Friday, October 31, 2014

October Favorites + Moji Giveaway.

Happy Halloween! We're moving into a chilly day in Chicago, with talk of snow flurries. What!? I hope the trick-or-treaters are ready for me to greet them in a winter sweater later today instead of a scary costume. I don't know about you, but wearing a winter sweater seems like a scary costume to me right now! Anyways. I have a short list of October favorites to share today, ending with a giveaway for a new tool perfect for sore muscles - the Moji 360 Massager. Scroll down for more!

Favorite Run ~ Monster Dash 10k Race. A few months ago, my best friend from high school and her husband moved to Chicago and we have been having a great time running and spending time together. Last weekend, we ran a Halloween-themed 10k race, the Monster Dash. The race started downtown in Grant Park, and looped south along the lakefront path. It was an unbelievably gorgeous and warm day, and the race ended with goodie bags full of candy, with an apple thrown in for good measure.

Favorite Sip ~ Vander Mill Totally Roasted Cider. K and I randomly found out about this limited edition cider from Vander Mill during a recent brunch at the Rocking Horse bar in Logan Square. Intrigued by the description and the fact that the cider was on tap, we decided to split one. Delicious! The cider includes the flavor of cinnamon-roasted pecans, achieved by {you guessed it} steeping cinnamon-roasted pecans IN the cider. I can't image a better fall flavor for a beverage.

 {Image via Vander Mill}

Favorite Funny ~ This Ron Swanson quote. Enough said.

{From Buzzfeed; image via Flickr: nanpalmero

Favorite Running Tool ~ The Moji 360 Massager. Moji sent me their 360 Massager recently to test and review. This is the first product I've tried for pre or post workout soreness, and I think it's the perfect tool to use for tense muscles! I ran an 8-mile training run to prepare for the Hot Chocolate 15k earlier this week, and this massager was great for my sore legs. 

The Moji 360 is a massage stick that's easy to use, with a handle on either side. It includes two sizes of spheres, designed for different muscle groups. Larger outside spheres dig deeper into the IT Band, calves, quads, etc. Smaller spheres on the inside are good for the lower back and neck. Another thing I love about this company is the fact that Moji is a recovery and massage brand based locally in the Chicago area, out of Glenview, IL. Moji is also active in the local running community through CARA.  

In case you need a massager like this for your running or other fitness activities, I am giving away one Moji 360 Massager to a reader! This giveaway is open for U.S. residents only. The winner will be contacted on November 10th, and Moji will mail the massager directly from their office. For more information about the Moji 360 Massager, like the company on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

 {I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. I received a free Moji 360 Massager to review and giveaway to readers.}

Monday, October 27, 2014

What is TRX? A Cross Town Fitness Experience.

I have a really fun workout experience to share tonight - my first go at TRX interval training! A few weeks ago, K and I attended a small group TRX total body workout class at CrossTown Fitness in West Loop. The class was led by CTF's Fitness Director Betina Gozo. "TRX" is a actually a training tool for classes, using the TRX Suspension Trainer - long straps that assist with a variety of bodyweight exercises. Think balance, core, and strength training.

CTF's take on a TRX total body workout during the class I attended included 45 second intervals over 50 minutes, switching between using a treadmill and using a TRX for a variety of moves. We completed squats, burpees, arm exercises, lunges, and more. I was sore for days after this class and I have to tell you it is one of the best interval workouts I've ever done. CTF has incorporated TRX in classes since opening last year.

After the class, I sent a few questions to CTF's Fitness Director to learn more about TRX.

What is the philosophy of TRX training? 
{An excerpt from the TRX website}
No part of the body is an island unto itself. Try to pick up a pen off the floor using just your hand. It's impossible. Even simple movements simultaneously engage the legs, core, shoulders, arms, and neck. The body is an interconnected chain of muscles. Every movement we perform is a whole-body movement. That’s why TRX Training uses tools and movements that challenge the entire body in every plane of motion.

What is the benefit of incorporating short runs in CTF's TRX class (an aspect I loved, by the way)? 
I incorporated the bursts of running in between the strength exercises to keep client's heart rate up and increase their metabolic rate so that they can burn more calories. 

How is TRX training beneficial to fitness vs. "regular" interval training?
The TRX incorporates resistance and cardio training with only your body weight. The TRX is a good training tool for your core. With certain movements, you may be focusing on certain body parts, but you are always strengthening your core and using your whole body. Since you are only using your body weight, every movement is scalable and you are less prone to injury. With some interval training incorporating weights, it is more likely you can injure yourself with poor form versus the TRX. Another benefit is that you can bring a TRX with you anywhere, with countless exercises to work with!

If you are interested in checking out CrossTown Fitness, CTF has an introductory "new client" pass available for one month for $80. Check out more info here!

{I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. I attended an event at CrossTown Fitness that included a free TRX total body workout class.}

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Maple Apple Crisp {for two}.

Maple Apple Crisp {for two} is a healthier version of a fall classic that's perfect for dessert. The topping includes rolled oats, whole wheat flour, almonds, and Greek yogurt.

Good morning! I can't believe we're rolling into the last week of October already. It's going to be a beautiful weekend in the Chicago area, with temps in the upper 60s today. I'm running a 10k race this morning, and will be off celebrating my nephew's third birthday for the rest of the weekend.

But first - I have a quick and easy fall dessert recipe to warm you up on the cooler evenings to come. This is a healthier version of apple crisp that can be prepared in 30 minutes flat. The recipe serves two but can be easily doubled or tripled for more. The crisp is made with rolled oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, chopped almonds, maple syrup and of course... apples. I used McIntosh apples, but any apple will do!

I was talking to a farmer's market vendor a few weeks ago about what types of apple to use in muffins, and he recommended baking with McIntosh apples. The McIntosh is not a traditional baking apple according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, as it's a softer variety that gets sweeter the later in the season it stays on the tree. However, it's a classic apple that's been available since the 19th century. I think it's a delicious apple to use for this recipe since I like my apple crisp apples nice and soft. Soft on the bottom, crisp on the top, right?


The last healthy ingredient for this crisp is a dollop of Greek plain yogurt. The yogurt adds a creamy, cool topping to the warm, crunchy crisp.

Maple Apple Crisp {for two}

1/2 cup rolled oats
2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 apples {chopped}
1/8 cup raw almonds {chopped}
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup + 2 teaspoons
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt {I used 0%}

How to~
*Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
*Wash and chop the apples into small cubes. Roughly chop the almonds.
*Mix oats, flour, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Microwave the butter for ~15 seconds in a separate dish. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and mix with your hands. Add the chopped almonds and stir.
*Combine apple chunks with 1 Tablespoon of maple syrup and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
*Spread the apple mix evenly between two individual serving dishes. Add the crisp mixture on top of apples. Drizzle 1 teaspoon maple syrup over each crisp.
*Bake for ~20 minutes.
*Serve warm, with 1 Tablespoon of Greek yogurt on top of each crisp.

{Adapted heavily from My Recipes' Maple-Walnut Apple Crisp}

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

RUN 10 FEED 10 10k Race Recap.

On Sunday morning, I ran the RUN 10 FEED 10 10k race in the neighborhood Lincoln Park, hosted by Women's Health. It was a fantastic fall morning for a run, chilly but beautiful with sunny skies and no wind. As I mentioned last week, RUN 10 FEED 10 is a partnership with the FEED Foundation, a non-profit organization fighting hunger and malnutrition around the world. As part of each race registration, ten meals were donated to those going hungry in the local community. I loved this race! It was an intimate group compared to many large races in the city, with under 1,000 runners. Racing with people committed to the great cause of the FEED Foundation made the finish even sweeter.

Runners started the event with a group stretch, led by a trainer from exhale Chicago. The extra stretching time was very needed since the temperature hovered below 40 degrees that morning. Notice the expert stretching and twisting action to warm up those limbs...

The race started in Lincoln Park near Diversey Harbor, continuing along the lakefront path north for the first three miles. We looped back south to finish in the same spot, catching a nice view of the boats still left in the harbor that haven't yet moved to storage for the winter season.

I snapped a quick shot of the race on my phone {also used as a pacer and for race tunes - multi-tasking!} during the last mile. This 10k ended up as a PR for me, shedding a few seconds from my fastest race time this year.

Race Results:
Distance~ 10k {6.2 miles}
Time~ 1:00:37
Pace~ 9:46/mile
Place~ 352nd out of 766 runners

I'll definitely be running this race again in the future. If you are interested in this cause but were not able to participate this year, you can still race by registering for your own 10k. There is also a RUN10 FEED10 training app available, created by WalkJogRun, to help you plot the course and run a 10K anytime. You can also donate to a RUN 10 FEED 10 team or runner here.

{I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. I received a free race registration from Women's Health for the RUN 10 FEED 10 10k race in Chicago.}

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Crunchy Chicken Salad Cups.

This weekend has been full of beautiful fall colors - trees with orange and red shades are finally starting to change in the city and there aren't too many leaves on the ground yet. I found cabbage bouquets at a local farmer's market yesterday and I wanted to take one home for every room. What a creative decor idea! The last day of the weekend started bright and early, as I was awake at 6:00am to run the RUN 10 FEED 10 10k race at Diversey Harbor. A full race re-cap is coming in my next post!

But first... let's talk food. After errands and a grocery store trip post-race, I was ready for something fast but delicious for lunch. Chicken salad is one of my favorite easy meals to throw together, especially when it's made with rotisserie chicken. I've been thinking about how to combine mini peppers with chicken salad for awhile now, and today's lunch was the perfect time to try it. We always have a bag of mini peppers on hand, as K loves to chop them for use in his daily salads. What better way to serve chicken salad than inside a few of these crunchy peppers?

There are many other fun ways to eat chicken salad, as seen on Pinterest - in lettuce wraps, on endive halves, inside wonton cups or tomatoes, and on slices of cucumber. I would also like to thank my sister-in-law of Make the Best of Everything for her inspiration to serve food in new ways - check out this fun post on 20 Edible Dish Ideas for more bright ideas.

This version of chicken salad is made healthier by substituting half of the mayo for greek yogurt. The mini peppers I used happened to be flat on the bottom, but you could also cut them length-wise and enjoy chicken salad boats instead. Please note I devoured whole wheat pita chips with hummus as a side with these tasty salad cups. Carb loading after the race, you see.

Make these cups for a quick lunch or a healthy party appetizer!

Crunchy Chicken Salad Cups
Serves 4, with leftovers.

Ingredients ~
8 mini peppers
1 rotisserie chicken {I only used the white meat, and removed the skin}
1/2 cup dried cherries 
1 celery stalk {chopped}
1/4 yellow onion {chopped}
2 Tablespoons mayo with olive oil
2 Tablespoons 0% plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon seasoning {I used Paula Deen's House Seasoning, a mix of black pepper, salt, garlic, and onion powder}

How to ~
*Chop celery and onion and shred the rotisserie chicken.
*Mix the shredded chicken, celery and onion. Add dried cherries, seasoning, mayo and yogurt and mix until combined.
*Wash the mini peppers, and slice off the top. Cut each mini pepper in half.
*Add chicken salad to each pepper cup until it's full!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apple Cider Muffins.

I have two healthy things to share this morning - a race discount for a 10k coming up this weekend in Chicago, and a new muffin recipe using beautifully tart fall apples. Apple Cider Muffins are perfect for breakfast or a snack any day of the week.

First up, the race!

{Image courtesy of Women's Health}

Women's Health is hosting the RUN 10 FEED 10 10k race in Lincoln Park this Sunday, October 19th. RUN10 FEED10 is a partnership with the FEED Foundation, a non-profit organization fighting hunger and malnutrition around the world. As part of each race registration, ten meals will be donated to those going hungry in the local community. This will be my first experience participating in RUN10 FEED 10, and I'll post a re-cap after the race. Fingers crossed for sunny weather!

If you're interested in running this local 10k, you can get a $5 discount on registration by entering the code R10F10PR. Click here to register for the Chicago race. If you want to be part of this race but don't live in Chicago or another host city, you can still participate by registering on and using the RUN10 FEED10 training app, created by WalkJogRun, to plot your own course and run a 10K anytime. 

Now let's talk breakfast. I had an itch to bake on Sunday, and this recipe is one I've been thinking about for a few weeks. I had apple cider and tart apples that were just waiting to be made into something delicious. The result is a batch of healthy muffins packed with apple flavor, with no butter in sight. Applesauce is substituted for most of the oil, and maple syrup for a portion of the sugar.

Extra apple flavor comes from the special ingredient apple cider and two chopped McIntosh apples. My favorite way to eat a muffin is crumbled on top of yogurt - am I the only one who does this? For this muffin, the Dreaming Cow Maple Ginger flavor is a perfect combination.

Apple Cider Muffins
Makes 17 muffins.

1 1/3 cups all-purpose {white} flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup apple cider
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tart apples, chopped
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons pure vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

How to~
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients - flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients - eggs, applesauce, cider, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla, until smooth.
*Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Fold in the chopped apples.
*Spoon batter into muffin cups or a greased muffin tin.
*Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

These came out at 130 calories per muffin, using the SparkRecipes calculator. Enjoy these muffins for breakfast or a healthy snack!

{Adapted heavily from Eating Well's Spiced Apple Muffins}

{I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. I received a free race registration from Women's Health to run the RUN 10 FEED 10 10k race in Chicago.}

Friday, October 10, 2014

Running Check-in + Maple Cinnamon Chia Overnight Oats.

I have an easy, fall-inspired breakfast treat to share this morning to add to your weekend list - Maple Cinnamon Chia Overnight Oats.

Earlier last month, I posted a Hot Chocolate 15k Training Plan. It includes my nine week running plan for the Hot Chocolate 15k race in November, with 3-4 runs per week. Training for this race is at the halfway point, so what better time to check in?

I have been slowly increasing mileage week by week, keeping up with this plan for the most part. I have to admit I haven't been the best at running intervals {not my favorite}, but I know they're important so I'll make an effort to squeeze a few in before the race.

Here is the update, week by week:

Week 1: Ran 3; Ran 3.5 (morning); 2 hour bike ride; 4.7 mile trail run = 11.2 miles
Week 2: 1 hour Core/Barre class; Ran 3; Ran 4; Ran 5 (long) = 12 miles
Week 3: Ran 4.2; Ran 3; Ran 6 (long) = 13.2 miles
Week 4: Ran 3.5 (morning); Ran 3.1; Ran 7 (long); Ran 3.1 = 16.7 miles
Week 5: Ran 3; Ran 4 (morning); Ran 3.5 = 10.5 miles

I'm also trying a class at CrossTown Fitness in West Loop on Saturday, which I'll report back on next week. On to the breakfast!

I've been reading about overnight oats on various blogs for what seems like years but until this morning had never tasted it, nor tried making it myself. I'm officially on board with this quick breakfast.

Today's version combines a few of my favorite fall flavors, maple and cinnamon, and kicks up the healthy factor with chia seeds. I love how the chia seeds pop after the oats sit overnight.

Maple Cinnamon Chia Overnight Oats
Serves one.

1/2 cup rolled oats or quick oats
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fruit topping {I used 1/2 a banana}

How to~
*Mix all ingredients.
*Cover and refrigerate overnight {I let mine sit for ~8 hours}.
*In the morning, stir and add a fruit topping.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Run to Logan Square + BBQ Chicken & Sweet Potato Mash

This easy recipe for BBQ Chicken & Sweet Potato Mash is perfect for fall, with an extra flavor kick from smoked cheddar cheese and cilantro.

One of my favorite farmer's markets in the city is located in the neighborhood Logan Square, west of downtown and accessible by the blue line. The Logan Square Farmer's Market is open year-round, and is still available outdoors through the end of October. On Sunday, K and I did a short run (totaling a 5k) and decided to end at the Logan Square Farmer's Market. The market was full of fall produce and autumn-themed flower arrangements. I had tart apples and squash on my list, obviously.

I am all about fall-inspired recipes this month. I have several ideas swirling around that I hope turn out delicious enough to share. One item that wasn't on my list but just happened to make its way into our grocery bag is the sweet potato. I consider these orange root vegetables a staple in our house this season. K claims not to like sweet potatoes, but I think it's the sweet component of dishes that gets him {think marshmallow + maple syrup + cinnamon inspired casserole}. This dish is an effort to bring out the savory component.

I roasted up two sweet potatoes in the oven and layered them with smoked cheddar cheese {a la my favorite Vern's Cheese from Wisconsin}, easy barbeque pulled chicken from the crockpot, and lots of cilantro. The cilantro really makes this dinner stand out! I call this a mash because it's best eaten all stirred up. To incorporate the smokey cheese, bbq chicken, bits of cilantro, and sweet potato in every bite, you see.

BBQ Chicken & Sweet Potato Mash
Yields: 2 servings {with leftovers}

3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 Tablespoons cilantro
2 sweet potatoes {chopped}
1/3 cup smoked cheddar cheese {shredded}
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

How to~ 
*Add chicken breast tenders to a crockpot, with 3/4 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce. Cook on high for 2 hours. Shred chicken with a fork and stir. Turn down to low or simmer for ~30 minutes.**
*Chop the sweet potatoes into even 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces. Toss with oil and seasonings. Roast at 375 degrees for ~30 minutes. Stir once while roasting.
*Shred the cheese and chop cilantro.
*Assemble: sweet potato, smokey cheese, barbeque chicken, and cilantro.

**Note: An easy substitute is 1 cup of rotisserie chicken mixed with 1/3 cup of barbeque sauce.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hot Chocolate Race Giveaway.

Note: Registration for the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15/5k is sold out, as of November 4, 2014. Thanks for visiting!

If you're thinking about running a 15k or 5k race this fall or early next year, I have an exciting giveaway to share today - one free race entry to any Hot Chocolate race across the country! America's sweetest race, indeed.

There are many Hot Chocolate race locations coming up, including Denver, Columbus, Phoenix... the list goes on and on. Check out the Hot Chocolate Facebook page and Twitter page for more race details, and this sweet finisher's medal for the 15k race:

I'm excited to be running the 15k in the Chicago Hot Chocolate race on Sunday, November 9th. Click here for the training plan I'm following for the 15k. If you're local and want to join me in running the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k/5k race, click here to register. Please enter the code ChiJogHat if you are running the Chicago race - registrants of the Chicago 15k or 5k race using this code will receive an extra in their race goodie bag, a Hot Chocolate running hat. Registrants of the Hot Chocolate Walk for Little City in Chicago can also use the code to get a free hat.

On to the giveaway - good luck and happy running!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. I am posting information about the Hot Chocolate race for readers as part of the Hot Chocolate Blog Ambassador program. I received a free registration for the Hot Chocolate 15k race in Chicago.}