Friday, March 28, 2014

PB2 Fruit Dip.

This two ingredient recipe for PB2 Fruit Dip makes a healthy snack and is ready in under 5 minutes!

This post contains affiliate links.

Happy Friday! I'm excited for the weekend, especially because the weatherman says it may reach 60 degrees on Sunday. It also happens to be my first race of the year, the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. This probably won't my best race because I came down with a cold on Monday, meaning I have been pounding Airborne fizzy water like it's my job. I skipped two runs earlier in the week in an effort to ward off getting sicker, so the 6 Week Endurance Challenge did not end as strongly as I hoped.

Here is my update for the final two weeks:

Week 5
Sunday: Ran 3.1 miles {intervals}; calisthenics
Tuesday: Ran 5.6 miles {maintenance}
Thursday: Ran 7 miles {long run}

Week 6
Tuesday: Sculpt Class
Friday: Ran 4 miles {maintenance}

I'm running the race this weekend with a friend, and we are meeting our significant others afterwards for brunch. No matter how it goes, I'm thrilled that race season is here - especially because it has to mean that summer is on its way! Well, maybe spring first. Thanks to Trader Joe's for growing beautiful daffodils somewhere since the greenery has yet to peek out in my neighborhood:

I also have a healthy fruit dip recipe to share that you have to make as soon as possible. I swear this tastes like peanut butter cheesecake, but with only two ingredients - greek yogurt and PB2. You can also use Chocolate PB2 for a sweeter flavor. I had this for a snack today and and it will definitely be a repeat recipe!

PB2 Fruit Dip
Serves one.

1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons PB2

How to~
Stir powdered PB2 with Greek yogurt until combined. Serve as a dip with your favorite fruit.

I used strawberries and banana slices - I think I'll pair this with ginger cookies next time for a health{ier} dessert!

Affiliate link:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Bake with Chicken & Tomatoes.

I have been holding out on sharing this recipe because I am so excited about it, even though it might not look that delicious... bland-colored food is tough to photograph! It involves the lovely pale yellow spaghetti squash.

K and I have been eating a lot of spaghetti squash over the past winter and fall {can I say past yet about winter? It was 25 degrees yesterday}. For awhile it was only using recipes for an actual spaghetti substitute, like the Iowa Girl Eats recipe for Low-Carb Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs. Then we moved on to more exotic recipes, like Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai from A Couple Cooks {delicious, you have to try it!}

I find spaghetti squash to be my favorite alternative to rice or pasta, if that's your jam. I'm not anti rice or pasta, but it's nice to mix things up sometimes. Recently I was looking up the history of squash in a search for recipes, and found out it is considered to be one of the first foods cultivated by Native Americans. Also, it is a fruit, not a vegetable. Who knew?

This particular recipe uses one of my favorite Irish cheeses, and it was my first time tasting the Blarney Castle style of cheese. It did not disappoint!

You can definitely use pre-shredded cheese in this recipe instead, but I think fresh shredded works best because of the melting factor. That's a scientific term.

Spaghetti Squash Bake with Chicken & Tomatoes
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 cup grape tomatoes {sliced}
1 cup shredded chicken {I used rotisserie}
1 yellow onion {chopped}
2 cloves garlic {minced}
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 2 teaspoons
2 Tablespoons corn starch
1 cup skim milk
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup bread crumbs
Dash of salt and black pepper

How to~
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the spaghetti squash by slicing it in half and removing the seeds. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.
  • Roast the spaghetti squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet for ~45 minutes to 1 hour. {The required time depends on the size of the squash/heat of your oven. I check mine at 30 minutes and every 5-10 minutes thereafter}.
  • When the squash is done roasting, use a fork to remove the flesh and set it aside.
  • Heat a saute pan and add olive oil. Saute chopped garlic and onion for ~3 minutes on medium, stirring occasionally. Add cornstarch and stir.
  • While the garlic/onion is cooking, shred cheese and slice tomatoes in half. 
  • Add chicken broth and milk to the saute pan and increase the heat, whisking occasionally for 3 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken. Add 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and salt, to taste.
  • Remove sauce from heat and stir in cheese until melted, about one minute.
  • Stir in squash, peas, sliced tomatoes, and shredded chicken. Add to baking dish and top with 1/3 cup bread crumbs.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for ~20 minutes.

{Adapted from Baked Spaghetti Squash and Cheese by Gina's Skinny Recipes}

Friday, March 21, 2014

Interval running update + Week 4 Endurance Challenge.

I have never been a fast runner. I joined the cross-country and track teams in high school because they were sports I could participate in that didn't involve coordination {not much at least}, or a ball.  One of my most vivid memories from my seventh grade year is running to shoot a basketball to the other team's basket during a game, and being so excited that no one was trailing me. See, I can't even use proper basketball terms...

I grew up in a small community, meaning *everyone* makes the team in sports. As a team runner, I was not winning any races. A few good friends were equally uncoordinated and we happily ran JV together, snacking on what someone's mom packed for us after the race. We bonded over terribly hot summer runs for cross-country and scary spring storms during track meets.

I kept running for fun in college {slowly}, doing an occasional 5k, and today I have run many races for fun and fitness motivation - two half marathons, three 10-mile races, and countless smaller ones. I generally run at least a 10:30 min/mile or slower, especially in longer races. But, this winter I have been trying to increase my speed by running treadmill intervals frequently. I did a longer run earlier this week outside, and the interval training and 6 Week Endurance Challenge seems to be working! I finished 5.6 miles at a 9:55 minute/mile pace, and felt it was a comfortable speed. This is something I have never done before, and I could have pushed a lot harder. Apparently I should have been interval training all along.

Here are a few of my favorite {treadmill} workouts that have helped with speed:
40 Minute Interval Treadmill Workout
Triangle 4-to-1 Treadmill Run
6-5-4-3 Treadmill Workout
Increasing Speed Treadmill Workout
6 Mile Treadmill Run

Also, I'm finishing week 5 of the endurance challenge, but here is an update from last week:

Week 4
Sunday~ Ran 3.5 {intervals}
Tuesday~ Sculpt Class
Wednesday~ Ran 5 {maintenance}
Friday~ Ran 6 {long run}

Finally, a few recent motivation favorites from Pinterest for your Friday ~ have a great weekend!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The green river.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Everyone can be Irish for one day, right? I have no Irish blood in me, but I can still find wisdom in a few Irish Proverbs {the cow one is my favorite}:

Is fearr lán doirn de cheird ná lán mála d’ór.
A handful of skill is better than a bagful of gold.

Is fearr bothán biamhar ná caisleán gortach.
A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle.

Bíonn chuile dhuine lách go dtéann bó ina gharraí.
Everyone is sociable until a cow invades his garden.

 {A green fountain at Daley Plaza}

The annual dye {dying? dyeing?} of the Chicago River happened on Saturday morning. K and I were at his friends' annual party {yes, in the morning} so we missed it, but I love the ridiculousness of this tradition that dates way back. You can find the history in Chicago Magazine - Why Does Chicago Dye the River Green for St. Patrick's Day? I'll give you a hint - it started for a reason, to catch people polluting waste illegally into the river. A special dye was used that turned illegal spots green.

Aren't these photos gorgeous?

{Image via Voices, the home of the Chicago Sun-Times blogs}

{Images via Voices, the home of the Chicago Sun-Times blogs}

Hope you had a great Monday and didn't get pinched.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Brunch at Public House (a review).

If you are in the city and thinking about brunch on a weekend coming up, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest Public House in River North. Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a Chicago Food Bloggers event to taste a sampling of the restaurant's brunch menu options. I have been to Public House a few times for dinner and drinks after work, but had never tried their brunch before. I'll definitely be back!

Executive Chef Jeremy Tannehill introduced the menu items we would be tasting, and explained why we were there - he aims for Public House "to be known as more than just a bar" and wanted to showcase the brunch and house-made meats. Public House has been open since 2010 and everything served is made from scratch, with the exception of ketchup and mayo. All meats are prepared in-house, including the pork sausage, maple bacon, and turkey sausage that was available for the tasting. I admit I am not a meat connoisseur, but the samples I tried were tasty. Our brunch included smaller versions of a number of brunch options; you can find the full brunch menu online.

My sweets plate, from the top ~ Parfait Pint with greek yogurt, Sticky Cinnamon Bun, and Donut Fried French Toast:

The Sticky Bun was my absolute favorite. It tasted just like my mother's caramel rolls, but with even more sauce {vanilla butter cream, more please} and pecans for extra garnish. I placed the Parfait as my third favorite, because it included really tasty granola with a bit of extra sweetness {maple syrup?}

The savory options I tried included the Crab Cake Benedict, and a Breakfast Sandwich with Maple Bacon:


Both were delicious, but the Benedict was my favorite. The crab cake was perfectly cooked and you could actually pick out crab pieces; I appreciated that it wasn't mushy. There was also a tiny poached egg on top for our small version of this brunch option, served in a mini cast iron skillet. Loved that. The breakfast sandwich came on a squishy, perfectly cooked sourdough boulet, with a tasty arugula salad included on top of the eggs and maple bacon.

The restaurant also brought out full serving examples to photograph, which was really fun and gives you an idea of what you will get if you try brunch on a regular day. Here are the full-size versions of my three favorites {clearly the Sticky Cinnamon Bun is meant to be shared!}:

Thank you to Public House* for the tasty eats and the experience!

{*I received a free brunch tasting (+ coffee!) through an invitation from Chicago Food Bloggers, but did not receive compensation for reviewing Public House. All opinions are my own.}

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Week 3 Endurance Challenge.

I haven't had much to say about running lately, despite the title of this blog! I think it's the gerbil-like quality of the treadmill(s) I have been running on. My 6 Week Endurance Running Challenge is now half over - unfortunately none of these runs have been outside yet. I have high hopes for this week though, and may try for a six mile run outdoors tomorrow if the snow/ice melts from the neighborhood sidewalks.

My first short race {5 miles} is coming up in only two weeks so I'm really trying to stick to the three-days-a-week running plan. I completed each of the required runs during week three of the challenge:

Week 3
Monday~ Ran 3.5 {intervals}
Wednesday~ Ran 4 {maintenance}
Thursday~ Sculpt Class
Friday~ Ran 4 {long run}

Even though I don't have a lot to say about running right, I do have things to share. Here are a few favorite articles about running I have pinned lately:

Also, obviously I need this. You know, to wear under my warm shirt outside:

{Found on Pinterest, via everfitte on Etsy}

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Green Tropics Smoothie + Green Food Favorites.

It's hard to believe it's already mid-March, given the chilly days recently. We had a lovely warm day yesterday (above 50!) but the forecast calls for 2-7 inches of snow later today. Despite that, I have had green smoothies on my mind - I can't get enough. Usually I drink the base green smoothie every day for breakfast, occasionally with frozen fruit thrown in instead of ice {strawberries are my favorite}.

Last week I found a new {to me} yogurt, Tarte Asian Yogurt, to use as a smoothie base. I picked up the mango-coconut flavor. This was also my first time using coconut water in a smoothie, instead of almond milk. The coconut flavor is subtle, but the mango really comes through. Try it!

Green Tropics Smoothie
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 container tropical-flavored yogurt {like mango-coconut!}
2 big handfuls spinach
3/4 cup coconut water

If you want a thicker smoothie, only use a 1/2 cup of coconut water. I tried it with both measurements, and realized I prefer a more thin smoothie.

I also have a few green recipes to share today since St. Patrick's Day is coming up. The recipe link and corresponding website are below each photo. I'd love to have all of these on my table to snack on.

Lucky Leprechuan Dip:
Recipe and photo from Healthy.Happy.Life.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread:
Recipe and photo from Let's Dish

Shamrock Macarons with Baileys Chocolate Ganache:

Recipe and photo from Raspberri Cupcakes 

Avocado and Black Sesame Sprinkle on Sourdough:
Recipe and photo from Daily Online, Gordon Ramsey.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Quinoa and Purple Sweet Potato Salad.

Happy Friday! I'm thrilled the temp is supposed to reach 40 degrees today {allegedly...} I'm excited for the weekend, especially to attend my first Chicago Food Bloggers event, a brunch showcase at Public House. I'll be reporting back next week.

Today, I have a new warm salad to share. A few months ago K and I tried purple sweet potatoes for the first time and I have to tell you, they are delicious. I can't get over how gorgeous they are sliced and roasted. Why did it take me so long to find these beauties?

Interestingly, I discovered this type of sweet potato has only been available since 2006. The potatoes are actually patented under the name Stokes Purple by a North Carolina sweet potato farmer. A woman gave him a basket of the purple potatoes and he grew them into a crop. Mysterious, right? I think most grocery stores carry the Stokes Purple these days, or you can buy online {<--affiliate link}.

Stokes Purple potatoes have a slightly different flavor than 'regular' sweet potatoes, and end up nice and crispy in the oven. My preferred way to eat these potatoes is to slice them into cubes and roast at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, with salt/pepper and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. I have been thinking about how to make a warm salad incorporating roasted purple potatoes for weeks, and it finally happened last night.

I paired the purple potatoes with a few of my favorite things - quinoa, arugula, grape tomatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, and avocado. The more the merrier in this bowl.

Quinoa and Purple Sweet Potato Salad
Serves two.

2 small purple sweet potatoes {Stokes Purple!}
2 handfuls arugula
1 cup grape tomatoes {sliced in half}
1 cup shredded chicken {I used rotisserie}
1 cup brussel sprouts {sliced into quarters}
1/3 cup dry quinoa
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 an avocado
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Lemon vinaigrette~
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Lemon zest
A few dashs salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

How to~ 
  • Cook quinoa according to package directions.
  • While quinoa is cooking, wash and cut the potatoes into cubes. Toss with 2 teaspoons oil and salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through.
  • Slice brussel sprouts into quarters. Toss with 2 teaspoons oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through.
  • Slice the tomatoes, shred the rotisserie chicken, and put into a bowl with arugula.
  • Prepare the lemon vinaigrette - whisk all ingredients until combined.
  • Add the quinoa, purple potatoes, and brussel sprouts and pour over the vinaigrette. 
  • Top each serving with 1/4 of an avocado, sliced.
{Vinaigrette adapted from a Martha Stewart Recipe}

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Minute Interval Workout + Week 2 Endurance Challenge.

Last night in celebration of Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras, K made us shrimp etouffe for dinner. I had a work event that ended later than expected, and was so happy to come home to delicious spicy smells from our kitchen. The etouffe was delicious and I highly recommend the linked recipe. He used two substitutes - extra shrimp instead of crawfish {though we love them!} and a cajun spice mix instead of seafood seasoning.

I didn't even think twice about trying to make my plate look pretty by cleaning up the extra sauce - I was too ready to eat!

On to fitness - this week started week three of the 6 Week Endurance Running Challenge. I completed each of the required runs during week two:

Week 2
Tuesday~ Ran 4 {maintenance}
Thursday~ Ran 3 {intervals}
Saturday~ Ran 5 {long run} 
I also have a 40 minute interval treadmill workout to share that I ran earlier this week, resulting in 3.5 miles. I am {slowly} trying to increase my interval speeds on the treadmill, which is why there is a one minute walking break during each interval cycle. In the spirit of Mardi Gras, the photo on this workout is one that I took while visiting New Orleans a few years ago. The unique and colorful homes are my second favorite thing about that city {food is number one!}

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mexican 8-Layer Dip.

Remember eating Mexican layer dip at family parties? My mom used to make it once in awhile, always with sliced iceberg lettuce and shredded cheddar cheese on top. Oh, and refried beans - and sour cream. You can't forget the sour cream.

My group of lady friends got together last night to watch the Oscars {for the dresses...} and I wanted to bring a hearty dip to go with our wine. It was Sunday fun-day you know. I debated calling this a "health-ified" dip but really, there is an entire bag of cheese in it. And a huge {delicious} container of guac.

Here is the dip cast of characters {minus the salsa and tomato...}:

The "healthy" part comes from using greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I whisked the greek yogurt with the juice of 1/2 a squeezed lime and added a bit of salt, and it turned into the perfect, creamy sour-cream like consistency. I swear you couldn't taste the difference! I love the tang from greek yogurt. Also, I bought already prepared guac from the grocery store and it was amazing. Completely worth the time save. However, if you are making your own, I estimate you will need at least four avocados for this. The bigger pan the better!

Mexican 8-Layer Dip
1 bag shredded cheese {Mexican-blend - two bags are pictured, but I only needed one!}
1 can refried beans
1 can black beans
1 jar salsa {16 ounces}
1 container 0% greek yogurt {6 ounces}
1/2 cup corn
guacamole {4-5 avocados worth}
4 stalks green onions
1 roma tomato
1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Layer 1 ~ Refried beans
Layer 2 ~ Greek yogurt whisked with squeezed lime juice + dash of salt
Layer 3 ~ Shredded cheese
Layer 4 ~ Salsa
Layer 5 ~ Black beans {drained} + corn + chili powder + cumin
Layer 6 ~ Guacamole
Layer 7 ~ Shredded cheese
Layer 8 ~ Chopped green onions + tomato

Refrigerate until ready to eat! With tortilla chips of course.

{Adapted from Light Seven Layer Dip from Ezra Poundcake}