Friday, May 22, 2015

Five Chicagoland Races in June.

Memorial Day weekend always marks the "unofficial" start to summer for me. I can't wait for al fresco dining, bike rides along Lake Michigan, barbecues, and summer travel plans! Evening walks and warm morning runs are also at the top of my list. Registering for a few fun races is great motivation to train. There are so many fantastic road races in the Chicagoland area over the summer months, so I'm starting a new monthly feature to list a few interesting race options.

Where will you be running this summer?

June 6

Capital Nutrition Run for Vets 5k - Orland Park

{Image via Run for Vets 5k website}

Capital Nutrition is hosting its 3rd annual Run for Vets 5k race, to raise awareness and funds to help military veterans heal emotional wounds by pairing them with shelter dogs. This race helps both shelter dogs and veterans. Proceeds go to the Pets For Vets charity. Race organizers have also teamed up with the Disabled Patriot Fund. Their goal is to provide financial relief for local U.S. veterans in financial crisis or in need of financial aid.

There are goodie bags, t-shirts, and other prizes for runners. Register for the race here 

June 14

PAWS Run for their Lives 8k Run/4k Walk - Montrose Harbor, Chicago

PAWS Chicago is a local no-kill animal shelter in the city, and the annual 8k run/4k walk race is a fundraiser to benefit homeless pets. 100% of donations from participants help the organization rescue thousands of homeless kitties and dogs yearly. This cause is close to my heart, as I have a cat rescued from a local animal shelter. Register for the race here.

I ran this race in 2014 {race recap here} and I'm back this year with a team of runners to raise money for PAWS! Our team is Dogs and Cats Living Together. Taken from Ghostbusters, obviously. Check out my fundraising page if you are interested in donating - every dollar counts. My team is currently in second place overall among fundraisers!

The Double Road Race - Villa Park 

 {Image via Double Road Race website}

This is a race created by Bob Anderson, the founder of Runners World Magazine. The race includes two running stages - racers get a halftime in-between. Halftime is referred to as the Recovery Zone. As described on the website,  this is where runners can stretch, listed to live music, talk with healthcare professionals, and even get a massage! Read more about the background of Double Racing here.

There are three options for this race - a 15k {split into a 10k and 5k}; an 8k {split into a 5k and 3k}; and a Kids Cup Challenge {split into a 1 mile and half mile run}. Register for the race here. {<-- affiliate link}

June 21

Color in Motion 5k - Montrose Beach, Chicago

 {Image via Color in Motion website}

This popular fun run 5k comes back to Montrose Beach this year. Runners/walkers wear white t-shirts and are hit with a variety of colors during the race. The dye is safe and washable after the race. The Color in Motion 5k is partnering again with Special Olympics Illinois. Special Olympics Illinois provides opportunities for more than 21,000 athletes, 40,000 volunteers and thousands more people statewide through 19 area programs in all 102 counties of the state. A portion of all proceeds from the race will benefit Special Olympics Illinois

If you want to join in on this vibrant event, register for the race here.

June 27

Proud to Run 10k Run and 5k Run/Walk - Chicago

{Image via Proud to Run Chicago website}

The Proud to Run race is part of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Pride Week activities. The race is an annual event that has been running {literally!} since 1982. Read more about Proud to Run here.

The event takes place along the lakefront, focusing on celebrating pride in and raising funds to support the greater Chicago area LGBTQ community. This race is organized by an all volunteer, community based board of directors. Register for the race here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Superfood Vegan Chocolate Pudding.

This Superfood Vegan Chocolate Pudding recipe gives pudding a makeover with almond milk, cacao powder and naturally sweet dates.

Before I get to the healthy dessert recipe today, I have to share a Chicago story about chocolate. I work downtown in the Loop, and several times a week I get a strong whiff of chocolate walking to and from the L. When I saw it's strong, I mean it - the scent is similar to opening the oven in your kitchen to a baking pan of brownies. The chocolate smell comes from Blommer Chocolate Company, located downtown in the West Loop.

This phenomenon has been written about many times {WBEZ; Chicago Tribune; and Fodor's Travel}. Someone even created a Daily Chicago Chocolate Smell Map to track the odor. Whenever I smell the Blommer factory, a chocolate craving inevitably hits. I finally have a healthy snack to answer for this - Superfood Vegan Chocolate Pudding!

I was home visiting my family last week, and I had the urge to create a new healthy snack recipe. While perusing my mom's cupboard, I found Cacao Powder {<--affiliate link}, a version of raw unsweetened chocolate that is considered a "superfood." Cacao powder contains flavonoids, which may help lower blood pressure and blood flow to the brain/heart. {source} I decided to make this  pudding in individual serving cups, using vegan milk.

Instead of processed or refined sugar, this pudding is sweetened naturally with Medjool dates. To create a very creamy pudding consistency, I pureed pitted dates in a blender with unsweetened vanilla almond milk prior to cooking the pudding on the stovetop.

I hope you enjoy!

Superfood Vegan Chocolate Pudding
Makes 9 individual pudding cups.

5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
6 Tablespoons cornstarch
8 dates {pitted}
3 Tablespoons cacao powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How to~
*Puree dates with almond milk in a blender, until smooth.
*Remove the milk/date mixture and whisk in cacao powder for ~2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract.
*Divide the liquid mixture in half - to one half, add 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Add the other half to the stovetop in a pan on medium low.
*When the liquid comes to a simmer, add the rest of the cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Add the other half of the liquid mixture and continue cooking.
*Whisk every few minutes to ensure the pudding stays smooth. Continue cooking on medium low for ~10 minutes, until the mixture comes to a boil and begins to thicken.
*Turn the heat to low and continue cooking for at least ~5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
*Pour pudding into ramekins. Chill in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours.

{Adapted from hell yeah it's vegan! - Vegan Chocolate Pudding}