Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Motivation #2.

Chicago had the most beautiful Indian summer weather this weekend - warm, sunny and mid-80's on Saturday, celebrated with a patio brunch and walking six miles. Here's to hoping this week is equally wonderful. 

Such wisdom. {from Quotes Wave via Pinterest}

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie. Need I say more? {from Love of Family and Home, via Pinterest}

The Drop a Jean Size Workout - definitely a set of new moves to try at home this week. {from Fitness Magazine, via Pinterest}

I am getting tired of running to my Pitbull and Britney Spears Pandora stations {don't laugh, it's true}. I'm going to try mixing things up this week using one of these instead! {from LoveSurf Blog, via Pinterest}

Sounds like a good plan for the week! {from Tumblr, via Pinterest}

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall challenge update.

I took my new running shoes out for a spin after work yesterday. I love how wearing new running shoes feels like running on clouds - I waited far too long to get a new pair this time!

Fall is my absolute favorite season, in particular due to the excellent running weather {well, and the excuse to obsessively bake and eat all things pumpkin}. My favorite type of weather for running is when you can wear short running pants with a long sleeved shirt and be comfortable, with zero humidity. Aka 60 degrees or so. I can breathe better, and run faster, which clearly means a more pleasant experience.

Every year in mid-September I tend to get into a wonderful groove with running, which promptly ends with the first snow. One of my goals this winter is to make peace with the treadmill. Until then, I'm still making an effort to meet the Merrell Feel Your Run Challenge from Map My Run.

I am currently at 17 workouts, with 22 days left in the challenge - which is to workout {run or hike} 30 times in 45 days, for a minimum of 15 minutes per day. I also realized that since I downloaded the Map My Run app last year, I have used it to track 199 miles. Now I have motivation to break 200 today!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Secret PB&J smoothie.

Today I went out for a lunch with a colleague and ended up with a very large {and amazing} falafel platter with delicious hummus, pita, tomato and cucumber salad, etc. I ended up not very hungry for a normal dinner so decided on a smoothie instead and can't help but share.

I have been experimenting with different forms of the green monster smoothie for the past few months and this is by far my favorite combination!

Secret PB&J Smoothie
1 cup original almond milk
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
A handful {or two} of raw kale leaves
2 Tablespoons of PB2

Instructions: Blend blend blend!

I like telling myself this is a grown-up version of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.  Although, there is nothing wrong with grown-ups enjoying PB&J once in awhile! The "secret" part of this smoothie is the kale that you cannot taste at ALL. I recommend tearing off the stems and only using the leaves.

PS: Have you tried PB2? I'm obsessed!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday motivation.

I hope this finds you relaxed after a lovely fall weekend since it is officially the second day of autumn! I was fighting off a cold, but managed to make it to a local Apple Festival in my neighborhood, watched a few movies, and did a bit of cleaning and organizing for the new season. Including getting out my ceramic pumpkins for display. It was time!

Here are a few things motivating me on this Monday.

Oooh this needs to happen soon - Pumpkin Pound Cake from WhipperBerry, via Pinterest.

I always thought about working as a barista during college - instead I ended up as an expert folding clothes in retail. To think of the skills I may have gained for creating foam art like this! {From dribbble, via Pinterest}

It's all pumpkin, all the time around these parts. I adore this quote from my favorite childhood book series. {From the blog Dear Friend, via Pinterest}

I really want to try this Chicken Tortilla Stack from Damn Delicious. Although I don't think I'm patient enough to recreate it to be as beautiful as this photo! {Via Pinterest}

This is my new running mantra. {From Greatist, Via Pinterest}

Friday, September 20, 2013

Baking Apples.

Everywhere I look I'm reminded that it's apple season - especially now that my favorite Honeycrisp is back in the grocery store! I haven't allowed myself to buy any yet {they are currently $3.99 / pound...} because I'm still working on using a half box of gorgeous baking apples from my parents' farm.

I have been searching for apple recipes high and low, and this is a list of 15 favorites recipes I want to test out asap. I think there will be some baking at my house this weekend! Click on the name of each recipe below to visit the website. Enjoy and happy Friday!

Apple Crisp Muffins, from Iowa Girl Eats
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars, from The Girl Who Ate Everything
Caramel Apple Scones, from recipe girl
Loaded Apple Cider Oatmeal Muffins, from how sweet it is
Old-Fashioned Apple Pie, from Martha Stewart

Apple-Brie Polenta, from Taste for Adventure
Apple Cider Chicken, from Adventures in the Kitchen Cooking School
Bacon Apple Pancakes, from Nutmeg Nanny
BBQ Chicken Apple Pizza, from lemon tree dwelling
Kale and Apple Salad, from Food Network

Apple freezer cooking tips, from Mom Endeavors
Baked Apple Chips, from We Do Fun Here
Homemade Applesauce, from Ina Garten
Irish Oatmeal with Hot Buttered Cinnamon Apples, from An Edible Mosaic
Red Wine Sangria, from Bobby Flay

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pumpkin-Apple muffins.

I am still experimenting with apple recipes to use up the half-box of beautiful Iowa apples from my parents' farm. With the fall weather we have been experiencing this week in Chicago, now is as good a time as any to add some chopped apples to pumpkin muffins!

Healthy Pumpkin-Apple Muffins
1 1/3 cups all-purpose {white} flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 and 1/2 cups tart apples, pealed and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, pumpkin and yogurt until smooth. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to make a smooth batter. Spoon batter into muffin cups or a greased muffin tin.

Bake for 25 minutes minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Makes 18 muffins - and according to SparkRecipes, comes out to 125 calories per muffin!

{Adapted from All Recipes Addictive Pumpkin Muffins and Taste of Home's Apple Pumpkin Muffins}

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The 15 to 5 workout.

Last year I signed up for a few months of personal training during a sale at my gym. Although I ended up very much disliking the personal trainer I was assigned to {that's another story}, he did teach me a few things. One of the first sessions I learned was something similar to this workout!

The 15 to 5 Workout
Start with a 1 mile run to warmup, and do each of the moves above, with a one minute rest after each set, repeating 5 times. This one is definitely a leg killer!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to: Slow Cooker Apple Butter

My family has two beautiful apple trees on their farm in Iowa, which produced an amazing number of apples this year - more on that later! After almost a week staring at my giant box of apples, I started feeling a time crunch to use up these babies while they are still perfectly ripe. Enter Slow Cooker Apple Butter.

I did a bit of online research for apple recipes, and kept coming across recipes for apple butter. When I was a little girl, my grandma served homemade bread to my brother and I ALL the time when she watched us after school, and apple butter was one of my favorite options she gave us for topping. I haven't had it for years and knew I had to try making it myself. I used a wonderful recipe from My Baking Addiction. This was so easy to do, I had to share the simple steps it takes to make apple butter in the crock pot!

Step 1: Weigh and rinse.

I used about 5 pounds of 'baking' apples in this recipe - Jonathan apples. Weighed using the non-fancy-kitchen-appliance method of putting a bag on the bathroom scale!

Step 2: Peel, chop, repeat.

Make sure you peel the apples and remove all of the skin. The peeling itself only took about 15 minutes; the chopping and coring is the longest step in this recipe. But well worth it!

Step 3: Mix your apples and spices in the crock pot.

Mix your apple slices with the sugar/spice mixture! Most recipes I looked at suggested cooking the apples on low for 10, 12, or 14 hours, stirring every once in awhile. This can vary widely depending on your slow cooker / crock pot - mine ended up looking done in only 4 hours! It may be because my crock pot is black, so food cooks faster than the white ceramic version. Even though the apples were incredibly soft in a short amount of time, I left this in the crock pot for 11 hours - on simmer and then the warm setting.

Step 4: Blend blend blend.

It's important to get your apple butter as smooth as possible. This doesn't take much after so many hours in a crock pot! Use an immersion blender or a regular blender. I used the 'stir' and 'chop' settings and only blended this for a minute or so.

Step 5: Jar 'em!

I did not can this apple butter; instead I sterilized my half pint Kerr jars and stuck them in the fridge after filling. To sterilize your jars, wash them with soap and water {or run them through the dishwasher like I did}, while a large stockpot is heating up to a boil. To complete sterilization, boil every piece of the jar - lid and rim included for several minutes. I used metal tongs to carefully pull each boiling piece out of the pot to dry.

This recipe made six half-pint jars, which will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator, or will stay fresh in the freezer for a few months!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fall running challenge.

Since I was in college, I have run over 25 races - from a 5k and 10k here and there, up to several half-marathons. I am not very speedy and I am definitely not in the front of the pack by any means. But I find wonderful motivation by signing up for a race with friends every few months, and running with hundreds and sometimes thousands of people seeking the same thing.

I love using the app Map My Run to train for races and track my own progress {although I refuse to share my runs with Facebook! Only my iPhone knows the truth}. The app uses GPS to track your route, distance, and pace per mile. Every mile the app reports how far you have gone and your pace. Sometimes I don't like what she has to say, but I know it's helpful in the long run. Ooh, literally.

Earlier this week, I received an email about the Merrell Feel Your Run Challenge from Map My Run. The challenge runs from September 2 to October 17, and the goal is to log 30 runs in 45 days. I don't have any races coming up until next spring, so I signed up! You can also count a 15 minute "hike" as one of these logs, and you can only log once per day. So far in this first week, I logged three runs and one hike. I checked the Leaderboard this morning, and I am currently in 3132nd place. But that's okay - I accept.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tomato frittata.

I made a frittata for the first time last night - and I didn't burn it! This is a light frittata since I subbed the heavy cream component for skim milk. I made up for it by adding a bit of extra cheese... but this still came out at only 112 calories per slice!

Tomato, Kale and Chicken Frittata
4 whole eggs
4 egg whites
1/3 cup skim milk
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded kale
1/2 cup shredded chicken {I used leftover rotisserie chicken}
2 small tomatoes, sliced {for topping}
1/2 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
Dash of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk eggs, milk, baking soda, salt and pepper. Tear kale leaves into small pieces and stir into the egg mixture. Stir in parmesan cheese and shredded chicken. Pour into a tart or pie dish. Layer sliced tomatoes on top and bake for 25-30 minutes. This baked a lot faster than I anticipated so make sure to check it - a fork should come out clean and the top should be lightly brown.

Adapted from Family Spice - Kale and Heirloom Tomato Crustless Quiche.