Monday, January 27, 2014

Veggies, Veggies Everywhere: Veggie, Rice and Black Bean Casserole

Two new recipes in two days - go me! Since today was the dreaded 12-hour marathon Monday, I prepped this Vegetable Casserole yesterday and Nate was able to stick it in the oven 30 minutes before I got home from my run tonight. This vegetable casserole is meatless, but contains black beans (and cheese!) for protein. A little bit of brown rice also gave it some substance. I suppose you could add any vegetables you wanted, but in ours I put grape tomatoes, green peppers, onions, carrots, and of course, lots of garlic. 

Veggie Casserole prior to adding on cheese and breadcrumbs
After sautéing up all the vegetables with some olive oil and paprika, I added the vegetable mixture on top of one cup of cooked brown rice and a can of black beans. I then covered the casserole with mozzarella cheese and breadcrumbs. 

This dish was pretty good - certainly not one I would make every week, but very good for those days when you feel you need to detox after eating crap all weekend long (which was not the case in this instance, thankfully) or are in need of some veggies. I actually think Nate liked this one more than I did. If I were to make this again, I think I would cut down the recipe and make it as a side dish to something else (what, I don't know, considering we hardly eat meat anymore). 

Topped off with mozzarella and breadcrumbs...

Here is the recipe:

Olive Oil
One onion
One green bell pepper
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 bag frozen carrots (or fresh, whatever you have!)
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 can black beans
Mozzarella Cheese

1. Sauté all the vegetables and garlic with olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika. Meanwhile, cook the brown rice. 
2. Layer vegetable mix, rice and black beans in a casserole dish. 
3. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and breadcrumbs on top. 
4. Cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Bowl full of veggies! 

On another note, I came across this a while ago and thought it was appropriate for motivational Monday, albeit, a little discouraging. One of the things that initially drew me into the running community and marathoning was how supportive people were. I was never far from encouragement and more experienced runners were always willing to motivate me or offer their words of advice. I loved hearing (and still do) about the training plans of others and their race recaps. Listening to other peoples adventures always left me thinking - "wow...if they can do that..I wonder if I can too?"  This is something I have adamantly tried to pay forward. I love, and I mean LOVE, recruiting new runners and seeing new runners complete new distances (and times) that they could never have imagined. 

When I cleaned up my act (eating and training) last year, success followed quickly. I was meeting my goals. I was getting faster and stronger by the day. I was also working my friggin' tush off (and still am - phew Hansons marathon method is no joke!). The majority of those people who supported my running endeavors are still extremely supportive. However, these past few months, I have sadly realized that a few people I am , ahem, was surrounded by are nay-sayers. I don't do nay-sayers. There is no place in running for nay-sayers. I have no clue if I can complete Hansons. I have no clue if I can break 3:30 in a marathon in May. But guess what...the uncertainty of it doesn't scare me anymore. Because I am going to try. Because I will never know if I can or can't do either of those things until I try. And I fully intend on giving 100% of myself to trying. A few people have commented that my training plan is going to be like a part time job. And yes, it may be. But it was a choice...because it is what I want to be doing right now. I am actually enjoying it! Everyone is different. Everyone has different priorities...and different things going on in their lives. To each...his own. 

And on the flip side...don't ever let someone else's successes take away from yours. Everyone's journey is different. Don't compare your chapter 1 to someones else's chapter 20. Just because I have met some of my goals, don't hate on me for it. Use it for encouragement. Question yourself, as I questioned myself after seeing those before me meet their goals. Let the question be "WOW - If they can do that...can I do that too??" Remember, the only person you are trying to be better than, is the person you were yesterday...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday = Funday = Cooking Experiment Day: Spaghetti Squash Cassole

I loveeeee, nope, USED to love, pasta. Pasta dishes were my favorite. Now, I could not care less about pasta. I have no desire whatsoever to eat pasta. Just thinking about a pasta dish makes me feel icky and bloated and slow. Discovering spaghetti squash was seriously the best thing that ever happened to my diet. You can make ANY pasta dish imaginable with spaghetti squash. This has opened up so many possibilities for dinner.

So tonight's dinner was Spaghetti Squash Casserole. Yum, Yum and more YUM! This was definitely an experimental recipe, but it was delicious none-the-less. I will be trying this one again next week with some modifications, however.

Spaghetti Squash
Grape tomatoes
Olive Oil
Mozzarella Cheese
Ricotta Cheese

1. Bake the spaghetti squash at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
2. While the squash is cooking, sauté onions, garlic and tomatoes. When finished, mix with 1 cup of ricotta cheese and flavor with basil and parsley. (side note: I never measure spices or seasonings...just dump 'em in as your little heart desires).
3. When the spaghetti squash is finished, rake it clean with a fork and mix it with the ricotta/onion/tomato mixture. Layer it in a casserole pan and top it with mozzarella cheese and a light layer of bread crumbs.
4. Cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
5. Serve hot with grated cheese.

Nate enjoyed this one too (although, he was quick to remind me that the roasted mushroom and spaghetti squash recipe was still his favorite). However, this definitely needed a bit more tomatoes. I only bought 1 pint of grape tomatoes to split between this recipe and tomorrow's new veggie meal, but next time I make this I think I will use a can of diced tomatoes instead. Also - I totally flaked out when I made this and forgot to put the breadcrumbs on the top! Oops! Next time I guess! Both quick and easy fixes for this yummy meal.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole (minus the breadcrumbs...oops!) 

On another note...this may have happened last week. I have a serious problem. I think I could live on raspberries (the blueberries weren't all that bad either). Wouldn't be such a big problem if they weren't so darn expensive. We have started out plans for our garden this week and we are also looking into making a separate area for raspberry bushes come hopefully in a few years I can have all the berries I want! Hmmmm...raspberries....

On a training related note, today completes Week 4 of Hansons. So far, so good! This week's runs totaled 45 miles in all. I am getting used to the paces and learning that even when I feel like going faster, I need to stick to the plan. Faster on one day = bad news bears the next! This week also brought a few outdoor runs, finally! While I was out running 10 (pretty darn cold) miles yesterday morning...this is what this guy was busy doing...

He was actually completely under the covers and hidden. After my run, I went to grab the TV remote so I could do my post-run hip opener routine and foam roll I bit, and I found him in his "fort." He is such a bum...just wait Fenway...just wait till we start training together for cani-cross 2.0. There will be no more fort building/sleeping for you while I am out running then! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tomato and Feta Quinoa

Ahhhh, Marathon Monday is here again. Which means I made tonight's dinner last night and stuck it in the fridge to reheat when I got home after my 12 hour day (which started with a 5AM  six mile run up and down my street....5 times - this ice gone yet?).

Tonight's meal was super easy - quinoa, lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, feta and parsley. I also threw in some extra mushrooms from last night's AMAZING Roasted Spaghetti Squash and Mushrooms. Super easy. Super yummy. Super filling. It was so good (and I was so hungry when I got home from the after school program) that I woofed it all down because taking a blog picture. But here is the link to the recipe (I assure you, for version looked pretty close to the beautiful pictures in the recipe...)

Tomato and Feta Quinoa

And now I'm ahead of the game! 4 new recipes already and I'm only 13 days into 2014! Woohoo!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The BEST Spaghetti Squash Recipe (so far...) and Hanson's Week 2

If you try one recipe from my blog, try this one. Seriously. It was delicious. My husband took one bite of it and said "THIS, is a keeper." Bonus points for how easy this one is as well. I was not sure how this one would go over, since Nate is not really a mushroom fan, but sauté them up in a little bit of olive oil with the spaghetti squash and parsley and it brings out a whole new flavor. UPDATE: (2/9) - Now adding kale to this recipe! It adds quite a bit of additional flavor to the dish! SO good!)

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms

I am pretty sure this will be made again in the very near future.

Today also completed week 2 of Hanson's Advanced plan, with the addition of the first speed workout. It was a challenge, as I have never done a speed workout that required 9 miles of running before. By the last 400 I was pretty tired (and I kept thinking to myself "WHAT THE HELL...IT'S ONLY A 400). Then I remembered that a) I hadn't done speed work since September b) I'm on a treadmill in a 85 degree stuffy gym and c) it was the first day back to work after vacation. Overall, this week was 41 miles of training and I was able to get 6 out of the 41 miles done on the VERY icy road. With the addition of the first tempo run and first run done at long run pace, next week will be a real test to see if this plan is do-able for me. In the meantime, I have another NEW recipe already made for tomorrow night! Review to come! Now - go get some spaghetti squash and mushroom and make this recipe! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

What I Learned on My Snow Day...

Ever watch a kid eat an apple? Every year in my kindergarten class I have a kid or two who eats the WHOLE apple, core and all. It's always baffled me, but year after year, there is always one. And, hold on just a moment while I generalize just a bit, it always seems to be the kiddo with the most street smarts,  resiliency and who has the least who tends to do it.

I've never thought much about it, until I came across this video...

Did you know you've been eating apples wrong your WHOLE LIFE?

So I tried it today! Be careful when you get to the seeds and be sure to discard them, but I, for one, will not be paying crap loads of money to waste 30% of my apples again! I always knew my kiddos were natural little geniuses! ;-)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats (meatless!) and Baked Parmesan Tomatoes!

Last week I made spaghetti squash for the first time, and much to my surprise, we BOTH ended up loving it. We joked all week about how fun it was to create the spaghetti by raking the crap out of the squash. Very therapeutic (or we just lead very dull lives).

So today's recipe for Mission 24 was to use the spaghetti squash to make lasagna boats, using the shell as the boat/bowl. Now, before I go about telling you MY recipe, here is the original recipe that I modified to make them "meatless" - Skinny Taste Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats.

Now, onto my recipe. Instead of using "chicken sausage" or any other meat, I decided to give using lentils a try. It is not that I am entirely against meat, but I do try to limit processed meat and honestly, I just find it too expensive. Lentils = $1.39 per bag. This recipe used 1/3 of the bag, if that.

This is what food prep Sunday looked like today!
Lentils cooking in the back! 
 While the squash was cooking for 45 minutes in the oven, I boiled up a cup of lentils (which was plenty!). When the lentils finished cooking, I added them to the ricotta, sauce, onion, parsley, cheese mixture. I also added in basil and garlic (hmmm, there can never be enough garlic!). I did not make the sauce as it was called for in the recipe, I just used some leftover sauce from the fridge.

Raking out the squash and mixing up the ricotta mixture
After raking out the spaghetti and mixing it with the ricotta mixture described above, I returned the spaghetti to the squash shell and baked it for an addition 20 minutes. The result - a SUPER yummy and SUPER filling dinner! While this was baking for the second time, our house smelled super sweet! Rebaking the squash let out some amazingly sweet aromas. Nate gave this recipe two thumbs up as well, although we both agreed that next time instead of just using spaghetti sauce it needs a jar of diced tomatoes as well! Will do!

SO filling! 

Since I was cooking for about 2 hours today for food prep Sunday (egg bake and hard boiled eggs for the week, quinoa salad for dinner tomorrow, prepped the chili in the crockpot for Tuesday, salad for lunch for the week), I decided to make an easy little appetizer while the squash was cooking. I was super excited to find a use for my mini pampered chef pan and our "side oven" that we have never used. The appetizer I made were Baked Parmesan Tomatoes. I followed the recipe as written. These were a super yummy little snack before dinner, but next time, I am definitely adding some breadcrumbs to the top!

Use for the side oven! Finally!

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes - a yummy snack! 

Today also wrapped up week one of Hanson's for marathon training. This week was only a half-week of training, starting on Wednesday with a weekly mileage total of 29 measly miles. It was a nice little way to transition back into following a plan. Starting next week, I will be up to 6 days a week of running (something I've never done before) and I will also do my first speed workout of the plan (and my first one since the beginning of October). I am a little anxious about it, as it will end up being about 9-10 miles midweek (I have NEVER done a speed workout like that before!). My total mileage for next week should be about 41 miles, and this will be my lowest mileage week of the plan, if I am able to follow it as written. I am nervous and excited about it all at once, but, as always, I am up for the challenge! ;-)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mission 24: Recipe Numero Uno - Sweet Potato PANCAKES!

Alright, before I tell you all about my first recipe for Mission 24, I'll let you on in a dirty little secret that reveals just how inexperienced I am with cooking. 2014 is the year I turn 30. I may have 9 more months, but I turn 30 this year. And today, in order to make this recipe...I had to make mashed potatoes for the FIRST time. No joke, I actually had to google how to make mashed sweet potatoes (hangs head in shame). Ok, now that that confession is out of the goes...

Look, Ma! I made mashed potatoes for the first time!
And, I LOVE my pampered chef masher! 

Sweet Potato Pancakes: 
mashed sweet potato (I used 1 medium sized sweet potato for this)
1 egg 
1 tbsp coconut flour (or any other kind of flour you have)
1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp vanilla 

extra cinnamon to sprinkle on top


1.) Mash the sweet potato.
2.) When done mashing, take off heat and add in one egg.  If it's too thick to pour into pan, add another egg. 
3. )Stir in remaining ingredients, except cinnamon sprinkle.
4.) fry em up like you would normal pancakes! Add extra cinnamon on the top as you like!

As my kindergarten students would say - "easy peasy lemon squeezy!"

Starting to look like pancakes! But my, oh my, these
smell strongly like French Toast! 
I would suggest making small pancakes, as these do take a bit longer to cook in the middle than typical pancakes. I had the heat on my stove turned all the way up and let them fry for a good ten minutes. These smell (and taste) a bit like French Toast! They were pretty yummy! My first experiment of 2014 went well. These will definitely be made again. And, might I add, for the money-savy cooker, these are an excellent choice! Most people have flour, cinnamon, baking soda and vanilla lying around the house, so at the cost of 1 sweet potato and 1 egg, this recipe costs about $1.50 (if that) per serving!

No syrup or butter needed! These pancakes were sweet

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mission 24: 24 New Recipes for 2014 AND the First Day of Training for Marathon #10!

I have really enjoyed trying new recipes out this past month, especially since discovering that cauliflower, quinoa, lentils, sweet potato, spaghetti squash and other beans/grains can be substituted for almost any pasta/bread based item or meat. Now that I have a base of foods I can eat that do not make me violently ill the next day, I am excited about experimenting with them in new recipes.

With that being said, I am embarking on a mission to expand my recipe repertoire in 2014 by trying out (at least) two new recipes a month. By the end of the year, I am hoping to have at least 24 new recipes I can whip out at a moment's notice that are healthy and yummy. I have already pulled a number of recipes to try this month, including spaghetti squash lasagna boats (thanks Lauren!), sweet potato pancakes and sweet potato burgers!

AND, since I got the a gift card to get the best present ever today, there are way more recipes that I am going to be able to make!

Thanks Katie and Joel! 

On another note, today started my eighteen week Hanson's Marathon Method training program for Providence on May 4th. Let me say, nothing pleases a runner with OCD more than having their marathon training cycle start on January 1st!

Todays run was a six miler at "easy A" pace (for my marathon goal this pace is 9:00-9:30minute/mile). I ended up with an 8:50 pace for my miles. From the people I've talked to who have done this plan...most say that it takes about a month to get used to the slower paces on "easy A" and "easy B" days...but then the plan hits you like a ton of bricks and the heavy mileage forces you to slow down on these days. I finished up my workout today by borrowing Nate's T-25 Ab Intervals DVD. LOVE THIS! Will definitely be adding T-25 into the mix a few times a week as the next step in my weight training in the next few months! Here's to 2014!