Friday, September 26, 2014

Inspiration + Green Peach Smoothie.

This Green Peach Smoothie is healthy enough for breakfast but tastes like dessert - inspired by a slice of peach pie.

What inspires you? Last night, K and I attended a documentary screening hosted by The North Face Never Stop Exploring Speaker Series and Fleet Feet Sports. Ultrarunners Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe ran the ~220 mile John Muir Trail in summer 2013, in an effort to achieve the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the trail. The runners were aiming to beat the previous trail record of 3 days, 14 hours, and 13 minutes. While I personally never plan to race anything longer than a half marathon, this was an infectious story to watch and I enjoyed hearing the perspective of incredibly successful ultrarunners in person.

This effort involved 84,000 feet of elevation change, smoke from nearby forest fires, and very little sleep. Despite the obstacles, the runners achieved the goal in 3 days, 12 hours, and 41 minutes. Amazing!

The event was held at a movie theater in South Loop, which is a city view I don't see very often. It was a lovely way to spend a fall evening. I closed out the week this morning with another healthy recipe inspiration, for a new smoothie that I can't get enough of. This smoothie combines peaches, cinnamon, a bit of pure vanilla and tons of spinach. It's a perfect transition to fall with the warm summery days the city has experienced this week.

The color on this guy is not as vibrant as a usual green smoothie combination due to the cinnamon + vanilla added in, but I promise it's just as delicious. I have been drinking this almost every morning for breakfast.

Green Peach Smoothie
Makes one smoothie.

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 banana
3+ handfuls spinach
1 cup frozen peach slices
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon {if you really love it like I do, go for 3!}
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Quinoa & Butternut Squash with Apple Cider.

This vegetarian recipe for Quinoa & Butternut Squash with Apple Cider is perfect for lunch or dinner this fall. Quinoa is cooked in apple cider and combined with spinach, dried cherries, and roasted butternut squash.

It's official...

{Image via we heart it}

Up until this past weekend, I avoided apple recipes + pumpkin anything + wearing knee-high boots, in an effort to forget the inevitable - that summer is over and cold weather is on its way. I know I sound like a broken record when I write that the summer flew by. Doesn't everyone say that each September? Thankfully fall is my favorite season and I think I'm ready to embrace it right on time this year.

At a local apple festival this weekend, K and I picked up honeycrisp apples, apple cider, and a few hefty butternut squash. I roasted one of the smaller squash last night and combined it with quinoa cooked in a brand new way - with apple cider! The result is a warm quinoa salad packed with fall flavors. The addition of dried cherries, spinach and a simple apple cider vinaigrette made this a quick vegan dinner.

Quinoa & Butternut Squash with Apple Cider
Yields: 4 servings

1 cup red quinoa
1 and 3/4 cups apple cider + 1/4 cup water
2+ large handfuls spinach
1 small/medium butternut squash
1/3 cup dried cherries
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil + 2 teaspoons
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Dash of red pepper flakes {or two}

Apple Cider Vinaigrette:
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

*Peel, cut and cube the butternut squash. Mix the cubes with grapeseed oil, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Stir until everything is distributed.
*Bake the squash at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes for even roasting.
*Cook quinoa according to package directions, except sub 75% of the water for apple cider. When most of the liquid has been absorbed {15-20 minutes}, add the spinach and cover.
*Whisk the vinaigrette.
*When the spinach has wilted, add dried cherries, vinaigrette, and roasted squash.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Door County Trail Run

K and I spent a few days in Wisconsin over the weekend, visiting one of our favorite places - Door County. I have written about DC before {see this cherry cobbler recipe and peak color photos in Peninsula State Park}, but this was our first trip up north since last summer.

The weather was chilly but sunny, and it was a great opportunity to hang out with family and spend time outdoors. We went on a long bike ride on Saturday afternoon, and completed a trail run in the woods on Sunday morning at Newport State Park.

The park is located on the north end of the Door County peninsula, and is open all year. Outdoor activities include hiking, off-road biking, camping, snow-shoeing, and swimming. This was my first ever trail run. It was wonderful to run among the trees and not worry about stopping every few blocks for a stop sign or passing cars.

There are five trails in the park. The best trails for running at Newport are those marked for off-road biking and hiking. Trails marked for hiking only are quite a bit rockier and narrow {not ideal for first-time trail runners}. However, I'm sure seasoned trail runners would love the rocky trails. We finished a 4.7 mile loop, running on parts of the Rowley's Bay, Newport, and Monarch trails.

After the run, we stopped for a few minutes at the beach to check out the views and finished with sandwiches and goat milk gelato at Door County Creamery. I tried the roasted almond & fig flavor... I can't recommend this place enough! Until next time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Youtside Fitness Club {A review}.

Remember that scene at the beginning of Bridesmaids, when Annie and Lillian are freeloading on a workout class in a park? I have a new workout class concept to share tonight that's available now in the Chicago area - Youtside Fitness Club. Register for a free class and this could be you this weekend {except for the crunches-while-hiding-behind-a-tree part...}

The new workout concept Youtside {meaning "you outside!"} launched this past spring in Chicago, with three locations in the city - Lincoln Park South, Montrose Beach, and Oz Park. There are also classes available in Elgin, with more locations coming soon. Youtside classes are held exclusively outdoors, year-round. Class attendees are asked to rank themselves as beginner, intermediate, or advanced prior to the workout. Everyone wears a colored jersey so the trainer knows how to adapt the workout to each person's needs.

I checked out a class last Saturday morning with a few friends, at the Lincoln Park South location. We met our trainer at a designated spot on North Avenue in Old Town, near the brightly decorated Youtside van. This detail is key, because the van securely holds your personal effects while you head to the park for the workout. Purses, keys, even my friend's bike were locked away for the hour. As you can see, everyone chose the same level {intermediate}, sporting bright blue jerseys.

The idea behind Youtside that makes it so unique is that the class involves social, group-based fitness. There were lunges, squats, planks from the steps of a monument, quick jogs, and activities like playing tag and leap frog. One thing I learned is I am absolutely terrible at "wheelbarrow" walks. It may be time to work on arm strength.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for an outdoor workout. We moved to several different locations in the park, jogging or skipping in-between moves. The hour flew by, and my legs were sore for several days afterwards. It was one of the most fun workouts I've experienced in a long time. Since we were outdoors, every new move was heightened. Where would we do a plank next? Which monument would we run around?

My biggest question to Youtside after attending a class was this: what was the motivation behind an "outdoor-only" workout? The answer:
So many people in Chicago go from their 'work box' to their 'gym box' and don't get to take advantage of the beauty and motivation that outdoor workouts provide. By getting people out in the parks, the Youtside fitness formula takes full advantage of the outdoors, caters to all fitness levels and, most of all, uses innovative concepts and partner exercises to make the workout fun!

If you are interested in trying an outdoor workout, Youtside offers a free class for any first-time participant - no advance registration is required. Classes are available six days per week. Let me know if you try out a class!

{I was not compensated for this post and all opinions expressed are my own. Youtside contacted me and asked me to attend a free class to check out this new fitness concept. Chicago Jogger is not a personal trainer - visit your doctor before starting any fitness routine.}

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hot Chocolate 15k Training Plan.

Now that the second week of September is officially here, it's time to start thinking about training for fall races. The Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k/5k is coming up in just over two months! Today I'm sharing my nine week Hot Chocolate 15k Training Plan for this race.

I usually follow a 3x per week training plan for a race like this, for injury prevention and ease of scheduling. I run in events for fun and motivation, and I'll be honest it's generally hard to squeeze four decent runs into my weekly work schedule. However, I'm trying something new with this race and sprinkling in a few weeks with four runs instead of three. I'm also planning to lift weights or participate in an interval training class on a weekly basis.

I started week one earlier this evening with 3 miles. If you want to join the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k/5k race this year, click here to register. Please enter the code ChiJogHat - registrants of the Chicago 15k or 5k race using this code will receive an extra in their race goodie bag, a Hot Chocolate hat. You will also help earn a free race entry giveaway to be hosted on Chicago Jogger - thanks for the support!  {Note: This 2014 race promotion has ended}

Here is the 15k training plan in text:

Week 1: Run 4 (long); Run 3 (intervals); Run 3.5 (maintain)
Week 2: Run 5 (long); Run 3.5 (intervals); Run 4 (maintain); Run 3 (easy)
Week 3: Run 6 (long); Run 3 (intervals); Run 4 (maintain)
Week 4: Run 7 (long); Run 3.5 (intervals); Run 5 (maintain)
Week 5: Run 4 (long); Run 3 (intervals); Run 4 (maintain); Run 3.5 (easy)
Week 6: Run 7 (long); Run 3.5 (intervals); Run 5 (maintain)
Week 7: Run 8 (long); Run 3 (intervals); Run 6 (maintain)
Week 8: Run 9 (long); Run 3.5 (intervals); Run 5 (maintain); Run 3 (easy)
Week 9: Run 4 (easy); Run 3.5 (maintain); Run 2 (easy); 15k race!

Speaking of chocolate, I have one more thing to share. I made S'mores Bars this past weekend for a friend's barbeque, and I cannot rave enough about this recipe from Six Sisters' Stuff. I doubled the graham cracker cookie dough portion to make this in a 9x12 pan, and it could have used another jar of marshmallow fluff with no problem. Train hard, snack hard!

{Disclosure: I am posting information about the Chicago race for readers as part of the 2014 Hot Chocolate Blog Ambassador program.}

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Run to Andersonville + Summer Zucchini Salad.

K and I ran to a new {to us} farmer's market last night, the Andersonville Farmer's Market. This market takes place every Wednesday evening in the summer, through mid-October. We ran part of the route on the beautiful North Shore Channel Trail. You can read an overview of the trail from a fellow NBC Stride blogger here.

The view on this run was perfect as it was nearing twilight - which is coming much too early for my liking this week.

The vegetation is still lush right now, but there are whispers of fall from a few trees on this route. It was surprising how many leaves were already on the ground in certain areas.

We snacked on tofu and chocolate samples after doing a walk through at the market, and ended up purchasing two packages of Phoenix Bean marinated tofu and a carton of grape tomatoes to bring home.

I really wanted to squeeze another summer recipe out of an ingredient we picked up at the market, and grape tomatoes was the winner. It's time to savor every moment of fresh produce! We already had sweet corn and zucchini at home, otherwise those would have been market finds too. This is a simple salad that comes together in under 10 minutes. I paired it with Thai-flavored marinated tofu from the market.

Summer Zucchini Salad
Serves two.

1 ear sweet corn
1/2 a medium zucchini
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
5 large basil leaves
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of garlic powder

How to~
*Microwave one ear of sweet corn {husks on} for 4 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes and remove the husks.
*Slice zucchini into strips, chop grape tomatoes, and chop basil leaves. Once the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off.
*Whisk olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix well with the chopped vegetables.