Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Freezer Meal: Balsamic Roast with Roasted Carrots

You can't go wrong with a good roast, am I right?! This recipe has a lot of unique ingredients I wouldn't normally use in a roast (tamari, honey, red pepper, etc.), but the combination is DELICIOUS! And the carrots? Those would be the perfect side to a number of other dishes. I might need to add those to our regular vegetable rotation. 

Ingredients for Roast - Serves 6 (10 points per serving)
  • 3 pound beef roast (chuck or round)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1.5 tbs. tamari
  • 3 tbs. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
Ingredients for Carrots - Serves 6 (1 point per serving)
  • 2 pounds baby carrots
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
Prep Directions
  • Place roast in freezer bag; add all other ingredients and massage to combine, then seal and label (NOTE: After making the pork chops, I decided it would be much easier to combine the spices/liquids in the bag first, then add the meat and massage)
  • Place carrots in a separate freezer bag, and place spices in another separate, smaller bag and add to carrot bag; seal and label
Day of Directions
  • Remove both bags from freezer and let thaw in fridge 
  • Add roast to Crock-Pot and dump remaining ingredients on top
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours
  • About 45 minutes before serving, combine carrots, spices and 2-3 tbs. olive oil in a large blow; toss to combine, place on baking sheet and roast in over at 415 degrees for 45 minutes
  • Remove roast from crock pot, break apart slightly and add a bit of juice on top; serve with carrots
This is the sixth of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Freezer Meal: Simple Italian Burritos

OK, so you might be a little confused about the concept of an Italian burrito. I was too before I tried these. I'm telling you, they're AMAZING. These little buggers taste like lasagna made a love child with a chicken burrito - the result is delicious! They're so tasty, in fact, that I had TWO servings before I counted the Weight Watchers points ... Whoops! It was worth it though ;)

Simple Italian Burritos (Serves 6, 16 points per serving)
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds shredded chicken or ground chicken (cooked)
  • 8 oz. container whipped cream cheese (regular works too, but whipped is easier to mix)
  • 8 oz. jar of sundried tomato spread (can substitute 6 tbs. sundried tomato paste of jar of sundried tomatoes, chopped)
  • I was halfway done before I remembered to take a picture!
  • 6 flour tortillas
Prep Directions
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and sundried tomato spread well
  • In the center of a tortilla, spread roughly 3 tbs. of the mixture and top with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of chicken
  • Fold in ends of tortilla and roll; place in freezer bag 
  • Repeat with remaining ingredients; seal and label bag
Day of Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Remove desired amount of burritos from freezer and place on a baking sheet
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cooked through
  • Microwave option: Cook one at a time for about 4-5 minutes on high
This is the fifth of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Apple Balsamic Pork Chops

I'm normally not a big fan of pork chops, but I was definitely a fan of these! Not only was I completely impressed with the flavor, but I was also impressed that these came from ME, given the fact that I was the one who assembled this recipe at our freezer party. (So glad I didn't screw anything up ... at least not this bag!) 

Kyle loved these, too. And my dad happened to be over at our house for dinner the night we cooked these, and he also gave them two thumbs up! 

Apple Balsamic Pork Chops - 6 servings, 7 points each
  • 6 bone-in pork chops
  • 3/4 cup apple butter
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp each, salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp onion powder
Prep Directions
  • Place all ingredients in gallon-size freezer bag; massage bag until combined and chops fully coated
  • Seal, label and freeze
Cooking Directions
  • Remove chops the day before and let thaw in fridge
  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Dump contents into casserole dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until chops have internal temp of 145 
This is the fourth of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Freezer Meal: Honey Ginger Chicken

Did anyone see April? I'm not sure where the hell it disappeared to ... Oh well! I'm back in the blogging game, and I'm finally catching up on those freezer meal recipes I promised. To add to my awful blogger reputation, I forgot to take pictures for most of the remaining recipes. Just imagine it's delicious, OK?!

So here's what happened with the honey ginger chicken ... We didn't really like it at first. While Kyle and I did manage to clean our plates, Kenlee protested after the first bite (can't win 'em all, right?).

It wasn't bad ... It just wasn't all that great either. HOWEVER, Kyle and I turned the leftovers into something AMAZING! We cut the chicken into chunks and added them to bowls of brown rice and broccoli with some soy sauce - BOOYA! Everything was much better the second time around.

Honey Ginger Chicken - 4 servings, 11 points each

Ingredients
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced (or 5 tsp pre-minced)
  • 3 tbs. ginger paste
Prep Directions
  • Combine all ingredients in ziploc bag; mix, label and freeze
Cooking Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Pour chicken and sauce into baking dish and bake uncovered for about 35 minutes or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165
This is the third of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fly When You Need to Fly (A Race Recap)

As I type this, I am in pain. My quads are burning and my hips are aching. Every time I get up from my desk chair, I feel like my thighs and glutes are going to give out beneath me.

It's a delicious soreness that makes me grin from ear to ear.

The pain is a gift left over from racing the Towpath Half Marathon this weekend. To make a long story short: I nailed it. I ran smart, fast and free ... and I have a shiny new PR to prove it.

My Camelbak is much cuter than my medal, but that's OK.

When the field took off in front of me during the first mile (which was pretty much all downhill), I reined it in and found my pace. And when everyone slowed to climb two bridges, I put the pedal to the medal and coasted my way down the other side. I kept my head on straight and my focus on my body, not my watch. I decided to let my legs fly - after weeks of training, I trusted them to know what they had to do.

I thought about running with my brother, but he ran with the ponies when the gun went off, and I knew I couldn't hold that pace for long. Unfortunately, neither could he. Around mile 8 or 9, he hit a wall ... Around mile 11, I tapped him on the shoulder and said hello. I knew he was hurting, but I also knew I needed to push on - I still had gas in the tank, and my legs were still revving the engine.

Me and my brother Scott at the finish line ... we were both wrecked, but managed a smile. 
I gradually pushed and pushed, until I couldn't push any more. As I climbed the staggering hill at mile 12 (and again at mile 13!) I let myself slide into autopilot and just enjoy the satisfaction of knowing I was going to make it under goal. As I crossed the finish line, the race clock (gun time) said 1:57:11... a PR for sure (previous was 1:59:39)! Later, I was even more thrilled to learn my chip time was 20 seconds faster: 1:56:51. 

The Towpath Half Marathon wasn't a big race, nor was it all that exciting, but it was thoroughly satisfying for me. I proved to myself that training hard does pay off, even though illness and injury threatened to throw me off track. I also learned I need to listen to my body: Rest when you need to rest ... and fly when you need to fly.

Beautiful day + beautiful course = beautiful PR

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Non-Scale Victories

At Weight Watchers, we obviously celebrate victory on the scale, but we also celebrate non-scale victories (or NSVs) - moments when you realize your healthy habits have made a difference. A few weeks ago, I proudly shared one of my own NSVs: After more than a year of wearing a cheap replacement band, I finally got my wedding rings re-sized.

For me, this was a HUGE step. I'd gotten very comfortable with the cheapie ring because I knew if I started gaining the weight back, I could wear my bigger rings again ... That sounds awful doesn't it? But it's true. 

Well, it's been about a year since I hit my goal weight, so I decided I finally "deserved" to have my bling back. Maintaining my weight has been just as hard as losing it (a post for another day, I think), but at this point, I feel like I've proven to myself that I can do it for the long haul. Sure, I could still gain it all back one day - THIS IS ALWAYS IN THE BACK OF MY MIND. 

But today, I'm healthy and fit, and I'm happy with my body. Why not enjoy it and wear the jewelry I love?! 

This NSV got me thinking about others I've celebrated along my journey. Each of these moments was probably even more significant to me than any victory I had on the scale. 
  • First time I could buy a shirt without numbers or an X in the size
  • First time I tried on (and fit!) a pair of pants with a single-digit size (This usually only happens at Gap due to vanity sizing … I’m a solid 10 elsewhere, but I don't care!)
  • When I realized a pair of dress shoes from a few years ago were too big because even my feet had shrunk
  • When I could ride a roller coaster at Cedar Point without struggling to get the harness latched (or getting kicked out of line before I could even try … Yes, this happened to me on the Millennium Force once)
  • The first time I sat in an airplane without my thighs squishing into the arm rest and involuntarily touching the person next to me … I'm friendly, but not that friendly …
  • When I hauled in all the groceries from the garage and realized I didn’t need to take a break before putting them away
  • The first time I ran an entire 5K race – for me, this ranks above finishing my first half-marathon because it was so much harder (mentally and physically) at the time!
  • When I realized I no longer struggled with what I thought were chronic knee problems
  • When a nurse tried to use the large blood pressure cuff on me and realized it was too big
  • When I realized I could actually cross my legs like a lady again!
  • When I realized my glasses were constantly falling off my face because my face had gotten smaller (I hope to finally get new frames this summer)
  • Any time my daughter has asked me for a healthy snack or meal 
  • Any time my daughter has yelled "Go momma go!" from the stroller or the sidelines of a race
  • Any time I've realized I was being active with my family, and I wasn't holding myself back because of my weight or anxiety
So if you're trying to lose weight, remember to celebrate the victories on and off the scale. The tiny steps you're taking now will lead to more tiny, yet POWERFUL, moments down the road. Trust me. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Tales of Training: Toe and Tummy Troubles

Let's start with the positives:
1. Right now, as I type this, I feel great - no pain or discomfort whatsoever
2. As long as I remain this way, I will be running the Towpath Half Marathon next weekend
3. It's Easter weekend - I'm excited to celebrate and spend time with my family!

I haven't blogged for nearly two weeks because it's taken me that long to find some positives amid my training troubles ... So let's talk about what led to this point.

First of all, the corn on my right foot made me eat my words. In my last post I said, "I'm too cheap
and stubborn to buy new shoes this close to a race again." Ha! Hahahahaha! Karma can be such a bitch. I hobbled through most of the next week, and by last Friday, I could barley walk, let alone run, because I was in so much pain. I knew my shoes were the problem ... and I knew I had to do something before I REALLY hurt myself.
Soaking the evil corn (located between my fourth and pinky toes) before removal.
Unfortunately, I wasn't laughing when I walked out of Three Rivers Running Company with a new pair of shoes and a decent size credit card bill last weekend. Oh well. I went back to the same New Balance shoes I bought before Fort4Fitness - they're the only ones I know of that have a wide enough toe box to keep my corn at bay. No matter the price, they've already proven to be worth their weight in gold. Since I scraped off the corn (Yes, SCRAPED OFF ... my child was traumatized watching me), I haven't had any more pain while running in the new shoes. That'll teach me to stray from what works ...

Now the title of this post also mentions tummy troubles. I don't want to get too graphic or detailed, so let's just say a series of problems built up over the last week or so ... and it all ended this past Thursday, when I went to the ER with severe abdominal pain. The doc there diagnosed me with colitis and suspected I ate some bad produce which led to an infection or irritation in my colon. That could be true ... but Kyle, Dr. Google and I think I may have had acute pancreatitis, which can be linked to my history of gall bladder problems. (I'm not a doctor, but apparently gall stones can get caught in your pancreas and cause pain. Like, a lot of it. Trust me.)

No matter the diagnosis, the suggested treatment is a liquid diet for a day or so, then being very careful with what I eat. Thursday night, after stopping at the store for some broth, saltines, Sprite and Gatorade, I just tried to relax at home. Friday, I felt pretty good with just a little residual pain, so by the end of the day, I decided to try potato soup for dinner, and that seemed to agree with me. Today, I've done fine with oatmeal, more potato soup and some goldfish and animal crackers (Kenlee shared some of her treats with me after our community Easter egg hunt).
I could think of worse things I've had to eat ... 
So what do I do now? Well, I'm going to be very careful to avoid fatty foods as recommended by the doctor (and the Internet). That's not so hard because I already eat a very low fat diet. However, the doctor also recommended avoiding fresh produce for a few days ... that's not as easy for me. I'm going to stick with bland foods for the rest of the weekend, and then try returning to my normal nutrition next week. Unlike my previous gall bladder attacks, I'm not so sure that there was a particular "trigger" food that caused all this ... I think a week of feeling "off," digestionally speaking, combined with my period (TMI I know, but I think it's a factor), may have just culminated in a REALLY bad day for my digestive track, and my gall bladder/pancreas took the brunt of it.

Looking ahead, I plan to discuss these issues with my family doctor ... when I finally get to meet her in June. (UGH - don't get me started on our local medical practice.) And if I continue to have tummy troubles coinciding with my period, I'll get in to see my gyno, too. (Thank goodness I'm already an established patient with her.)

As our "Family Medical Director," Kyle agreed that I can run again tomorrow as long as I continue feeling well. At this point, I don't know if hopping back on my training schedule will do me any good ... I had to stop at mile 5 of my 12-miler last weekend because my stomach was so upset, and I managed only one decent run this past week. I don't know if I should feel lucky or cursed that all these issues hit at the start of my taper for the race.

Like I said before, I plan to run the half marathon as long as I continue to feel well, but I'm not sure how fast or focused I'll be. I don't want to have a pity party and throw away the race because I missed the last week and a half of training ... but I also don't want to get my hopes up and feel disappointed when I don't reach my goals. Just two weeks ago, I was feeling sooooo strong and confident after my 15-miler. So can I still pull off a PR? Or am I being delusional?

BOTTOM LINE? I'm currently happy and healthy, and that's all that matters. If I can stay that way and just get back to my normal eating and exercise habits, I'll be happy. In the meantime, if you've ever been sick/sidelined this close to a race, I'd appreciate any and all advice you have. Same goes for those who have experienced recurring gall bladder attacks/gall stones. I realize I might have to get the little bugger removed eventually, but I'd like to keep it in there as long as possible. I'm staying positive!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tales of Training: The Bad Becomes Good

This week, a crappy workout Thursday was quickly forgotten after a wonderful long run Sunday. The corn on my right foot has returned, but it's not nearly as bad as it was last fall. Honestly, I'm too cheap and stubborn to buy new shoes this close a race again (this happened before Toledo AND Fort4Fitness last year!). I think I just need to take better care of my toes and wear good, comfortable shoes at work (rather than squeezing them into cheap pumps).

So aside from feeling like a rockstar Sunday, I had some other interesting events on my long run:

  • As a country runner, I have joked about having corn fields nearby in case nature called ... but I've never actually taken a potty break mid-run. Well, I apparently had too much coffee before I left because my bladder was really full and uncomfortable by mile 8. After a car passed, I ducked into some tall grass off the road and did my business. I'm happy to report I felt much better and did NOT get my tights wet in the process. Go me! 
  • I was chased by several dogs, and I had to turn and scream "GO HOME!" at two fairly aggressive ones who followed me down the road ... I had my pepper spray in hand just in case, but thankfully I didn't need to use it. People, even in the country, you need to tie up, fence in or at least closely watch your dogs. PLEASE! 
  • Around mile 11 or so, a white Lincoln Navigator passed me. I waved at them, as I do at any passing vehicle. Then a half mile later, the same car passed me again. Weird, I thought, but I kept running. Around 12.5 miles, they were back ... this time they came from behind, so I didn't see them coming. OK, I was officially weirded out. I was in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday morning ... why would someone drive by me three times? I stopped and called Kyle to let him know my location and what the car looked like, just in case something happened. That may sound crazy, but it made me feel better knowing I had reported my whereabouts. I didn't see them again, thankfully. Call me paranoid, but that was just strange! 


Monday: 3 miles, easy
I felt slow, but good. Rowdy joined me - he's really doing well at 3-milers, and he keeps me steady.

Tuesday: PiYo Buns
I did NOT want to do this workout, but I'm glad I did. The soreness lingered for a few days, reminding me how hard I worked.

Wednesday: 6 miles, mid-4 at tempo
Nailed it! I started to feel fatigued in the final tempo mile, but I managed to finish strong. This was one of those workouts that you just want to bottle up and hold onto for a while.

Thursday: 5 miles, hills
This SUCKED. I did a 10 minute warm up, then found the best hill I could (from the footbridge up to Irene St. if you're local). I ran that hill six times up as fast as I could, then slowly back down. After, I did a 15-minute cool down to hit 5 miles. As if hills weren't hard enough, my left nee decided to start talking to me (not pain, just discomfort), and the corn on my right foot returned with a vengeance. UGH.

Friday: Rest
Since Kyle is now officially training for the Cedar Point half marathon (Woohoo!), he needed to squeeze in his long run of 6 miles. I stayed back at the house for the morning ... Could have done PiYo, but I decided my knee/foot needed a day off.

Saturday: 3 miles, easy
Our day was packed with plans, so I decided to get up and sweat before it got crazy. Just went nice and easy, and I felt more prepared to handle everything ... including two silly girls under age 4. :)

Sunday: 15 miles, easy
This run wasn't my fastest, but it gave me the most confidence in my training. I held a steady 9:25ish pace, even though the training plan called for the mid-6 at race pace. I just felt like I needed a nice run where I could coast along, and that's exactly what I did. By the last mile, I realized I never doubted myself or felt like I couldn't finish. Considering this was my longest run EVER, that's pretty awesome! I feel more prepared to take on my next race, and then marathon training.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Freezer Meal Recipe: Pineapple, Bacon, BBQ Chicken

Trust me, this recipe is every bit as good as you think it is. Juicy, flavorful, satisfying - I mean, can you really go wrong when you're wrapping anything in bacon? That's a rhetorical question, I know.

Kyle was absolutely drooling over this dish - we served ours with leftover mashed potatoes (not from the microwave this time - we make REAL potatoes with the skins on!) and some steamed green beans (OK, these were from microwave). Kenlee didn't have much interest, but I suspect it's because she's been congested lately. Normally, she's a bacon FIEND.

And the points on this aren't half bad! When I was calculating with the Recipe Builder on Weight Watchers' website, I thought for sure I could substitute turkey bacon to cut a few points off. Well, the difference was only ONE point per serving! Kyle will be pleased to know I'll let him keep the "real" stuff this time.

Pineapple, Bacon, BBQ Chicken (14 points/serving)

Ingredients:

  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce of choice
  • 8 slices of bacon
Prep Directions:

  • Wrap each breast with bacon; place in gallon-size freezer bag
  • Add pineapple and BBQ sauce to bag and mix
  • Label; store in freezer
Cook Directions:
  • Remove bag from freezer and let thaw for about 24 hours
  • Preheat oven to 385 degrees; place chicken in casserole dish and cover with sauce
  • Bake until bacon on top is crispy and your chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 (about 40 minutes depending on how thick your chicken is)
  • Let sit 5 minutes before serving
Suggested Sides: Cilantro coleslaw, simple salad

This is the second of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tales of Training: Out for a Spin

OK, I can’t be the only one who felt nearly naked out there this week. After months of piling on the layers, it felt incredibly weird to go out for a run with only one top and one pair of tights. But I’m NOT complaining! Temps in our area hit the 40s and 50s during the day, so my morning runs hovered around the freezing mark (low 30s). This only created one problem: The snow would melt during the day and leave patches of ice on the streets/sidewalks in the morning. (I run around 5 a.m. – well before the sun is up!) 

But Saturday? Oh, Saturday! I ran in the afternoon sunshine, and it was 50-freaking-wonderful degrees! I may have been soooo happy that I ran a half-marathon PR. (Sorry, not sorry!) I'd say this training through the winter stuff may be paying off. 

Monday: 3 miles, easy
Rowdy and I managed to find enough dry spots to get this run done, but I skipped the sprints that I was supposed to tack onto the end of the workout. That’s not the first time I’ve opted out of those … Oh well. 

Tuesday: 6 miles, mid-four at tempo
The ice patches sorta ruined this run. I had to keep slowing down … and then I actually slipped and fell … twice. I can’t believe I made it allll winter without falling, and then I take a few tumbles in March. UGH! Oh well – no injuries to report except a scraped knee. 

Wednesday: Yoga Meltdown
For cross training this week, I suddenly felt compelled to re-connect with my old friend Jillian Michaels. When I first tried her Yoga Meltdown DVD, it was waaay too hard for me. Now that I’ve been focusing on strength with PiYo? I was able to do the whole thing! It was still hard, mind you, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to die by the end of it. Instead, I felt like a yoga badass (which I realize is sorta the opposite of how you’re supposed to feel after yoga). 

Thursday: 5 miles, intervals
After Tuesday’s icy tumbles, I was much more aware of the slick spots on my route, but my legs/lungs weren’t fully cooperating. I did intervals of nearly sprinting for a few minutes (1, 2, 3, 2, 1) with 2 minutes of rest between … then I did it allllll again. I was also supposed to do a 10-minute warm-up and cool down, but I cut those to 5 minutes instead. This workout KICKED.MY.BUTT. I know it’s acceptable to walk for the rest/recovery minutes, but I usually try to stick with a light jog. Yeah … not for this run. I had to walk a couple of times, which was a little discouraging – but it’s also a little encouraging because I know I was pushing my limits. 

Friday: 3 miles, easy
I think I was definitely feeling the effects of Thursday’s intervals still. Took it easy with Rowdy in tow. 

Saturday: 13.1 miles
If I owned a convertible car, I imagine putting the top down for the first time in the spring would be a lot like going for a run for the first time in the spring. Like I said, it was 50 degrees and sunny. Aside from some vicious wind for the last half of my route, the conditions were PERFECT. I KNOW I should take my long runs at a slower pace, but I just felt good dammit! I set my watch so I could only see my overall time/mileage and ran by feel instead of pace. I admit, toward the end when I realized I could hit sub-2:00, I may have picked up my feet a bit more. But again, I imagine it’s like getting that convertible out: I just HAD to rev the engine a little! 


Even though this pace may have been a training no-no, I think I’ll be OK, based on my quick recovery. On Sunday, I was only slightly sore and managed to go grocery shopping, walk to/from my nephew’s birthday party AND catch up on laundry (which is a miracle on a normal Sunday, let alone the day after I ran 13.1 miles.) Today (Monday), I felt slow on my 3-miler this morning, but not sore at all. I didn’t even cringe when I walked up the stairs at work – that never happens after a half-marathon! So I know I still had some gas in the tank, and I can definitely hit a real PR at the Towpath Half Marathon in a few weeks (by how much, I don’t know). I just need to conserve/build whatever gas remains – I promise, I’ll play it smart.