Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chicken Sausage Stuffed Portobellos over Baby Kale and Red Rice

In my last blog post, I talked about how I'm trying so hard to stay away from "bad carbs". I'll be honest, it hasn't been easy. I really love pasta and crusty french bread. I've often wondered if this love came from spending time in Italy when I was 20 years old. Probably not. I think I just love bad carbs. LOL.

So, I guess a good thing about not using spaghetti, linguini, ziti, polenta, white pizza crust, etc, etc, it forces me to think outside the box. I like being creative and have no problem trying things even if they don't really work out. Luckily, my husband is so grateful to be fed (wouldn't you be?) that he loves everything I make. My son, well, that's a different story. Lets just say that I'm still making pasta-just not for my husband and I to eat.

I spotted a week or two ago a pin on pinterest of a sausage stuffed portobello. I pretty much just glanced at it and probably made a mental note in my head because when I had some Costco chicken sausage in the fridge and some just bought portobellos, the mind started going...

This was really easy and took only about 30-40 minutes to make. You can vary up the ingredients if you like but this is what I did:


5 or 6 portobello mushrooms cleaned well with a paper towel
olive oil spray
4-5 fully cooked links of chicken sausage, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a pinch of fresh basil leaves
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
sliced tomatoes (any type, your choice)
shredded mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven to 450

In a large deep skillet, saute olive oil, garlic, onion, peppers, and chicken sausage until soft. It will take at least 10 minutes. Don't let it burn. Add dried basil, and salt and pepper. Be easy on the salt because the sausage can be salty.

Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil spray. Place mushrooms, stems up, and top the mixture in each mushroom. Fill them up pretty high. Add the tomatoes and mozzarella on top with a little more dried basil.

Place in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked and cheese is melted and browned.

***I placed the mushrooms on top of baby kale and red rice but feel free to do whatever you'd like. These stuffed mushrooms would go well with just about any starch of your choice. Or no starch at all.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Eating and Training to Run Fast for 24 Hours

People who know me pretty well are aware that I'm slow to change my ways. I listen very carefully to what others are doing and ask a lot of questions. In fact, I feel very grateful that I have such experienced ultra runners in my life and people that I can bounce things off of from time to time. But, I have trouble changing.

I'm also very slow to progress as an ultra runner. When I decided to run my first ultra which was a 50K, a 100 mile race was the farthest thing from my mind. After I finished my first 100 mile race three years later, I swore off 100s. They were too hard and I didn't want to beat my body into the ground. After my first 24 hour race, I thought that this was stupid and who would want to run around a circle for 24 hours. Now I LOVE 24 hour races and will pretty much do anything to see how much better that I can get at them.

After North Coast 24 hours last September (I can't believe it's been almost a year!) where I was able to get to 122.5 miles in poor weather conditions- rain for 18 out of 24 hours, I wanted to see if I could really have a chance of making the USA 24 hour team. I knew that because I don't have the natural leg speed, 130+ miles would not be easy and it would have to be a perfect day. Just a few months after North Coast, without really doing anything different training-wise, last minute I signed up for Shazam! 24hour which was a local track race. The idea of running around a 400 meter high school track was a little strange but I ended up liking it. Unfortunately, my body didn't like the 25 degree evening temperatures and I ended up pulling out of the race at 81 miles. This wasn't the race.

The next four months, I spent training for North Coast 24 hour  Spring Edition. I ran some decent 12 hour races and ramped up my mileage to 100 miles in a week.  I wanted it really bad and made sure to hit my higher mileage weeks. But, my speed was suffering because I felt like I couldn't handle the mileage load plus a lot of hill repeats and speed work. I still felt ready, mentally and physically.

My husband agreed to be my crew and I was very pleased to have him with me. We showed up to the race and I had no idea that conditions could be any worse. Snow blowing sideways along with sand (the race is on the Erie Canal), 50 mile an hour winds, and only 30 degrees. It was freezing. I knew that when I arrived, I wouldn't survive the evening and wouldn't be able to get near accomplishing my goal of 130+ miles. I only ended up with 48 miles and my husband stayed in the portapotty for the first 15 miles until I told him to go back to the hotel. Yah, it was that cold.

I was very disappointed after North Coast 24 hour but now I'm glad it happened the way it did. I think that everything happens for a reason.

Once I regrouped, I decided that I need to sign up for three 24 hour races to accomplish three goals: 1)Get some more experience. I'd only ran ONCE over 100 miles. That's not a lot of experience. 2)Finish the entire 24 hours. Don't go home early 3) Have fun. This is why we do this, right?

So, I've been definitely having fun. The first 24 hour race after North Coast was Black Mountain Monster 24 hour which is a trail with some hills and roots. I had a 4 hour nap and lots of little breaks.  I finished with 74 miles.

The 2nd 24 hour race was Merrill's Mile 24 hour on a finely packed gravel very flat course and I finished 104 miles and won 1st Female (and 2nd Overall). It rained almost the whole race so lots of puddle running but I had a blast.

My next 24 hour race is Hinson Lake 24 hour and again, the plan is to have fun and finish the entire 24 hours. I'd also like to actually stay on my feet the entire time with only a few five minute breaks. Can't wait for this race.

About a week ago, I decided to go ahead and ask to be invited to Desert Solstice 24 hour Invitational Track Meet in Pheonix, Arizona. The event is on a 400 meter high school track and there are pretty challenging qualifying standards. I was able to use my 122.5 North Coast 24 hour race as a qualifier. In December, I'll be trying for 130+ miles ONE LAST TIME.

In order to increase my chances of accomplishing this goal, I need to do everything possible leading up to this race. Yah, I've trained hard before but am I doing everything? I don't think so.

I'm really lucky because I love training and am very goal driven. But, I don't listen very well to what people are telling me around me and so I'm really trying to change things up and tweak what I've been doing regarding both training and diet. Maybe these things won't help but they will help my confidence and the truly special people in this sport like Joe Fejes and Ray K. will tell you that 90% of this is mental.

Here we go:

1) Eat less carbs and sweets. I've always felt like I didn't need to alter my diet because I cook and my weight is fine. Truth is: I eat a ton of carbs and 4-500 calories of dessert EVERY NIGHT. I can get away with it but if I want to do well in this race, I need to eat less sugar.

2) More strength training-Including the legs. My excuse was that I already beat my legs into the ground, I don't need to do leg extensions or squats or whatever. More leg strength will help. More all over strength will help.

3)Get my speed back. Run races. My last 2 weekends have been racing a 5K and 10K. Wow, that crap hurts! I need to learn how to deal with pain in the shorter stuff. It will help me when I'm finishing the last 7 hours of the 24 hours when I feel like I can't keep going. I also need to FEEL like I can run a 10 minute pace like it's nothing.

4)Hill work. I run on a lot of hills so I use that as an excuse. I'm getting weaker on hills and so I'm back to doing hill repeats. We've got this awesome (torturous) 0.6 mile steep incline that is perfect for this.

5)Continue doing what I normally do. Don't drink alcohol (In my case, no chardonnay), sleep well, stretch, and keep the mileage up. In a few months, I'll jack the miles up to near 100 as Desert Solstice gets closer.

I'm excited about the next four months. It will take a perfect day for me to get 130+ miles at Desert Solstice but I'm ready for the challenge :-)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tri-Color Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Yes, I do still have a blog and I do still cook all the time. Blogging isn't something that I'm very good at. I enjoy writing but would rather be creating or cooking.

I was watching Rachel Ray on Sunday morning before my 8 mile treadmill run and saw her making a risotto stuffed pepper and zucchini. One of the challenges that I enjoy is using what I have in the fridge and pantry and seeing what I can create that is similar. I would have been perfectly happy making Rachel's recipe, it looked delicious-but I didn't have any arborio rice. hmmm....

I started going through my pantry and came across some Trader Joe's organic tri-color quinoa. I pulled it out along with some petite diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and a carton of chicken stock. I had green, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers that needed to be used except the red peppers were moldy. they were tossed.

Then, I started thinking about how I could prepare most of this ahead of time in order to make it to my 2nd evening run at 5pm with Anita. Oh, how I love coming home from a run and having most of my dinner READY. And my husband loves it too.

So here you go...

6 cloves of garlic, minced
one small sweet onion, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil, divided
a pinch of dried basil
1 carton of good quality chicken or veggie stock
1 small can of tomato paste
1 can of petite diced tomatoes
2 cups of quinoa (I used tri-color quinoa but any type will work)
1 cup of panko crumbs
a small handful of shredded parmesan cheese
6 bell peppers (any color) washed and cleaned out inside, cut the top off
olive oil spray
1/2 cup of parsley, chopped (mint and parsley or basil would work)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400.

In a medium sized pot on low to medium, saute garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes with 1 tbs of olive oil. Once the onion is translucent in 5-7 minutes, add the dried basil. Then add the chicken stock and petite diced tomatoes and turn the heat up on high. Once it starts to boil, add the quinoa (rinse the quinoa if the package tells you too) and turn down the heat to low. It will take about 10-15 minutes but don't overcook the quinoa. Don't let it get mushy! Add the tomato paste and if it's a little watery still, don't worry about it.

Prepare the bell peppers by spraying a casserole dish (or 2 depending on the size) with olive oil spray. Cut the tops off the bell peppers and dig out everything inside. Place them ready to go in the casserole dish.

Then, prepare the crumb mixture in a small bowl by adding crumbs, cheese, and 1 tbs olive oil (or a little more). Feel free to use whole wheat crumbs.

When the quinoa is ready to go, spoon the mixture into each pepper. Once all six peppers are filled, add the crumb mixture on top.

Place in the oven lightly covered with tin foil for about 10-15 minutes. Then, for the remaining 5-10 minutes, take the tin foil off. The idea is to have the peppers gently cooked (soft) and the crumb mixture gently browned. Be careful not to burn the crumb mixture. I almost did, so watch the oven carefully.

Serve with lots of fresh parsley on top and it would be lovely with a side salad.

Quinoa has lots of protein in it so don't feel like you are missing it!

These stuffed peppers are great leftover too so make sure you make six of them! Your friends at work will be jealous of your lunch.

About carton chicken/veggie stocks: Don't buy Trader Joe's brand. It's pretty much the ONLY thing that I don't like at Trader Joe's. It is too thick and nasty, in my opinion. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Average Joe

While recipes are usually what I write about in my blog, I felt the urge to write about running only-no recipes today.

I've been running races since 1995 starting with the 10K. Over a long period of time, my running has evolved into something far beyond what I thought was possible. It's been a long progression with many ups and downs. It's been an adventure. And, even though I'm quite fulfilled in many other areas of my life, ultra running has become my passion.

I have never felt as if I had any talent as a runner. I guess if one were to find something defined as talent in me, it would be lack of injury proneness and having better than average endurance. Otherwise, even though I do pretty well in ultra events as a recreational runner, without the speed, I'm limited.

I'm okay with being limited because as I said earlier, my running has evolved into something far beyond what I thought was possible. I never thought I'd be able to run 100 mile races or 24 hour events and survive. I never knew that I had something in me deep down that wanted to do this-even though I fought it. I still fight it.

Along the way throughout my running, I've had influences-so many of them. I could probably list 10 people since 1995 who have encouraged and supported me such as my dad, Al. I did my first long run with dad- ran half marathon and 10ks with him, and he now comes out and supports/crews many of my ultra events. He's 77 years old and still running half marathons. RUNNING, not walking half marathons. I feel so blessed to have this bond with him. I know it's special.

My first 100 mile race was KEYS 100 in 2010. It took me over 3 years after my first ultra to run a 100 mile race. It was a big deal and I finished the darn thing. I told myself, and everyone else, that I'd never do another one again. 100 mile races are really crazy and one was enough.

Six months after KEYS 100,  while I was running the Peachtree City 50K and on my last 5ish mile loop (I'd run a marathon the day before so I was shuffling very slow), Joe Fejes came running up beside me. He was at the race running the 25K only because he'd finished Pinhoti 100 mile race just the weekend before. We were facebook friends and had mutual friends because we lived close to each other, but we had never actually met. He came up beside me to run with me so that he could ask me about KEYS 100. I told him not to do it. Just kidding....

So, after meeting him and adding him to the Hamilton Mill running club email list, he fit in very well with our club and ended up running with us on a regular basis. While many of his miles run with me were "junk" miles because he is quite a bit faster than me, he still saw value in it.  In fact, he played a huge role in helping Ami Roach get faster. When he first met Ami, she couldn't break 4 hours in the marathon. He encouraged her and pushed her. Ami's marathon PR is 3:21 now. Joe has helped her do this. He helped her because he truly likes helping people improve and excel in running. You can read about her here and here.   I think he enjoys helping others as much as fulfilling his own dreams as a runner.

Hinson Lake 24hr was my first actual 24 hour race and it was Joe's second.  We'd done some 100 mile races but when you finish under 24 hours as a 100 mile runner, a 24 hour race can seem daunting. I stopped at 100 miles in a little over 21 hours and Joe kept going. He kept going and finished in the low 130s. After the race, Vikena Yutz suggested to Joe that he try qualifying for the USATF 24 Hour Team. He had just finished the 24 hour- dehydrated, out of it, chafed, hungry, thirsty, not hungry, tired....but still,  when he listened very carefully to Vikena and her suggestion, he lit up. He wanted it.

Even though I love ultra running-just love it, the 24 hour race seems insane. And though I'm a decent ultra runner, running for 24 hours is just so hard. It hurts and honestly, I still don't know why I love it. How can someone love something so much that brings on so much pain?

Over a period of time as Joe improved his 24 hour event by completing 142 miles and qualifying for the USATF 24 Hour World Championships in Poland, I started to think that I wanted to try this. The idea of competing overseas with 35 other countries was intriguing. I wasn't sure I had a chance but with Joe's training guidance, I decided to start taking training even more seriously.

You can read about my race at North Coast 24 hour (September 2012)here.  I fell short of my goal of over 125 miles but decided that I have a chance at improvement. I may not be fast but I don't take breaks and know how to shuffle. So, in 2013, I'll be giving a 130+ mile in the 24 hour a shot again.

Joe went on to Poland to compete in the 24 hour USA World Championships, as the sixth male to qualify in 2012 completing 147 miles and was the 3rd American male finisher. Since then, he ran 156 miles at Desert Solstice 24 hour to qualify him again to compete in Worlds, and this was two weeks prior to his new world record in the 72 hour at Across the Years. He ran 329.6 miles in 72 hours this past weekend. Averaging 110 miles a day for three days is hard for even most ultra runners to fathom.

Joe Fejes isn't an average Joe at all. He is a coach, a mentor, and now a world record holder in ultra running. The Hamilton Mill Running Club is so glad to know Joe and have him a part of our group. He inspires us all to never stop pushing hard for our dreams and believe in things that seem out of reach, to not settle for something that we think is what we deserve, and to do what we love because this is our one shot at life.

Congratulations Joe. We are all proud of you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"What Katie Ate" Cookbook Review

I got an email by the publishers of "What Katie Ate", which is for sale starting today, to write a cookbook review for my blog. I received this absolutely gorgeous cookbook in the mail, written by Katie Quinn Davies, a native of Dublin, Ireland who currently resides in Australia, and I just couldn't put the book down. Not only was it incredibly beautiful, between the amazing photographs (Katie is a food stylist and photographer) but I was really drawn to the eclectic fonts and page designs, almost like a scrapbook. I really enjoyed reading Katie's story that lead to her career and now the publishing of her first cookbook. 

Trying to figure out what to make was a challenge. So many recipes looked appealing to me, however since I don't eat pork or beef, I was able to narrow it down a little. 

My decision was to try out two recipes:

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets with Balsamic Syrup

Baby Potatoes with Asparagus and Caper Dressing

The tartlet was going to be served as an appetizer and the potatoes and asparagus was a side dish to go along with grilled rosemary and lemon chicken breasts

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets with Balsamic Syrup

1 large sheet good quality puff pastry
1 large free range egg yolk, mixed with a splash of milk
5 heaped tbs of caramelized onion jam (see recipe below)
6 oz good quality goat cheese, cut into thick rounds
3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked, plus extra sprigs to garnish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of balsamic vinegar (use the best you can get)
4 tbs of light brown sugar

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 425* F.

Using a 5 inch round pastry cutter or a small bowl as a template, cut four rounds of pastry and place on a large nonstick or lined baking sheet. Score a 1 inch border around the edges of the rounds, being careful not to cut all the way through. Avoiding the border, prick the bases all over with a fork. Brush the borders with egg wash, taking care not to let the egg to run down the sides or the pastry will rise unevenly.

Again avoiding the border, divide the caramelized onion jam among the bases, spreading it out evenly. Place the round of goat cheese on top, then scatter with the thyme leaves and season with pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the puff pastry borders are golden and risen and the bases of the tartlets are cooked.

Meanwhile, place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, the reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by half. Add the brown sugar and simmer until the mixture becomes syrupy-it should coat the back of the spoon when it's ready. Set aside to cool and thicken.

Serve the tartlets drizzled with the balsamic syrup and scattered with thyme sprigs.

Caramelized Onion Jam 

4 large onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 tbs olive oil
sea salt flakes
3 tbs balsamic vinegar (plus a bit extra if required)
1 1/2 tbs light brown sugar

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Place the onions in a large, deep heavy-bottomed saucepan and drizzle with olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir the onions to coat throughly with the oil, then season with a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes or until softened. Turn the heat down to low and continue cooking for a further 30 minutes, stirring frequently to scrape any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. 
Add the vinegar and sugar and stir to coat well. Continue to cook over low heat for another 30-45 minutes, again scraping all the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. Add a splash more vinegar if the jam becomes too sticky-the consistency should be that of a thick, luscious marmalade. Set aside to cool.

What did I think?

I thoroughly enjoyed these little tartlets. Goat cheese and caramelized onions? What's not to like? I think that if I made them for company, I'd definitely have the jam made ahead of time. My husband wasn't super excited about them, although he will eat anything I put in front of him. His response was, "You know I'm not a pastry guy, dear". My son? Well, no my son wouldn't try them. He doesn't like onions, among many other things these days. I bet his friends would have gobbled them up.

Baby Potatoes with Asparagus and Caper Dressing

Terrible iphone photo but I was too busy cooking and am not the best multi-tasker!

I love my lemon squeezer!!!

The caper dressing. Using recycled jars is the best way to mix dressings together
10 small-medium sized baby potatoes
1 tsp fine salt
1 large bunch thin asparagus (about 10 spears), woody ends removed, spears cut into 3/4 inch pieces
handful of watercress leaves, washed and torn

Caper Dressing

6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup salted capers, rinsed and finely chopped
handful dill fronds, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Half-fill a large saucepan with cold water and add the potatoes and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are just cooked through. Drain and leave to cool completely before cutting into halves or quarters (depending on their size-you want bite-sized pieces).

Meanwhile, half-fill a medium-sized saucepan with water, bring to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain and plunge immediately into a bowl of ice water.

To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Place the potatoes and asparagus in a large bowl, then coat with half the dressing. Turn out on a large, flat, serving platter. Dress with the torn watercress leaves, drizzle the remaining dressing, and serve.

Serve 4 as a side

What did I think?

I loved this side dish. It was simple and very tasty. To cut down on pots, I rinsed out the potato saucepan to be used again with the asparagus. Also, I forgot to buy fresh dill! I had to use dried, unfortunately. Fresh dill would have been better. My husband liked the dish a lot and my son Grant did as well-of course he picked out the capers.

Grant and I split the grilled chicken breast which is why it's cut in half

I also made a quick low fat dark chocolate raspberry loaf for dessert.

Final Review

It was my pleasure to review this beautiful book and I will treasure the copy that the publishers gave me. I think Katie is very talented, not only in her gorgeous photographs but her tasty recipes.

1) Beautiful book that could be used as a coffee table book.
2) Eclectic design of different fonts, photographs, and images.
3)Very detailed instructions in her recipes. Newer cooks will appreciate this.
4) Interesting and informative section on "Tricks and Tips".

1) Small font-hard to read. I like the "typewriter" font style but that along with the smaller size, makes it difficult to read. Once I got used to it, it didn't bother me. For the cook who is vision challenged, this may be frustrating.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Running, Eating, Sleeping, Repeat

Running Stuff

It's been awhile since I updated my blog but I'm still cooking most evenings. Sometimes I could just kick myself for not pulling out my fancy camera to take shots of some delicious dishes that I've concocted. Usually I just take quick shots and post them on Instagram but I guess it's better than nothing.

A lot of you know that I've been training. Oh yes...really training. Now, most people think that when the mileage goes up high, in my case to 90 mile weeks, it takes up all my time. This is not true at all. If I have to do something early in the day, like work, but I still need a 10-12 mile run, I simply wake up even earlier.

Along with intense training means that I need to take care of myself. No drinking alcohol, eating very healthy, and being disciplined enough to go to bed at the same time my son goes to bed (or earlier) which is at about 9:30p.m. High mileage training is all about always having a mindset that is committed to my goal.  Otherwise, what's the point.

Oh, and by the way, if you haven't read my race report, written by the awesome Ashley Walsh who was my crew at North Coast 24 hour, please take a few minutes to read it. Ashley is one amazing runner and writer: Click- ASHLEY, to get to her report.

North Coast 24hr Pre-Race dinner- Mac-n-Cheese with truffle mushrooms, Yum!
Anyway, we had a wonderful trip and even though I missed my goal of 125+ (really wanted 127 or so) miles in order to have a chance to get on the USA 24 hour team to go to the Netherlands next Spring to compete, I still got 122.5 and have one more chance. Yep, back to training. I'm using Freedom Park 24 Hour on New Years Eve as my last shot. I will train the same but bump it up a little more. And, I have my awesome husband, Marty coming with me to Freedom Park so I'm excited about that. What a great way to celebrate the New Year!  Nope, he won't really be crewing me. I don't mind him at the race during the day but in the evening hours, it's best that he gets some sleep in the hotel. I will do better with him not around. If you read Ashley's race report, you will understand why. Or if you are an ultra runner, you will understand why. Sometimes it's best not to have the loved ones around in those later miles. 

So, right now, I'm just trying to get back into training after a few low weeks following North Coast. Recovery to me is very important and I take it seriously-especially the older I get. I have to really listen to my body which can be hard at times. The only other ultra race that I have is the Nashville 50 miler on November 3rd which will be like a training run for Freedom Park 24hr, except I'm going to race it and shoot for a Nashville PR. This will be my fourth year and with my best time being last year with a 7:51, I think I can do a little better. I'm looking forward to that race because I just love Nashville so much.

Non-running Stuff

As far as my real estate career goes, I've switched gears a little. I was working as a buyer's agent for a very successful agent on a team and decided to go out on my own. I'm hoping to get a listing on my neighbors house this Friday! Yay!

In the next day or two, I will be doing my first cookbook review on this blog for and am excited about that. Her cookbook is gorgeous and the recipes look delicious. I will have a difficult time choosing one of the recipes to make first! Once I do, I will add pics and the review with the recipe. Can't wait.

I love this photo at North Coast because my expression describes exactly how I felt- DRIVEN