Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Final Winter Running Challenge + Increasing Speed Treadmill Workout.

Happy New Years Eve! Today marks the end of the Winter Running Challenge that I set for myself back in October. I squeaked by and made it, running 100 miles in 10 weeks! I had grand plans to get up early and run this morning before work, surpassing the goal. But, it's currently 3 degrees outside and I have been fighting off a bad cold {and running through it for the past few days} so I decided to give myself a break.

Chicago had beautiful, spring-like weather on Saturday, reaching the upper 40's. K and I went on a long run/walk in an attempt to fight off my cold with fresh air - I only ran about half of it, but I'm counting the full distance for effort.

Completing this challenge resulted in a much higher comfort level with treadmill running for me, and the ability to run faster too - approximately 0.5 mpr faster than I could in October. I'll count that as a win. Here are the final stats:

Winter Running Challenge Log: Week 10
Saturday: Ran/walked 4.7 miles {outside}
Sunday: Ran 4.5 miles {treadmill}
Monday: Ran 3.8 miles {treadmill}
= 13 miles
Week 9 = 11.5 miles
Week 8 = 13.5 miles
Week 7 = 8 miles
Week 6 = 11.55 miles
Week 5 = 14 miles
Week 4 = 0 miles
Week 3 = 14 miles
Week 2 = 11.35 miles
Week 1 = 3.1 miles
100 miles ~ 100% to goal

This is the last run I completed on the treadmill for the challenge, and it's a quick and fast workout. I ended this cycle of two by sprinting for 3 minutes, starting at 6.0 and ending at 6.5 mpr.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chipotle Chicken & White Bean Soup.

We have some very cold weather on the way to Chicago tonight and over the next few days, and it motivated me to test making a new hearty soup this afternoon.

This fall and winter, I have saved numerous recipes using chipotle peppers, yet haven't pulled the trigger on making one - until today. This soup recipe looks like it has quite a long list of ingredients, but I promise it's worth it and comes together quickly once the vegetables are chopped! It's not too spicy, but has a nice kick from the chipotle pepper and adobo sauce. This would be excellent paired with tortilla strips or chips as well!

Chipotle Chicken & White Bean Soup.
Serves 4-6.

For the shredded chicken:
1 and 1/4 pounds lean, boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3/4 cup chicken broth

For the soup:
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions
5 cloves garlic
2 carrots {chopped}
2 celery stalks {chopped}
6 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 chipotle chile {minced}
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
3 medium red potatoes {cubed}
1 can cannellini beans {rinsed and drained}
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup grape tomatoes {chopped}

For the topping:
1/2 cup cilantro {chopped}
1/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1 avocado

Step 1 ~ Make shredded chicken in the crockpot.
  • Add chicken {mine was fresh, not frozen}, chicken broth, oregano, and black pepper to a crockpot. Cook on high for 2 hours.
  • Once the chicken is done, shred carefully with two forks. Turn the crockpot off, but keep the chicken in the pot and set aside.
Step 2 ~ Prepare and chop vegetables and potatoes.
  • Chop onions, carrots,  and celery. Mince garlic and chipotle pepper, removing the seeds. Set aside.
  • Wash and chop potatoes into cubes. Set aside.
Step 3 ~ Saute vegetables and cook potatoes and beans.
  • Add extra virgin olive oil to a Dutch oven or large soup pot on medium heat. Saute garlic for a few minutes, just until it starts to brown. Add all of the vegetables and herbs and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally: chipotle pepper, onion, celery, carrot, cumin, thyme, salt, and black pepper. 
  • Add the chicken broth and bring soup to a boil. Stir in potatoes and beans and turn the heat down to medium to simmer {without the lid} for 30 minutes. 
  • Add the shredded chicken and continue to simmer the soup {covered this time} for 10 minutes.
  • Add the half and half, and let the soup simmer for 5 more minutes.
Step 4 ~ Add everything else!
  • Turn off the heat. Add chopped tomatoes and adobo sauce - stir well and let the soup sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Top each bowl with avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro, and wedges of lime. We squeezed 1/4 of a lime per bowl, and it was the perfect amount.
{Slightly adapted from Chipotle Chicken Chowder on Tracey's Culinary Adventures}

Saturday, December 28, 2013

12 Books in 2014.

I love the idea of a fresh start in the new year - a clean slate, a reason to set goals, a way to rejuvenate after a decadent holiday season. I usually make new year resolutions, but tend to forget them. My resolutions over the years have been too general, like run more, lose 10 pounds, and quit drinking Diet Coke. I have learned that in making goals, I need something specific to focus on. For example, better resolutions would be: run 35 miles per month, lose 10 pounds by March 31, and drink sparkling water instead of Diet Coke.

{Image via we heart it}

I have a few resolutions to share over the next week, the first being to read 12 books in 2014. Last winter I spent most of my free time planning our wedding and I fell behind on reading. I recently created a list of books I want to read, and realized as the list grew longer that I wish I took the time to read more often.

I ride public transportation for close to an hour every weekday {going to and from work}, and far too much of that time is spent perusing Facebook or reading the news on my phone. This time would be much better spent with a good book. There is an interesting Huffington Post article on 7 Unconventional Reasons Why You Absolutely Should Be Reading Books, including to strengthen your brain, sleep better, and increase empathy for others.

Here is my list for the year:

{Images via Amazon}

The Dinner ~ Herman Koch
The Circle ~ Dave Eggers
The Glass Castle ~ Jeanette Walls
The Art of Fielding ~ Chad Harbach
Yes, Chef: A Memoir ~ Marcus Samuelsson
Me Before You ~ JoJo Moyes
Dark Places ~ Gillian Flynn
I Feel Bad About My Neck ~ Nora Ephron
Duplex ~ Kathryn Davis
David and Goliath ~ Malcolm Gladwell
Born to Run ~ Christopher McDougall
The Fault in Our Stars ~ John Green

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

5-4-3 Treadmill Workout + Update on Week 9 Challenge.

Merry Christmas Eve! If you celebrate, I hope you are enjoying a wonderful week with family and friends. It is cold cold here in the Midwest!

I did this 5-4-3 workout on the treadmill earlier this week, at a 0.5% incline. I walked for 2 minutes at 3.1 mpr to warm up, then walked 2 minutes between each interval (after the 5 minute intervals were finished, after the 4 minute intervals, etc.) and at the end. Including the walking, I ended up at over 4.1 miles total:

Since it's almost the end of the year, the Winter Running Challenge is also wrapping up. I have 13 miles to run in during week 10, the final week of tracking. My last day of this challenge is New Years Eve. It's time to think up something for January!

Winter Running Challenge Log: Week 9
Tuesday: Ran 3.5 miles {treadmill}
Sunday: Ran 4 miles {treadmill}
Monday: Ran 4 miles {treadmill}
= 11.5 miles
Week 8 = 13.5 miles
Week 7 = 8 miles
Week 6 = 11.55 miles
Week 5 = 14 miles
Week 4 = 0 miles
Week 3 = 14 miles
Week 2 = 11.35 miles
Week 1 = 3.1 miles
 87 miles ~ 87% to goal

Friday, December 20, 2013

Favorite Lists.

I love end-of-the-year lists. As a kid, I remember listening carefully every New Years Eve to the Casey Kasem countdown for the best songs of the year. There was quite a build up to the announcement of each song's place, ending with playing it and moving on to the next number.

I'm also a daily and weekly list-maker these days - thank goodness for the notes app on my phone. I blame this on the fact that I'm starting to forget things at the ripe age of 30.

Now that the year is coming to an end, I have been bookmarking lists as I find them on Pinterest, and come across them randomly online.

{via Mirte on we heart it}

Here are my favorites:

100 Notable Books of 2013
~ New York Times

2013 Gear of the Year ~ Runner's World

Chicago Top Food Blogs ~ urbanspoon

20 Great Playlists for Running ~ Runner's World

64 Best Health and Fitness Apps of 2013 ~ Greatist

20 Best Lists of 2013 ~ Rolling Stone

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Week 8 Challenge Update + 6 Mile Treadmill Run.

I have to share this crazy ice photo of the Chicago River that I took on my way home from work last night {please excuse the poor phone quality}:

Today is also the end of week 8 of the challenge! I am just over 75% to goal. I have a few holiday events to attend this week in the evenings and I am leaving town to visit family on Friday night, but I am planning to squeeze in a few runs and I think some Christmas treadmill-ing at my parents' house will definitely happen.

Winter Running Challenge Log: Week 8
Tuesday: Ran 3.5 miles {treadmill}
Wednesday: Ran 6 miles {treadmill}
Thursday: Sculpt Class
Monday: Ran 4 miles {treadmill}
= 13.5 miles
Week 7 = 8 miles
Week 6 = 11.55 miles
Week 5 = 14 miles
Week 4 = 0 miles
Week 3 = 14 miles
Week 2 = 11.35 miles
Week 1 = 3.1 miles
 75.5 miles ~ 75.5% to goal

One of my goals during week 8 was to complete a six mile run on the treadmill. I finished it with the decreasing interval run below. Keeping track of the minutes completed during each cycle made this workout fly by.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Winter Quinoa Salad.

It's hard to believe there are only ten days left until Christmas! Last night we went downtown with friends to the Christkindlmarket Chicago for the annual mulled wine drinking and huge Christmas tree viewing:

It is a traditional German Christmas market that is open from Thanksgiving week to Christmas Eve. I have never seen the market so packed as it was this weekend! Perhaps it was reaching a balmy 30 degrees {up from 0 earlier this week} that pushed people out and about. We made it through one ornament house, finished our spiced wine and booked it out of there. Still, I managed to take a few photos of my favorites:

I also made a quinoa salad this weekend with cranberries and leftover shredded chicken, and it is worth sharing:

Winter Quinoa Salad
Serves 4.

2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry quinoa
4 teaspoons grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup brussel sprouts, halved
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded chicken {I used leftover rotisserie chicken}

How to~
  • Peel, clean, and cube a butternut squash. {I used only half a squash for this recipe - the rest should store well in the refrigerator for close to a week!}
  • Rinse quinoa with a collandar. Bring chicken broth and quinoa to a boil. Simmer on low for ~20 minutes, until liquid evaporates and quinoa is fluffy.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss brussel sprouts with 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss butternut squash cubes with 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Roast butternut squash and brussel sprouts for 25 minutes at 375. Shake or stir each pan twice for even roasting.
  • Stir together quinoa, roasted squash and brussel sprouts, chicken, and cranberries. Toss with your favorite dressing - I used Martha Stewart's Maple Vinaigrette!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nutella Chocolate Cookies.

Nutella is one of those things I can't keep in my cupboard on a regular basis. I have too many moments of weakness with a spoon. However, I have a favorite cookie recipe using Nutella that I try to make every year for the holidays. Since Chicago saw its first "big" snow earlier this week {3 inches!}, and another storm yesterday, it was time. Make this recipe for Nutella Chocolate Cookies for your favorite chocolate & hazelnut loving friend this holiday season!

This recipe uses an entire jar of Nutella {thanks to saving a bit for frosting}, so I've got nothing leftover to sneak bites of. Well, except for the cookies!

{via essie on we heart it}

I aimed to make this cookie recipe slightly healthier this year by adding whole wheat flour, omitting the extra sugar, and reducing the amount of butter used. There is plenty of sugar and fat in the Nutella to make up for these modifications.

I looked into how to sub whole wheat flour for white - Better Homes & Gardens suggests substituting 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of all purpose white flour while baking cookies. They also suggest reducing the butter by 20%. I followed the whole wheat flour suggestion and reduced the butter by about 15%. It worked well!

This recipe makes a slightly crisp cookie with a strong Nutella flavor. These cookies don't need frosting, but it's the holidays, right? I found a huge list of delicious-sounding Nutella icing recipe options on Yummly. Or you can do what I did, and use a small amount of Nutella on each cookie instead.

Topped with crushed candy canes of course.

Nutella Chocolate Cookies
Yields: 42 small cookies.

3/4 cup all-purpose white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup Nutella
7 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teapoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella per cookie
1/3 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes

How to~ 
1) Stir flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
2) Cream together Nutella and butter with a mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract.
3) Beat in the flour mixture on low speed in 3-4 batches, just until the dough forms.
4) Form dough into a long roll and cover with wax paper. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight.
5) After refrigerating, cut dough into thin slices (about 1/4" each) and rolls into balls. Flatten each cookie ball slightly with a glass and bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

Affiliate link:

{Adapted from Nutella Cookies - Vegetarian Times}

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Week 7 Challenge Update + Eataly visit.

Last week I wrote that the weather was 'oddly warm' and it was hard to feel the holiday spirit. Well, I am definitely feeling it today because I woke up this morning to a 3 degree actual temperature and a -10 below wind chill. Yikes! Stay warm today if you are nearby.

On Sunday afternoon, K and I visited the new Eataly downtown. It is a huge, beautiful {over 60,000 square feet} Italian market and collection of restaurants, with any specialty Italian item you could dream of. There is a fresh pasta bar, a Nutella bar, many restaurants, a brewery, and fresh fish, meat, and cheese for what seems like miles. We didn't want to wait to be seated at a restaurant, so we wandered for close to two hours and tried several different things. Pizza, proscuitto, lemon soda, fresh mozzarella on a baguette, etc.

There are close to twenty Eataly markets in Europe and Asia, and one in New York City. We can thank Mario Batali for bringing this to the U.S. We didn't bring any market items home because we had Christmas presents to carry from earlier in the day, but we picked out many things to pick up next time. Eataly, we will be back! Maybe when the excitement dies down a bit - the market had 120,000 visitors last week after opening and had to close yesterday to re-stock. Chicagoans like their food.

I definitely need to run extra miles this week to make up for the delicious weekend - and today is the end of week 7 of the Winter Running Challenge. I'm still eight miles behind, but I have a plan to make up for it during week 8. This challenge has been a great motivation for winter running so far, and I am getting used to {and enjoying for once in my life} treadmill running.

Winter Running Challenge Log: Week 7
Tuesday: Sculpt Class
Thursday: Ran 4 miles {treadmill}
Saturday: Ran 4 miles {treadmill}
= 8 miles
Week 6 = 11.55 miles
Week 5 = 14 miles
Week 4 = 0 miles
Week 3 = 14 miles
Week 2 = 11.35 miles
Week 1 = 3.1 miles
 62 miles ~ 62% to goal

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pomegranate Chicken Salad.

A Saturday morning trip to Costco left my husband and I with this beautiful box:

My husband {K} eats a pomegranate every week on salads he takes to work, and we couldn't resist this deal - only $6.99. We justified having this box on our kitchen counter by deciding to think of other ways to use the delicious seeds over the next few weeks. A deal on a rotisserie chicken made me think of subbing the grapes you sometimes find mixed in chicken salad with pomegranates!

We made this into sandwiches for lunch and have plenty of leftovers for the next few days. K usually works late during the week so we rarely get to cook together - he is an excellent chopper and seeder of pomegranate so I'll give him credit for this recipe coming together so well. Hope you enjoy! 

Pomegranate Chicken Salad
Makes 4+ sandwiches.

Ingredients ~
1 celery stalk
1/2 a white onion
3/4 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 a pomegranate, seeded
1 rotisserie chicken {I used only the breast / white meat}
3 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon reduced fat mayo {I used the type made with olive oil}
1/2 teaspoon seasoning {I used Paula Deen's House Seasoning, a mix of black pepper, salt, garlic, and onion powder}

How to ~
1) Finely chop celery and white onion, and place in a medium mixing bowl. Chop red cabbage to approximately 1/4 inch pieces.
2) Seed the pomegranate. Iowa Girl Eats has a wonderful explanation of how to seed in this post: How To Eat a Pomegranate.
3) Shred the rotisserie chicken and mix it with the celery, onion, red cabbage, and pomegranate. Add seasoning and mayo and mix until combined.

Friday, December 6, 2013

5 Mile Treadmill Run.

Happy Friday!

I started off the week with this treadmill workout, with the goal of reaching five miles and burning off at least one piece of pumpkin pie {maybe}. I can't remember the last time I ran a full five on a treadmill - it has been years! Thankfully it went by quickly with the help of HGTV and Pandora holiday stations. Yes, at the same time.

I also made one of my first holiday crafts this week - using Martha Stewart's Pinecone Wreath Step-by-Step Instructions. Making this wreath only cost $3, and it was so much fun. I used a single wreath form instead of double, and approximately 75 feet of floral wire. I left out adding a ribbon on the top and used copper wire instead. The pinecones came from my grandfather's yard and my parents' yard, foraged while home for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Week 6 Challenge Update + PB2 Maple Oats.

The holiday season is sneaking up on me! The weather is oddly warm this week and I'm not quite feeling the seasonal spirit yet. I did manage to finish a bit of online Christmas shopping over the past few days, and tonight we are getting our tree {a live one, cut fresh from the grocery store parking lot}.

I started the morning with a new favorite - PB2 Maple Oats:

You have got to try this - PB2 is a delicious pair with oatmeal. Here is the recipe:

PB2 Maple Oats
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup original almond milk
2 Tablespoons PB2
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 banana

How to: Mix the oats, almond milk, and PB2 in a bowl. Microwave for 2.5 minutes. Stir, and top with maple syrup and slices of banana!

It's also time to give a week 6 update on the Winter Running Challenge. There are only a few weeks left! I'm six miles behind keeping up with the goal.

Winter Running Challenge Log: Week 6
Thursday: Ran 2.35 miles {treadmill}
Friday: Ran 4.2 miles {treadmill}
Monday: Ran 5 miles {treadmill}
= 11.55 miles
Week 5 total = 14 miles
Week 4 total = 0 miles
Week 3 total = 14 miles
Week 2 total = 11.35 miles
Week 1 total= 3.1 miles
54 miles ~ 54% to goal

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Roasted Butternut Squash & Chickpea Salad.

I love the idea of a warm winter "salad." Something healthy but still hearty and filling, with no boring lettuce combinations or bottled dressings involved! I get stuck making too much pasta during winter months when motivation is lacking. For those types of days {and let's be honest, weeks} Food and Wine has an article including delicious photos of warm winter salads that I am adding to my list.

I made this warm farro salad as a side dish for Thanksgiving, but I think it makes a great vegetarian main dish too. I'm planning on mixing this recipe up over the next few months by using quinoa, cranberries, and different versions of squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Chickpea Salad
Serves 4 as a main dish, 8+ as a side.

1 butternut squash, cubed
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 can garbanzo beans
1 Tablespoon maple syrup {use Grade A or B if possible}
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup farro
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
3 cups spinach
3/4 cup tart dried cherries
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Step 1 ~ Prepare and roast the butternut squash.
  • Peel, cut and cube the butternut squash. Mix the cubes with 3 Tablespoons of melted butter and add the brown sugar. Stir until everything is distributed. This will 'carmelize' the squash while roasting.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes for even roasting.

Step 2 ~ Cook farro
  • Bring 2 cups vegetable broth and 1 cup farro to a boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. 
  • When most of the liquid has been absorbed, add the spinach and cover. Stir occasionally until wilted.

Step 3 ~ Roast the chickpeas and broccoli.
  • Rinse chickpeas thoroughly with water and pat dry with a towel.
  • Toss chickpeas with 1 Tablespoon maple syrup and a dash of salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, making sure the chickpeas are evenly spread. Stir every 10 minutes while roasting.
  • Toss the chopped broccoli with 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Stir once while roasting.

Step 4 - Prepare the dressing and mix.
  • For the dressing, whisk the following:
    • 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 Tablespoons spicy dijon mustard 
    • 4 teaspoons maple syrup
    • 2 teaspoon cider vinegar
    • Dash of salt and pepper
  • Mix the farro and spinach combination with the roasted broccoli, chickpeas, and dried cherries. Top with dressing and stir. Serve warm!

{Adapted from Farro and Pear Roasted Chickpea SaladIna Garten's Carmelized Butternut Squash recipe, and Martha Stewart's Fall Salad with Maple Vinaigrette}