Friday, April 25, 2014

Four Favorites.

Happy Friday! I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead. I am hoping to spend time outside with a few runs, including a 5 mile long run. I'm crossing my fingers that we get to fire up the grill at some point, even if the temp only tops out in the 50s. I'm also looking forward to Sunday ladies brunch plans and relaxing. K and I were out of town the past two weekends, and I had a few long nights for work this week due to travel.

In the meantime before the weekend officially begins, below is a list of my four favorite things this week. {I love reading favorite weekly posts from my blog list!}

I finally finished reading The Goldfinch this week, which was at the top of my list of books to read this year. It was perfect timing as the book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction a few days ago. I read the Kindle version on my phone app on the train to work, so it took me quite awhile to finish {*cough 3 months *cough}. Donna Tartt weaves an intricate story about a young boy's life after a tragedy and an object that complicates his life for many years.

{Image via Amazon}

Spring dessert:
I found this lovely sweet recipe on Pinterest this morning - Easy Blueberry Lemon Napolean Dessert, from she wears many hats. Cream cheese, lemon, blueberries, honey - this would be perfect for Mother's Day, or any weekend evening for that matter.

{Image via Pinterest, and she wears many hats}

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for one free race entry to a US 2014 Reebok Spartan Race! The giveaway ends tonight at 11:59pm. The founder of the Spartan Race, Joe De Sena, has a book coming out in May that I'm excited to read soon - Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life. The book is about achieving potential and De Sena's motivation in life: "commit to a goal, put in the work, and get it done." I'll be sharing a review and Q&A with De Sena in the next month.

{Image via Spartan Race; book information via Amazon}

K and I are planning a Europe trip this summer, and I've been looking for a small notebook to record the details of our travels. I think this Moleskine classic version is just the size I need. We are traveling to Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. I am most looking forward to celebrating our first wedding anniversary in Cinque Terre, and wine tasting in the Tuscany region. We will also be visiting friends and family on this trip, and it will be wonderful to have 'locals' to show us around.

{Image via Amazon}

{Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post. Thanks for your support!}

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Weekend recipes + Rosemary Roasted Vegetables.

This healthy recipe for Rosemary Roasted Vegetables includes chopped carrots, rutabega, turnip, and sweet potato and makes the perfect side dish to share.

I have been a bit slow to share recipes from the short holiday weekend, but it's better late than never! K and I visited my parents' farm in Iowa and had a wonderful few days hanging out with the family and spending time outdoors. I experimented with my camera after a morning rainstorm on Easter, and my favorite shots came from the searching bees.

We dined on new recipes from my mom, including Healthy Oat & Yogurt Fruit Pizza {with PB2, honey and yogurt!}, tofu chocolate pie similar to this recipe, made with homemade tofu, and breadcrumb sprinkled walleye.

I can't get over how beautiful the fruit turned out - bananas, strawberries, kiwi, and raspberries - just a few of my favorites.

I contributed a roasted root vegetable dish as a side, baked with rosemary. I make roasted vegetables several times a week, usually broccoli or brussel sprouts. If I had more time on weeknights, I would definitely add this mix to the rotation. Even though it's a simple recipe, it's too good not to share.

Rosemary Roasted Vegetables
Yields: 4 servings

1 rutabega
1 turnip
2 carrots
1 sweet potato
3 cloves garlic {minced}
1/2 white onion {chopped into large sections}
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt

How to~ 
*Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
*Chop vegetables + potatoes in even pieces, and toss with onions, olive oil, rosemary, black pepper, salt and garlic.
*Bake for ~50 minutes, stirring at 15 minute intervals.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Reebok Spartan Race - *Giveaway*

{This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering!}

I'm coming up on 100 posts on this blog very soon, and I thought it would be the perfect time to do a giveaway. I was contacted by the Reebok SPARTAN RACE a few weeks ago, which is an obstacle race event hosted all over the U.S. I am giving away one free race entry to any US 2014 Spartan Race of your choice!

All you have to do is comment on this post sharing your favorite race, and log in to the widget below. For a second entry, follow Chicago Jogger on Twitter and report it in the widget. A winner will be randomly selected next Friday, April 25th.

In the Midwest there are Spartan Races in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. There are races in many other states as well - check out the event location map. There are several different types of races you can register for, including the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles with 15+ obstacles), the Super Spartan (8+ miles with 20+ obstacles), the Spartan Beast (12+ miles with 25+ obstacles). There is also team racing available - find more information here.

This race series started with a Spartan Race event in Vermont in 2010. In 2012, Outside Magazine named Spartan Race the Best Obstacle Race. In early 2013, Spartan Race partnered with Reebok. Reebok recently released an All-Terrain Series shoe in partnership with the race series, including the option to create a custom shoe.

Spartan Race is described as "A unique culture and community of athletes striving together to overcome any and everything." Overcoming those obstacles may include a number of things - jumping over fire, carrying objects, climbing a wall, hopping tires, climbing a rope... and more. The idea of this race series is that it is unpredictable - runners do not receive a course map, and don't know exactly which obstacles are coming until the race begins. Learn more about the Spartan Race on the FAQ page.

If you don't win the giveaway, you can still get 15% off registration for a Spartan Race by clicking on this link. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{I was not compensated for this post. I was provided with a discount link and one race entry to give away to readers. Ensure that you are in top physical condition before signing up for any race.}

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tomato Stew with Toasted Farro & White Beans.

Mother Nature gave us a little "haha" over the past two days with snow, cars spinning out on the roads, and chilly weather. I ran on the treadmill after work, and was irritated and sweaty for most of my steps. Thankfully I cheered up when I found a soup recipe in the April issue of Bon Appetit that can easily be prepared in one hour for a weeknight dinner.

The major modifications are to use toasted farro instead of rice and canned white beans instead of dry fava beans. This is more of a "stew" than a soup, because the farro and beans soak up a lot of the extra liquid and flavor.

Tomato Stew with Toasted Farro & White Beans
Serves 2, with leftovers.

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 2 teaspoons
1/2 yellow onion {chopped}
2 cloves garlic {minced}
1 can cannellini or white kidney beans
1 can petite diced tomatoes {garlic flavor}
1 cup chicken broth {or vegetable broth}
1/3 cup farro
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup shredded parmesan

How to~
  • Chop onion and garlic. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot on medium. 
  • Add onions/garlic, pepper and salt to pot and cook for ~3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a few Tablespoons of water or turn the heat down if the onions are cooking too hot.
  • Add the rest of the spices - cumin, coriander, and all spice. Stir and continue cooking for ~3 more minutes.
  • Add the can of diced tomatoes and stir - continue cooking for ~5 minutes.
  • Add one cup broth and bring soup to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to low and add white beans {make sure you have drained/rinsed them in advance}. Simmer for 10 minutes, covered.
  • While the soup is simmering, toast the farro - heat up a pan on medium and add 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add the dry farro and stir occasionally for ~3 minutes.
  • Add the toasted farro to the soup and simmer on low, covered partially, for 40 minutes. Stir a few times while simmering.  
  • Top with shredded parmesan cheese.

{Adapted from Spiced Fava Bean Soup with Rice and Tomato from Bon Appetit}

Monday, April 14, 2014

10 Mile Training Plan.

Good morning! How was your weekend?

K and I went on a short road trip to the Cleveland area to visit friends. The weekend involved a lot of time outside, a yoga class and two runs, drinks, a visit to the West Side Market, the Market Garden Brewery, delicious dinners, and games with great company. Oh, and 60-70+ degree temperatures. It was bliss.

This week looks like a rainy and blustery one to start, but I'm hoping to fit in a few runs outside. In six short weeks I run the Soldier Field 10 Mile race, and I've been thinking it's time to keep track of a training schedule. Here goes:

This is an intermediate training plan based on my running efforts for the past year. As I have written about before in the 6 Week Endurance Challenge, I only run three times per week to avoid injury and maintain the best fitness level possible as a casual runner. I also plan to fit in a sculpt class once a week, and another short weight lifting session if I have time.

Here is the text version of my running plan:

10 Mile Training Plan

Week 1: 3.5 miles intervals; 3 miles maintenance; 4 miles long run
Week 2: 3 miles intervals; 4 miles maintenance; 5 miles long run
Week 3: 3.5 miles intervals; 5 miles maintenance; 6 miles long run
Week 4: 3 miles intervals; 5 miles maintenance; 7 miles long run
Week 5: 3 miles intervals; 6 miles maintenance; 9 miles long run
Week 6: 3.5 miles intervals; 4 miles maintenance; 10 mile race!

Hal Higdon also has longer ten week plans for a 15k/10 mile race if you are looking for a novice plan or a more advanced plan.

Have you ever run a 10 mile race?

Disclaimer: Chicago Jogger is not a personal trainer, registered dietician, or fitness expert. The purpose of this blog is to share recipes and personal workouts that readers may find interesting. Please visit a doctor before starting any diet or exercise plan. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Geja's Cafe + Interview with Jeff Lawler

I have another exciting food experience to share this week! On Sunday, K and I had the opportunity to attend a cooking class on making cheese fondue at Geja's Cafe in the neighborhood Lincoln Park {don't worry, I went for a run first - everything in moderation, right?} Geja's is currently celebrating National Cheese Fondue Week {April 6th to April 11th} and Friday {tomorrow!} is actually National Cheese Fondue Day.

This was my second time dining at Geja's Cafe, and it was exciting to learn about and receive the recipe for the restaurant's famous Swiss gruyere cheese fondue. Even better, proceeds from the event benefited the Greater Chicago Food Depository. We learned that fondue started several hundred years ago, as goat and sheep herders transported cheese, bread, and wine across the mountains to stay alive - herders eventually figured out how to melt the cheese and wine together {a great idea}.

I also had the wonderful opportunity to talk to Managing Partner Jeff Lawler last week before the cooking class, about his work and passion for Geja's Cafe. To celebrate this week, guests of the restaurant who mention National Cheese Fondue Week {through this Friday the 11th} receive $5 off each premier dinner, and complimentary cheese fondue samples at the bar if visiting for a drink instead of dinner.

Jeff has been working in the food industry for 30 years, and at Geja's Cafe for 20 years. As he told me and as is so evident in the care presented to diners of Geja's Cafe, "it lights me up."

What is your background, and how long have you worked in the food industry?
Jeff was 17 years old when he realized he was going to sit the bench in football that year. Growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, he pursued a job as a short order cook at a carry-out restaurant instead of being a football star. Jeff ended up working at that restaurant through his junior year of college. This lead to more jobs in the food industry as a busboy and waiter, and a realization that he loved the business at 21 years old.

Does Geja's celebrate national cheese week every year?
The restaurant has been giving out free samples of fondue during cheese week for several years, but this year is the second anniversary of the cooking class. In 2013, the class filled up the same day it was announced. This year, it filled up in only a day and a half. 

What is the typical visitor to Geja's Cafe doing? Visiting Chicago, celebrating a special occasion, or dining as a local?
Geja's is often described as a "very celebratory restaurant." It has been reviewed as Chicago's most romantic restaurant, and that reputation remains. Guests often come back to celebrate special events, a number of which dine at Geja's every year on their anniversary. Jeff mentioned one particular couple that has been celebrating at Geja's for 31 years straight. Many guests come from the Chicagoland area, with 25% "from Geja's backyard," in the neighborhood itself. Another 25% are city dwellers living in other neighborhoods, and 25% come from the northwest suburbs. Around 7% of guests are out-of-town tourists, and the rest come from other suburbs of the city.

What is the background and history of the restaurant?
Geja's started in 1965 in Old Town at 1244 N Wells, as the first wine bar in the city of Chicago. At the time, Geja's only served wine, with gourmet meats and cheeses - there was no fondue. The restaurant moved to its present location {Armitage and Clark} due to neighborhood concerns. It was a larger space, and owner John Davis realized he needed a more diverse menu to attract diners. The chef started offering American-style options, like chili, spaghetti, and burgers.

How did Geja's start offering fondue? 
Owner John experienced fondue for the first time on a weekend trip to Michigan, not long after moving the restaurant to the Armitage location. Soon after, John caught his chef at the time in a precarious situation and decided it was time for a change. Geja's started offering fondue and has ever since.

Has Geja's cheese fondue recipe changed over the years? 
The cheese fondue recipe has not changed for the past 20 years. The cheese fondue dish starts with white wine {a chablis}, and includes Swiss gruyere and several spices. Jeff said if you were to pick one course that is a typical diner's favorite, "cheese wins the contest."

What is your favorite part of the experience at Geja's, that you would recommend to a new diner?
Close to one-third of guests are first-time diners of fondue, and to Geja's itself. Dining at Geja's is a very interactive experience, and there are four courses involved if you select the "premier" dinner option. As Jeff said, many people come in with the perception, "how do you cook beef and lobster in cheese?" You don't, of course.  

The word fondue means a dish where food is dipped into a hot sauce or cooking sauce. The premier dinner at Geja's starts with cheese fondue, in which you can dip different types of bread, grapes, and apples. The cheese fondue is followed by a salad, and the main entree comes with dipping sauces {8 in total}. Entrees include a few different options, like beef, shrimp, chicken, and lobster, cooked in a special oil at the table. Dessert is chocolate fondue, and you even have the option of roasting marshmallows over an open fire to finish.

The celebration of National Cheese Fondue Week ends tomorrow, April 11th. Geja's Cafe is located at 340 W. Armitage Avenue, in Chicago.

{I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own. Proceeds from the cooking class went toward the Greater Chicago Food Depository.}

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mango-Banana Green Smoothie + TETE Charcuterie.

Good morning! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Ours was bright and sunny and we spent as much time as possible outdoors. I started both mornings with a new smoothie - a green smoothie using frozen mango chunks instead of ice.

I think this is going to become a much more frequent breakfast in our house! Even K liked it, and he is not usually on the green smoothie train. I think the mango won him over in this one.

Mango-Banana Green Smoothie
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 banana
1 cup original {unsweetened} almond milk
2 handfuls spinach
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt {I used 2%}

We spent time indoors this weekend too - on Saturday night, K and I had an opportunity to attend the private opening party of TETE Charcuterie, a new restaurant in West Loop. I received an invitation from Chicago Food Bloggers. There were a number of other bloggers in attendance experiencing TETE for the first time as well. TETE uses local and sustainable ingredients from Midwest farmers and vendors, and plans to feature seasonal menu items throughout the year. If you are in the city and love house-made meats, I recommend checking it out! Today is the restaurant's grand opening to the public.

The interior of TETE is lovely and open, with a kitchen behind glass and a ceiling of wooden timber beams and beautiful glass light fixtures. The space was formerly a meatpacking facility.
You can even watch sausage-making a few feet from your dining table, though the space was sparkling clean on Saturday night. I'm in love with the red subway tiles.

The chefs were out preparing, interacting with diners, and passing around tastings from the menu during the event. I was definitely reminded that the word charcuterie means the art of meat curing and sausage making. TETE features European-style fare, but there is a house-made Chicago hot dog on the menu {of course}!

The house-made sausage was my favorite taste - a German-style preparation with pickled mustard seed. Other meat combinations we tasted included a pate mix of pistachio, coriander, and white wine. Another included cherries and walnuts. In everything that was passed, we could easily pick out different flavors and it was clear that great care was taken with everything created on the menu.

TETE is located at 1114 West Randolph Street. The Executive Chefs are Thomas Rice & Kurt Guzowski, with Managing Partner Daniel Goodman. Check out this article in the Chicago Reader for more photos of the menu and restaurant.

 {I was not compensated for this post; all opinions are my own. I received an invitation from Chicago Food Bloggers to attend this private opening tasting event for free.}

Friday, April 4, 2014

Warm Farro Salad with Mandarin Orange Dressing.

Two things I loved cooking with this week: citrus and chickpeas. I picked up a bag of the sweetest, freshest mandarin oranges at Trader Joe's - on sale for under $4 a bag! This bag was huge. I'm talking 30+ oranges huge.

These guys are my favorite right now. Small but mighty:

I've been snacking on a few every day this week, trying to think of ways to incorporate the slices into a weeknight dinner {besides as a topping for salad - boring!} Enter the food processor:

Oh, and my second favorite thing: roasted chickpeas!

I started this warm salad by making Lemon Zest Roasted Chickpeas, from Nosh On.It. You could also stir in raw canned chickpeas, but taking the time to roast them is worth it. I roasted mine for 35 minutes at 400 degrees, shaking the pan twice. Lemon + orange makes this warm salad twice as nice.

Warm Farro Salad with Mandarin Orange Dressing
Serves 2.

3/4 cup farro {dry}
1 and 1/2 cups water {or chicken broth, or vegetable broth!}
1 can chickpeas
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 2 teaspoons
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup brussel sprouts {halved}
2 handfuls spinach
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese

2 mandarin oranges
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

How to~
  • Toss chickpeas with lemon zest, 1 Tablespoon olive oil, and lemon juice. Roast at 400 degrees for 35 minutes {these could have gone even longer!}
  • Bring farro and water to a boil. Turn down to medium-low and cook until farro is done, soft but with a slight bite. Add more water if needed.
  • While the farro is cooking, slice and roast brussel sprouts. Toss with black pepper and salt, and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
  • Use a food processor to make the dressing - peel oranges and add slices to the food processor. Pulse a few times until pureed. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper and pulse a few more times until dressing reaching desired consistency.
  • When the farro is almost done cooking, turn on low, add spinach and stir. Add a lid and let it rest for ~5 minutes. 
  • Add everything together with the farro + spinach: chickpeas, brussel sprouts, dressing. Top each bowl with a Tablespoon of parmesan.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Race recap: Shamrock Shuffle + April challenge.

Here is my Shamrock Shuffle 8k race photo recap:
The morning started out chilly, 26 degrees! I was in the third wave of runners, and it was so nice to have a starting time after 9am. The crowd of runners was intense since this race includes thousands of participants, but it was fun to weave in-between people and made the run go back quickly.

Race results:
Finished in 48:55
Pace of 9:51/mile
13,907th place, out of 30,115

I took a quick photo while running in the last few blocks towards the finish line {this probably means I should have been trying to finish faster...}

Bananas at the finish line are the best. This pile was epic and stretched on and on:

I have one more thing to share before my reading nightcap: a favorite blog of mine, Peanut Butter Runner, is holding an April Challenge to drink one green smoothie everyday this month. I'm taking this challenge - be sure to check it out here. My first smoothie of the month was a Cherry Chocolate Protein Smoothie!