Thursday, October 31, 2013

2-3-4-5 Treadmill Run.

Happy happy Halloween! It is a very dark, warm and rainy morning in Chicago. I hope I still get to see a few neighborhood kids trick-or-treating {probably in rain coats} tonight!

This morning I woke up early to frost cupcakes - Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cookie Butter Frosting. Ugggh this recipe is so good. I found it on Pinterest of course. I'm having a few friends over for a Halloween dinner tonight and made these for dessert. It was very hard to resist eating one for breakfast.

Thankfully I did a treadmill run last night in preparation for the candy I plan on eating today. I have a hard time with the treadmill - I find it to be so much harder than running outside. I was sweating big time for this. I feel like I need to constantly change the speed to keep things interesting, so I'm experimenting. This ended up being a 40 minute treadmill workout, totaling just over 3.5 miles:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Winter Running Challenge - Week 1.

Today marks the end of week one of the Winter Running Challenge - and I am already behind! I traveled for work one day last week and had a busy weekend out of town visiting wonderful family in Iowa, so I was only able to squeeze in one run and one workout class.

This means I'll be {attempting} to run my butt off in week two to make up for it. I'm planning to log other workouts here too every Tuesday.

Winter Challenge Log: Week 1
Attended one Sculpt class
Ran 3.1 miles
3.1% to goal

Monday, October 28, 2013

Peak color.

Since it's Halloween week and the end of my favorite month, I'm doing my best to embrace a few last fall items before the leaves finish falling off the trees and everything holidays takes over. Why so early every year? The big Macy's downtown is doing their tree lighting festival this Saturday. On the SECOND day of November! Silly.

Anyways. Last night I was looking back on tree photos I snapped last year during peak color in Door County, Wisconsin - one of my absolutely favorite places. Most of these were taken in Peninsula State Park. If you ever have a chance to visit, I highly recommend it! I got married this past summer in Door County, and these peak color photos were taken the same weekend my husband and I chose our wedding venue in 2012. A wonderful memory!

I'm planning to run another half marathon next spring in this same park, the Door County Half Marathon. I have run two over the past four years, both in Chicago. It would be my first time traveling for a race, and my first attempt at running a hilly terrain - the map looks a bit scary! Registration opens this Friday, which is exciting. I think it will great motivation to keep running throughout winter.

Have a great Monday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baked Squash Empanadas.

I have been thinking about how to use squash in a new way {new to me at least!} for the CSA and farmers market squash we have been collecting. For this recipe, I used one delicata squash and one sweet dumpling squash - but any combination will work.

Baked Squash Empanadas
1 Tablespoon butter
1.5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
3 links of apple chicken sausage
1/2 bag spinach
1 delicata squash
1 sweet dumpling squash
3 'ready-bake' pie crusts
1/2 cup marinara {for a sauce}
1 egg, 2 teaspoons water {for egg wash}

How to:

1) Peel, de-seed, and cut your squash into 1/2 inch cubes to prepare for roasting. Roast the squash in 15 minute increments at 375 degrees, stirring at each interval. The roasting time will depend on your oven and the type of squash - my delicata squash finished roasting in 20 minutes, and the sweet dumpling squash was done in 30 minutes {I roasted them in separate pans}.

2) While the squash is roasting, boil the apple chicken sausage for 25 minutes. Remove carefully from the water, and saute in a teaspoon of olive oil on medium-low for 10 minutes.

3) Finely chop the shallot and garlic and saute in 1 T. of olive oil and the butter for one minute. Add the spinach and let it wilt on low heat - stir when needed. 

4) Cut the chicken sausage into small pieces. Once the spinach has wilted, mix in the chicken sausage and roasted squash.

5) Roll out the pie crust and cut circles {I used a cookie cutter} to your desired empanada size. It works best if you roll out the crust a bit thinner than it comes in the package. Otherwise the crust may overwhelm the taste of the filling.

6) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put 2-3 Tablespoons of filling in the middle of a dough circle. Cover with another dough circle and pinch the empanada shut at the edges. Brush egg wash on the top of each empanada.

7) Bake for 10 minutes. The empanadas are ready when the crust is browned on the bottom and slightly browned on the top. This recipe makes ~12 empanadas, depending on the size of your dough circles.

PS: Use marinara sauce for dipping!

{Adapted from All Recipes - Squash and Kohlrabi Empanadas}

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Winter Running Challenge.

    I have been thinking about how to find motivation to run and workout in the winter. I realize it won't technically be winter for quite awhile, but it is 31 degrees this morning in Chicago - that counts for me! It's so easy to stay home and cozy when it's dark outside when you get up, and dark soon after you get home.

    The goal is to run 100 miles between today and New Years Eve - it's hard to believe that's only ten weeks away. This is a very manageable 10 miles per week, and I hope will work off at least a handful of the holiday cookies I'll be eating. Once we get any type of snow on the ground {shudder}, I have a feeling these miles will be logged on the treadmill.

    Comment if you would like to join me here, or track this yourself! I'll be posting progress every Tuesday and using the app Map My Run.

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    Farmers market photos.

    The outdoor farmers markets end in Chicago either this week or next, so this morning I was determined to fit in one last visit. It was brisk and sunny and the produce was absolutely gorgeous! We haven't had a hard freeze here yet, but I was still surprised to see tomatoes and lettuce for sale.

    We visited the Logan Square Farmers Market today, which is my favorite in the city. I am especially excited about the stalk of brussels sprouts I picked up this morning - to use in a salad experiment that {hopefully} will be shared later this week. I also could not stop staring at the dahlia bouquets - I wanted to buy enough to put in every room. They would make beautiful flower arrangements for a fall wedding!

    Friday, October 18, 2013

    Challenge complete + pumpkin pie smoothie.

    The Merrell Feel Your Run Challenge ended this week. I joined through one of my favorite phone apps, Map My Run. The challenge was to log 30 runs {or walks/hikes} in 45 days, between September 2 and October 17. The time period had to be a minimum of 15 minutes, and you could only log once per day.

    Stats: Completed, with 30 logs!
    • Ran 50.27 miles
    • Walked 36.94 miles
    • Lost 2.2 pounds
    This challenge was definitely a great motivation to try logging as many days as possible. I wish I would have run more, but getting a cold and an injury pushed things back to walking more than I had hoped. My plan is to do something similar for the holiday season, even if I have to create the challenge myself - stay tuned.

    On another healthy note, I keep seeing versions of pumpkin smoothies on Pinterest and have been thinking about how I would make one myself. I tried this a few different ways and think I figured out my preference last night for a healthy smoothie with strong pumpkin flavor! This would make a great breakfast or light lunch.

    Healthy Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
    4 ice cubes
    1 banana, sliced
    1/2 cup pumpkin puree {not pumpkin pie filling}
    1/2 cup almond milk
    1/2 cup 0% greek yogurt {pumpkin flavored if you can get it!}
    3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla

    You can easily sub out the milk in this recipe for a different type, or sub a different flavor of yogurt - vanilla would work well. This is the Trader Joe's version of pumpkin greek yogurt that I love:

    Yum. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    Turkey porter chili.

    I have been making a version of my mom's chili recipe for years. She wrote it down for me on a scrap of paper while I was in law school - a crumpled page that I still have floating around in my spice cupboard. I have this recipe memorized by now, but I like to switch things up by updating the ingredients once in awhile. This particular version has a special ingredient and makes a bigger batch of chili - it fed my husband and I for two dinners, and left me with enough for three lunches during the week.


    Turkey Porter Chili
    3/4 pound lean ground turkey
    1 yellow onion, chopped
    1 can diced tomatoes with garlic
    1 can diced tomatoes with onion
    1 can light red kidney beans
    1 can chili beans in medium sauce
    2 cans tomato sauce 
    1 dark {porter} beer
    2 bay leaves
    Chili powder, to taste
    Red pepper, to taste

    How to: Chop and saute the onion and ground turkey in 1 tablespoon olive oil until browned. Chop the meat up into small pieces while it cooks. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans, and bay leaves. Stir everything up and add chili powder and red pepper to taste. I tend to use generous amounts of both and add the spices again while the chili is cooking.

    Also, make sure not to forget the special ingredient: one Vanilla Porter beer from Breckenridge Brewery. I really like the flavor that a dark beer with a bit of sweetness adds to the chili! 

    After pouring in the beer, turn the heat up and let the chili come to a boil. Stir a few times, put a lid on and cook on low for 1.5 - 2 hours. I prefer the longer cooking time because it brings the flavors together well. Stir a few times every hour and add more spices to taste if needed!

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Monday Motivation #4.

    Happy Monday! We had a beautiful weekend here, with lots of sun and time outside. I took several long walks, rode a Divvy bike for the first time to the farmers market {it was great!}, and watched a dear friend finish the Chicago Marathon.

    Here are a few things motivating me this week:

    I have three squash in my kitchen right now with more to come. Planning to test out a few of these healthy recipes: 17 Clean-Eating Recipes with Squash {via Pinterest, from skinny ms.}


    Holding a plank for a period of time is my most hated workout move. I'm hoping trying something like this, involving movement, helps me get over it. {via Pinterest, from Eat Clean Make Changes}

    Everywhere I turn there is a new pumpkin spice recipe. How is it this is the first time I have heard about Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispie Bars? Someone have a party so I can bring these over. {via Pinterest, from the Kitchn}

    I didn't have a very good week of running last week. I took my weekly workout class on Tuesday, which left me SO sore I couldn't even attempt to run until Friday. Here's to a better week of miles this week. {via Pinterest, from tumblr}

    Now that it's dark in the morning when I get up, AND soon after I get home from work, I'm going to do my best to accept the treadmill. {via Pinterest, from TheSparkPeople blog}

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Windy City Nights.

    This is my favorite place to take visitors - the bar at the top of the John Hancock Center building. {PS: it's free to go up as long as you buy a dessert or drink! This is half the cost of going to the observatory. I love a deal.}

    I watched a video last night posted on Huffington Post with beautiful evening shots of Chicago's city lights. It's a "time lapse" project by Max Wilson, who took these shots of Chicago at night over two years. I am still impressed every day by the architecture downtown, especially the sparkling lights of this city at night.

    Windy City Nights:

    {Credit: Huffington Post}

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    Salsa chicken bowls.

    I love tacos in any form, especially because it's a reason to cook with avocado and cilantro - two things I could eat daily if it wasn't ridiculous. Last year I made a version of Salsa Chicken for the first time in the slow cooker, and it was so easy and tasty it has turned into a regular weekday dinner for us ever since.

    I adapted this recipe to take out a few ingredients, and usually make it in the oven instead of the slow cooker:

    Salsa Chicken Bowls
    1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    3/4 jar of your favorite salsa
    1 jar black beans
    1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
    1/2 an avocado, chopped
    2 tablespoons cilantro, torn or chopped
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper

    How to: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour the salsa over the chicken and mix. Bake for 25-30 minutes if chicken is thawed; add 5-10 minutes if frozen. While the chicken is baking, heat your black beans and cherry tomatoes on medium low.

    Notice how there are very little 'extras' in this recipe? My favorite thing on a busy night. I don't think leaving most of the spices out affects the taste at all, and leaving out salt and taco seasoning makes this much healthier. The flavor you get from cooking the chicken in salsa really brings things together.

    I paired my dinner with roasted vegetables {brussel sprouts and cauliflower} and mixed everything up, but for my husband I made a smaller version of cilantro lime rice from Iowa Girl Eats awesome recipe:

    For this dinner, I cooked 1/2 cup of jasmine rice and mixed in 1/2 a squeezed lime, several torn bunches of cilantro, and a slender pat of butter once it was done cooking.

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Monday Motivation #3.

    It's a chilly Monday in Chicago this morning - we made the mistake of leaving a few windows cracked and woke up with 60 degrees on the thermostat. Here's to a warm morning!

    A great reminder - using this as motivation to run this week. {via Pinterest, from Designspiration.}

    My pumpkin obsession is never-ending. I probably shouldn't be eating 25 pumpkin desserts this fall - I think I can squeeze in five. {via Pinterest, from BuzzFeed Food}

    We only have a few weeks left of our CSA - using this list to figure out new and interesting ways to use everything up. {via Pinterest, from BuzzFeed}

    A new way to make spaghetti squash - love the southwest twist, especially the addition of cilantro. {via Pinterest, from The Comfort of Cooking}

    How beautiful are these pumpkin pie cookies? I do not have the patience to re-create {or let's be honest, the skill} but I would definitely eat a few if given the chance! {via Pinterest, from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle}

    Thursday, October 3, 2013

    All the pumpkin.

    I discovered two amazing, new things {to me at least} this week:

    1) Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Tea from Trader Joe's.

    Officially obsessed. I mixed things up by adding a bag of this tea to my coffee at work instead of using this the normal way. I highly recommend it! It's a strong tea so you only need to leave the tea sachet in your coffee for about one minute. I always use one raw sugar packet and a splash of milk and half-and-half in my coffee too. I realized this year that the PSL is a bit too sugary for me. This is an easy and inexpensive alternative! 

    2) The Pump-Quinoa Treat from Protein Bar.

    I love this lunch place. There is one near my work and I visit it far too often. My usual is a quinoa bowl or a blueberry protein smoothie, but this week I discovered there is a new seasonal pumpkin protein smoothie, made of pumpkin, quinoa, banana, petitas, and more! Bliss.

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    October goals.

    {Image via we heart it}

    I'm still waiting for the leaves to change, and I'm not quite ready for them to fall, but my favorite month is here right on time. I can hardly believe that last October was the month we chose and booked our wedding venue - the last 12 months seem to have flown by. Although I am happy that this year my fall schedule is much more open without wedding planning!

    Here are a few goals I would love to accomplish this month:

    1) Get outside - go on more bike rides, walks, and runs before daylight savings creeps in.
    2) Run 50 miles.
    3) Finish losing 5 pounds.
    4) Find and attend as many fall festivals as possible.
    5) Try a few pumpkin beers before the season ends - especially Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head Craft Brewing {this review from The Kitchn sold me!}