amazing.  One of the things that sticks out about Hamilton as opposed to other musicals is the verbal density. One review pointed out that the opening number had around 500 words whereas less than 100 is more typical.  And the density works so well for being able to tell this story, especially as Alexander Hamilton's own writings were know to be very dense.

2. Diversity - The casting is pretty diverse compared to most musicals and the type of music employed is also equally diverse.  I feel like it's dismissive to simply call Hamilton a hip hop musical since it draws from so many more musical styles than that.  There are songs that seem like traditional show tunes, numbers sung by King George that are inspired by brit-pop, in addition to the songs inspired by R&B, hip hop, reggae and rap.  I love the fact that the cabinet arguments between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson have been re-imagined as rap battles.

3. Historical accuracy - Just as impressive as the artistry is the fact that it is surprisingly historically accurate.  The play was inspired by a biography written by a historian and the author of the book was involved in the show as a historical consultant.  I was so intrigued by the soundtrack that I'm currently reading the book and I've been impressed with the accuracy of the play.  There are some small differences, mostly to compress the timeline or to avoid having to introduce extra characters, but generally the reasons for the change are evident and they don't really change the main points of the larger story.

4. Great for working out - I mentioned earlier that I was limiting myself to listening to the soundtrack to when I was working out.  The music is great for working out.  The first half is very upbeat and intricate and works to keep my mind engaged and my body moving.

5. Social commentary - I love the way this is a historical story and a modern story at the same time.  This story about events from hundreds of years ago at the forming of our country is also about revolution and justice and the surprising things that can happen when people who have traditionally been excluded from society are allowed a seat at the table.  It is also about the great things that can be done by regular people who are flawed, just like those of us in the audience.

And, if you're an Amazon Prime member, it's available for streaming on Amazon Prime right now so it's easy to give it a listen and see what you think!  If you've listened to the sound track, I'd love to hear what you think about it. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Smoothie experiments

I didn't have a lot of healthy snacks around the house last week for some reason and there were a couple days I was feeling a bit peckish after dinner.  I also had some veggies that needed to be used up.  So I decided to experiment with smoothie bowls since that was something I'd been seeing a lot online.

Experiment 1 - Spinach, banana, frozen peach and almond milk.

This one was sadly not that successful.  I topped it with granola, extra peaches and some chocolate chips.  But it pretty much just tasted like banana with a weird, herb-y, bitter after taste.  It was also not quite as thick as it should have been.

At least it was pretty.

Experiment 2 - Cabbage, banana, frozen peaches, frozen cherries and almond milk

This one turned out delicious!  I had learned some lessons from my first try.  I only used half a banana instead of a whole one.  It's too easy for the banana taste to overpower otherwise.  The frozen cherries helped because it's a stronger flavored fruit.  I think the peaches by themselves got lost in my first attempt.  And the cabbage has a milder flavor than the spinach so it was easier to cover up.  I also added a bit of vanilla extract and cinnamon to boost the flavor.  As far as the almond milk, I just added a little bit.  It was too thick but I was able to add a bit more until it was at the right consistency.  You can always add in more liquid but you can't take it out.

Just topped with a sprinkling of chocolate chips as I wasn't as hungry this day.

I have to admit that I was skeptical about vegetables in smoothies but I'm glad I tried it and learned that it can be delicious!  Both versions helped me use up some veggies I had in the refrigerator that may have gone bad otherwise and helped me get in some extra healthy veggies.  Mike tried the first one and wasn't a fan but even he really enjoyed the second one. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Weekly review

This week went pretty well.  Still not that much running, but I got some decent work outs in.  And we had a weekend trip to Atlanta for my father-in-law's 60th birthday so got in some family time as well.

Monday - rest day

Tuesday - body pump.  I increased my weights for this class since I'm not currently training for anything and want to work on my strength training more diligently.

Wednesday - rest day.  I had meant to go for a run this evening but was so sore from body pump that it hurt just to sit down and get up.

Thursday - 40 minutes on the elliptical

Friday - Back to body pump.  I used the same increased weight levels and was not that sore the next day.  Yay, progress!

Saturday - rest day but with lots of walking around the aquarium in Atlanta.  We were there with our 3 year old niece among other family members and we hung out with them afterward as well.  It was so much fun to watch her and the joy she took in just running for fun.  She would just run around the yard for no reason other than she enjoyed it.  We also played with bubbles and she couldn't stop smiling as she ran around chasing bubbles.  It was great to see and a reminder that running really does start out as just fun for a lot of us when we were kids.

Sunday- My first run in like 2 weeks.  I decided to just go out for a 30 minute, easy run in my father-in-law's neighborhood.  And I didn't use my Garmin.  I did turn on Runkeeper so I could have some stats but then kept the phone in my pocket.

So that was my week.  We had a great week overall and I'm looking forward to the same this week.  My plan should be similar, body pump on Tuesday and Friday, running on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.  I'm also planning to go out dancing with a friend on Saturday so looking forward to that.

I hope you all had a good week too!  I'm linking up with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday Five - easy food

It's Friday already!  This week has flown by for me. And now it's time to link up with Mar, Cynthia, and Courtney for the Friday Five link up.  This week, the theme is food.  We've been busy lately and it's been a struggle not to resort to take out.  But we've been doing our best and in honor of that, I'm going to talk about some of our favorite go to options for quick, weeknight meals.   

1. Grilled cheese - so easy and comforting.  A classic grilled cheese sandwich is always a delight but it's also just as quick to jazz it up a bit.  My favorite is cheddar, apple and mustard and we usually serve it with veggies to bulk it up with a healthy side.  And I have no problems using pre-cut vegetables from the store.  They're not the most economical option but there are definitely weeks that convenience and ease outweigh the costs.

2. Crockpot freezer meals - This is something new I've discovered.  I can't believe it's taken me so long, and it was so easy that I was skeptical that it could taste good.  But basically, you just throw a bunch of things in a gallon zip-loc bag and put it in the freezer.  The day you want to eat it, throw it in the crock pot in the morning and 8 hours later, dinner is ready with hardly any work!  I made the chickpea curry and the veggie-barley soup from the linked article for a friend who was going through some hard times and needed help.  They met with rave reviews from the whole household. A slight cheat that made it even easier, I used frozen veggies for everything except the onions and peppers so there was minimal chopping involved.

3. Grain bowls - This is a regular for us.  We'll make a big pot of grains on the weekend and again use pre-cut vegetables from the grocery store so pretty much all we need to do to make dinner is throw the grains and veggies together with some canned beans and a dressing with some cheese or nuts if wanted.  It's great and so easy on a weeknight when we get home from work starved.

4. One Pot Pasta - Pasta is a classic go to.  But this is so much more than pasta with tomato sauce from a jar.  Not that there's a problem with that, I've done it a lot of times.  But this one pot pasta is almost as easy and includes some great veggies.  It's all cooked in one pot, the pasta, the veggies, the sauce, everything.  So clean up is really easy too.

5. Grab and go breakfasts - Breakfast is another thing I struggle with at times.  It feels like we're always rushing out of the house in the morning to leave for work and I don't have time to put a breakfast together.  I end up buying breakfast way too often.  But that definitely doesn't happen when I spend a little extra time on the weekends making a breakfast that's ready to grab and go on the weekend.  I've done a frittata and cut it into slices that are put into ziploc bags so I can just grab a bag and go.  This week I made steel cut oats in the crock pot and put them into individual serving containers so that again, I could just grab them and go in the mornings before work.  It makes mornings so much easier!


So that's it!  Those are some of my go-to's for when the weekdays get crazy.  I'd love to hear some of yours :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Making running fun again

I mentioned in my last post that I was a little burned out on training and that I was looking forward to just running for fun again.  Well, I'm really excited for my run tonight!  One of the reasons is that I downloaded a new album which I love.  After binging on it a bit Sunday, I'm not letting myself listen to it again until I go on a run.  I'm saving it and really looking forward to being able to listen to it again :) 
My current obsession

So this got me thinking about other ways that I can use to make running fun again and get my mojo back.  I realize I do this same thing with the gym.  I'm watching Alias on Netflix right now and the only time I let myself watch it is when I'm on the treadmill or the elliptical. 

Speaking of the gym, I've decided that I'm going to make running as comfortable as possible right now.  And that means if the weather is cold or windy, I'm going to let myself just run on the treadmill.  I won't do this with warm weather because I do need to get acclimated as the Summer heat will start soon enough.  But running in the cold isn't serving any purpose for me at the moment.  I've also bought another patella strap.  Yep, I've come to terms that both my knees seem a bit unhappy and the strap helps out.  So I'm going to be the one out there rocking a brace on both knees. And that's ok because it makes me more comfortable while running.

Something else that I'm hoping will help out is to explore new running routes, or go back to old routes I haven't been to in a while.  And definitely going back to the track as it's been months since I've been there.

I'll probably just drive downtown some people and have a flat, scenic run around the monuments

I'm also thinking about doing a couple runs without my Garmin.  I think it puts a lot of pressure on me to see the data right there on my wrist and even when I tell myself I'm trying to run easy and not worry about pace, the watch makes it hard to do that.  I might just go back to runkeeper for a couple runs so that I have the data for later but don't see it while I'm running. 

One of the things I've done in the past has been to buy new running gear as that always got me excited to get out there to use it. But I'm not going to use that one this time as I'm trying to save money and don't really need anything at the moment.  Something else I've done in the past is sign up for races to get me excited about training but that would be counter productive at the moment.  So I'm holding myself back and limiting it to 5ks and 10ks for the Summer

Any tips on things you've done to get excited about running again?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Weekly Review

I'm linking up with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap.

Well, last week did not go as planned.  I was supposed to have my second half marathon of the year on Saturday and I didn't do it.  I'm not hurt or anything, I just decided that I didn't want to do it.  I think the problem is I just chose this as a goal race because it was at the right time, and didn't research the details as fully as I should have.

I didn't realize that the race wasn't on a paved surface.  Also, it has less than 200 participants and a 3 hour finish limit (my half marathon PR is 2:57 something).  But I was willing to suck it up and view that as a challenge I should push myself for.  Because even though it was on an unpaved trail, it was supposed to be mostly flat.  And that PR was from RnR DC last year so I should be able to beat it. I would be at the back of the pack and mostly by myself, but hopefully the pretty trail would help me push through.

However, then it was forecasted to rain.  And I began to have a lot of anxiety about the the fact I haven't trained on trails and now it would be a muddy surface.  I kept checking the forecast in the hopes that it would change but it only changed for the worse.  It was supposed to rain the whole time I was running, and I knew the trail conditions would not be ideal.  Usually, it wouldn't matter since I run most of my long races for fun any way.  But the only reason I was doing this race was for time.

So, Friday afternoon, I decided that I just didn't want to do the race.  It didn't have all the race day excitement I enjoy at the larger races, it was causing me a lot of anxiety as I was worried both about my time and potentially falling and hurting myself, and I wanted to keep running as something fun.  And I am at peace with this decision.  It was the right thing for me at this time and that was confirmed for me when I checked my fitbit sleep stats yesterday.  Friday night was the first full night of sleep I had all week.

Here are some more specifics on my workouts for the week.

Monday - rest

Tuesday - rest

Wednesday - Yoga essentials from Runner's World

Thursday- 40 minutes on the elliptical at the gym

Friday - Yoga Essentials from Runner's World

Saturday - I found a random Bollywood dance workout from You Tube.  It was pretty silly, but a ton of fun, pure cardio, and I was dripping sweat by the end.

 Speaking of Bollywood, here's a cool video I saw on Facebook of a bollywood version of Justin Bieber's "Sorry" video. She also has tutorials on her You Tube site so I may give those a try for fun.

Sunday - Strength training

So what's next?  I'm looking forward to just getting back to working out for fun.  I'm don't have to start training again for any big races until July or August (I haven't picked out a training plan yet).  I'm looking forward to just running for fun and trying out different work outs at the gym. I'm planning on using the next 6 weeks to try to increase my running intervals as one of my goals for the year was to run a 5k without a walk break and my mid-May race will be a good option for my first attempt.