Thursday, June 26, 2014

City of Big Data + Crockpot BBQ Apricot Chicken.

I'm leaving for a trip to Europe later today with K - we are traveling to Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. We booked the trip in early spring, and I can hardly believe it's finally here! We will be celebrating K's birthday and our first wedding anniversary and ... lots of Tuscan wine. I have my running clothes packed and hope to squeeze in a few while we're there. I'm taking a blog break for two weeks for this trip, but I'll be back soon enough with a recap!

First, I have a few things to share including a new recipe. Last week, I stopped by the Chicago: City of Big Data Exhibition, presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The exhibit can be viewed daily at the Chicago Architecture Foundation Atrium Gallery at 224 S. Michigan Avenue, and is free and open to the public.

The model depicts downtown Chicago, on a "1-50" scale. It has been available since 2009, and is updated annually. There are numerous fun facts surrounding it, focusing on urban data. I love the Chicago Architecture Foundation store which is adjacent to the exhibit. It's a great place to pick up a unique gift.

Lastly for today, the new recipe - crockpot chicken with apricots. I don't know about you, but I definitely don't eat enough apricots! It's a very healthy fruit, with vitamins A and C, fiber, and only ~17 calories per apricot. This recipe also creates a BBQ-like sauce, made with a mix of ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and pure maple syrup. I think this would also be delicious chilled and over a salad on a hot day.

Crockpot BBQ Apricot Chicken
1 and 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
5 apricots, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1 T pure maple syrup
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

How to~
*Chop apricots and onion. Cut chicken breasts into pieces (1-2 inches in size). Add to crockpot.
*Add the rest of your ingredients - ketchup, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
*Cook on HIGH for two hours. Turn to LOW and cook for an additional 30-45 minutes.
*Shred the chicken with a fork {I left mine in small chunks}. Drain this with a slotted spoon before serving if it's for a sandwich, otherwise leave it saucy and put it over rice instead.

Have a great Thursday!

{Adapted from Apricot Barbecue Chicken from The Healthy Maven; inspired by Salsa and Nectarine BBQ Pulled Pork from Make the Best of Everything}

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Race recap: Paws Chicago Run for Their Lives 8k.

I ran an 8k race this past weekend, the PAWS Chicago Run for Their Lives event. PAWS Chicago is a local no-kill animal shelter in the city, and the race is a fundraiser to benefit homeless pets. Donations from participants help the organization rescue many thousands of homeless kitties and dogs yearly. This cause is close to my heart, as I have a cat rescued from a local animal shelter.

There was also a 4k walk that dogs could participate in with owners, and a Guinness World Record attempt for "The Most Dogs in Costumed Attire." I have never seen so many dressed up dogs. Halloween in June? I didn't snap photos of any cute dogs because I felt like a creepster, but I should have. Maybe next year.

It was a crazy foggy, humid morning at Montrose Harbor before the race. As you can see, I could barely see the water from the edge of the beach due to the heavy fog. The race route went through the park path as well as along the lakefront path. Everything is so lush and green in the parks right now - due to all of the recent rain!

We finished close to the middle of the pack, in 52:31 with a pace of 10:34 - 634th and 635th place out of 1,002 finishers. A quick pose with the cat mascot was necessary, obviously. This was a fun, low-key race that I would definitely run again.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Green City Market Cookbook + Tart Cherry Pecan Crisp.

Happy Friday! I have a new cookbook and a dessert recipe perfect for summer to share this morning. I was given the opportunity to review a cookbook using ingredients from the Green City Market's regional farms. The Green City Market is a non-profit organization that began in 1998 and resides in Lincoln Park on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The Green City Market Cookbook: Great Recipes from Chicago's Award-Winning Farmers Market is organized by season and will be released on July 17th.

I strongly support Green City Market's mission: to provide a marketplace for purchasing sustainably grown food and to educate, promote, and connect farmers and local producers directly to chefs, restauranteurs, and the greater Chicago community.

I'm planning to try a few recipes and post a review later this summer, but I had to start by sharing a recipe from The Green City Market Cookbook using one of my favorite fruits {with limited fresh availability!} - tart cherries. I love, love {did I mention LOVE?} tart cherries. There have been a few tart cherry recipes posted here, including a Cherry Chocolate Protein Smoothie, a "Green" Banana Cherry Smoothie, and Door County Cherry Cobbler. Within the next week or two, the Michigan tart cherry season begins and we'll start seeing cherries at local farmers markets in Chicago.

{Photo courtesy of Agate Publishing}

Tart Cherry Pecan Crisp
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Makes 6 servings

1 quart (4 cups) tart cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans

How to~
*Heat oven to 400°F. Mix cherries and granulated sugar in a bowl; mix well.
*Mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter; mix with a pastry blender or quickly with fingers until small pea-sized pieces form. Stir in pecans.
*Place cherry mixture in an 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan. Place the topping mixture on top of the cherries.
*Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the topping is browned and the filling is bubbling.
*Remove from oven and let stand 20 minutes before serving.
*Serve warm or at room temperature.

{I was not compensated for this post. I received a complimentary advance copy of the Green City Market Cookbook to review. All opinions are 100% my own}.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Fitness Bucket List + Giveaway for Hit and Run 5k.

After the polar vortex that wouldn't end and freezing winter days in Chicago, I think it's time we make the best of our summer. I have a Summer Fitness Bucket List to share tonight, with five goals that have been on my mind lately {plus a sweet summer giveaway - keep reading!} I'm also excited to share a link to my first post as a contributor to the NBC Chicago Stride blog.

K and I are leaving for a trip to Europe later this month, to spend a week in Italy and visit friends and family in Switzerland and Germany. I've been looking for advice online about running in Italy, including articles and comments from sportsister, Runner's World, and Trip Advisor. We are traveling to Cinque Terre and Florence, and planning a full day bike tour in the Tuscan countryside. I'm so excited to squeeze in a few runs while we're there and jog for the first time out of the country! By the end of the summer, my other goals are to have tried a few new fitness classes, completed a five minute plank, and finished plenty of long, warm bike rides. I'm also planning to run a half marathon in the late summer or fall. There is plenty of motivation to go around on summer days.

In celebration of summer, I also have a fun giveaway to share today - one free race entry to two readers for the Hit and Run 5k race, anywhere in the country!

The Hit and Run 5k is coming to Chicago on July 5th at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, but there are race locations all over the U.S. This race is a fun obstacle course that includes 3.1 miles of running, along with climbing over pools of water, crossing a Bouncy Bridge, avoiding dodge balls, and more. The race is open to to a wide range of ages, with the minimum registration age 10 years old.

Obstacles in this race are meant to be challenging, but not too challenging. If you approach an obstacle but are hesitant, you can run around it or watch other racers attempt to complete it. Family and friends can participate by cheering from the sidelines.

I am giving away one free race entry to two readers for any Hit and Run 5k this year, in the city of your choice. To enter the giveaway, comment below telling me the race city you have selected {check out the locations map here!} Two readers will be selected randomly via Rafflecopter on Monday, June 23rd.
{I was not compensated for this post. I received two free race entries codes to give away to readers; one per winner. If you have questions about the Hit and Run 5k race itself, email}

Monday, June 9, 2014

Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins.

This healthy breakfast or snack recipe for Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins includes my favorite early summer fruits: strawberry and rhubarb.

This weekend involved beautiful, sunny weather and a warm Saturday. K and I did a lot of exploring, including a visit to the 57th Street Art Fair in the Hyde Park neighborhood. We walked around the University of Chicago campus afterwards, a place neither of us had visited before. The campus is in the heart of Hyde Park, about six miles south of downtown, and includes a quad lush with trees and colorful landscaping.

I took way too many photos of the neat buildings and historic details in the area, such as vines covered hidden details like this vintage sign.

We also squeezed in a quick trip to the Green City Market. I met a friend halfway for a run, and K biked down to meet me at the end of the workout. It was a picture perfect summer day in the park, and I finished 5.5 miles.

There were peonies for sale at several of the market booths {these colors were in my wedding bouquet - love}. There was also a parasol vendor selling these beauties.

We picked up a few things for the week, including a container of strawberries from Seedling Fruit. I had a stalk of rhubarb at home from last week's grocery trip with a goal of making healthy muffins for the week. I see rhubarb everywhere these days - advertised in pie, crisps, you name it. There are many muffin recipes out there using strawberries and rhubarb, but often with buttermilk and mountains of sugar. I wanted to create a muffin that I would feel good to start the day with while still keeping the delicious taste of two early summer ingredients.

While researching rhubarb details, I learned it's actually a perennial vegetable. Only the stalks are edible, as the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous. The reason rhubarb is so prevalent in spring and early summer is due to the fact that it thrives in cool weather. This recipe turned out similar to the Banana Cherry Muffins I made this winter. I think these will be perfect to snack on for breakfast this week with a smear of almond butter.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 cup strawberries {heaping!}
1 stalk rhubarb
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

3-4 strawberries for slices
6 teaspoons raw chopped pecans

How to~  
*Chop strawberries and 1/2 stalk of rhubarb. Mix with white sugar and set aside.
*Mix dry ingredients in a bowl - white and wheat flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.
*Mix the wet ingredients in a mixer on low - eggs, vanilla, applesauce, and oil.
*Add the dry ingredients slowly in batches, mixing only to combine.
*Stir in the chopped strawberry + rhubarb + sugar mixture.
*Add batter to a greased muffin tin and top each muffins with 1/2 teaspoon chopped pecans and one strawberry slice.
*Bake at 350 degrees for ~17 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

National Running Day + Mexican Quinoa Wraps.

Today is National Running Day! I feel like I hear about a national "day" every other week, but it's usually Donut Day. Or Cheese Day. Actually, there are a number of food holidays in June, including National Applesauce Cake Day and National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day. I can get behind the pie days. The purpose of National Running Day is for runners to come together to share a passion for running. I'll support any day that celebrates fitness and healthy living. I created a digital running badge this morning - you can create your own on Basno.

It's also the perfect day to talk about motivation and running plans, and to share a healthy post-run recipe. Do you have a running goal in June? Mine is to run 50 miles. I hope to finish my second run of the month tonight, if the Chicago area rain stops around 6pm that is. Fingers crossed! My other goal for June is to squeeze in three runs every week without complaining or finding excuses. Excuses are easy for all of us to come up with - everyone has family and work obligations, friends, summer events, and the daily grind to deal with. Don't forget making time for summer patio drinks of course, but nobody will complain about that one.

{Image via Pinterest and Always, Erin}

After your run today, consider this quick and easy Mexican wrap recipe with protein-packed quinoa. This also makes a delicious chilled salad if you want to skip the tortilla - just make exactly as described, but chill for at least 30 minutes before dining. K and I have dined on this at least three times over the past few weeks {I may have lost count}. We might be overdoing it - but I can't get enough.

Mexican Quinoa Wraps
Makes 4 wraps, with leftovers.

3/4 cup red quinoa {dry}
2 cups water
1 can black beans {drained / rinsed}
1/3 cup frozen sweet corn
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 avocado
1/4 red onion {chopped}
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of hot sauce
4 Tablespoons finely shredded cheese {I used a Mexican blend}
4 tortillas {I used medium sized, whole wheat tortillas}

I added this Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette from Epicurious:
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro 
How to~
  • Cook quinoa according to package directions {bring quinoa and water to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cover, cooking until water is evaporated, approximately ~15 minutes}.
  • Chop the red onion and slice cherry tomatoes in half. Cut half an avocado into cubes; save the other half for slices on top.
  • After the quinoa has cooked, add drained black beans and frozen corn. Add half of the cherry tomatoes. Add the chopped red onion, cubed avocado, salt and pepper, and a dash or two of hot sauce for good measure. Add the vinaigrette and give your bowl a good stir.
  • Layer the quinoa mix, a sprinkle of cheese, avocado, and extra cherry tomatoes on each tortilla.