The Year Our School Closed In March-We Survived!

By now, most schools have shuttered their doors for a few weeks.  Many others have already closed for the rest of the year.  Such a strange time we are living in.  Kids are stuck at home, parents are trying to work amidst this chaos.  No one is really sure what they are doing.

In many ways, I’ve been experiencing this with a bit of deja vu.  Minus the virus, my entire hometown survived watching our school doors close and lockdown in March of 1993, not to open again until the fall.  We made national news.  There were tears.  Events were missed.  Graduations weren’t the same.  My 6th grade year came to a halt without the usual end of the school year fanfare.

After years of failed votes to approve raising taxes for operational costs of the school system, they were essentially broke.  It was a terrible scenario.  Teachers lost their jobs until the following September.  My own parents who were educators, were suddenly unemployed.

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Credit NYTimes.com

Today, we are left with the uncertainty of when things will go back to normal.  Hopefully sooner than later.  Back in 1993, we knew that there wouldn’t be any school for six months, and mom and dad were no longer employed.  It was a reality that they protected us from, as much as they possibly could.  I remember sitting in the parking lot of the unemployment office, as each of them took their turns going inside.  It was boring, but I recall excitedly waving to our teachers as we waited.

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Credit: Interlochen Public Radio

Homeschooling was a nightmare.  Despite the fact that my parents were teachers, they weren’t prepared to deal with 6th grade math lessons, annoyed reading sessions, and the anxiousness to get outside with our friends.  Let me tell you, homeschooling is never easy, even when parents are teachers.

One reminder of my 6th grade year after school closed was our family working to carefully live on a budget.  There was the shift to generic products.  There was the reliance on staples like canned goods and pasta.  Meat became less of an essential and there was definitely a time when we realized our stomachs were upset because mom tried to feed us on way too many tubes of ground generic turkey.

We learned to be savvy and resourceful.  Those leftover snacks when the girls go to bed?  I don’t just toss them.  They get set aside for tomorrow.  Knowing that we are doing our job by staying home as much as possible, we are focusing on wasting as little as possible.  Less grocery runs help slow that curve!

In the end, we made it out okay.  I went ahead into 7th grade doing just fine.  Some of my classmates didn’t have the luxury of having parents who could homeschool them.  My 10th grade Earth Science teacher recently pointed out that the following fall, our school had their highest standardized test scores and it was likely not due to homeschooling.

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Mary and I recently worked on a recipe together to share on the blog.

The other night, Mary expressed her sadness that school would be closing early and she wouldn’t get to finish preschool.  Her disappointment was understood but I pointed out that this was something very rare that hasn’t happened in over 100 years.  The last time this happened her grandparents weren’t even born.  In fact, their parents lived during a pandemic. They social distanced, and they lived to tell about it.

It was sad to leave my 6th grade year behind. It wasn’t delightful having my parents homeschool us.  Living on a tight budget wasn’t easy but we learned from it.  In fact, those lessons I learned have been helpful in our current situation.

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What I told Mary was that in the end, my favorite memories were the extra family time.  We did our best.  We embraced our love for each other.  It was such a celebration to come back to our friends in the end.  I don’t recall missing moments at school.  What I remember most is that extra long summer when I got to play outside more and have my family with me.

I don’t recall any of my friends reminiscing about the missed days of school in a sad way.  In fact, most of them are posting about how their families made the best of these extra days.  This is going to be the longest summer break ever and we are going to make it great.

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When Quesadilla Meets Pizza

Happy Tuesday!  It’s a little chilly here.  I actually ran in a light snow yesterday.  Not my favorite, but it was a nice reminder that if you push forward, a run can feel great in just about any weather.  On the plus side, temps are trending to get a bit warmer.  Easter is just around the corner, and despite my 4 year old asking if the bunny would still come with the virus, we’ve managed to plan a decent holiday thanks to online ordering.

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Some flakes flying when I started.

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We also had a beaver visit our backyard!

I mentioned the other day that we have been trying to get creative with our meals.  I’ve been trying to be smart with my grocery purchases and be more resourceful with what we have.  The other day I discovered that several jars and cans in my pantry had expired (but were still good for consumption).  I decided to make it a priority to use these jars and cans first.

Years ago, I loved going to T.G.I. Friday’s and ordering their Pizzadilla.  It was the perfect meeting of a quesadilla and pizza.  A tortilla filled with sauce and cheese with a side of pizza sauce to dip.  Was I ever sad when it disappeared off of their menu.  Now that we don’t live near a Friday’s, it had been forgotten, until now!

The kids loved having two of their favorite meals combined, and the dipping sauce was a hit.  The entire family family enjoyed this meal and I was glad I made a few extra, because everyone asked for seconds.

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This is a super fast meal to whip up and you can easily add your favorite pizza toppings to your pizzadilla.

Ingredients:

Tortillas

Pizza Sauce

Shredded Cheese (We used a combo of Mozzarella and Parmesan)

Cooking Spray

Optional:  Your favorite toppings

Directions:

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Place a spoonful of pizza sauce on a tortilla and spread around.  Add a little more if you like your pizza extra saucy.  Sprinkle with cheese and top with another tortilla.

Spray a skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium.  Place pizzadilla on skillet and warm until bottom tortilla is slightly browned and crispy. Flip over and repeat.  Use a pizza cutter to slice into triangles or halves.

I put the extra pizza sauce in individual ramekins and heated in microwave for 30 seconds.

How are you getting creative while at home?  Anyone else think Mary resembles Mimi from the Drew Carey Show?

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Social Distancing-The Benefits

Hello from Northern Michigan!  Almost two weeks ago we decided it was best to get out of Florida and back to our home to hunker down.  I was certainly sad to leave sunny weather, but I have never been so happy to be home!

While I was in Florida, I was training for the Traverse City Bayshore Marathon.  I had some good runs and some pretty awful ones too.  The weather in Florida was the best I can recall in years.  Fun for the beach, but rough for adjusting to the heat.  I made it through my 18 mile run, but the following week’s 15 miles was miserable.  I stopped at mile 11 and bought two water bottles and quickly downed the first.  I hate carrying anything in my hands when I run but decided to ration the last bottle for my final 4 miles.  I made it a half a mile before I finished that bottle and then ran/walked the rest.

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I made it!

During those final miles, I decided my heart was no longer into training for a marathon.  I was worried about the uncertainty of everything that is going on right now and my fears for my family.  I wanted to get us home to Michigan and just throw in the towel.  I’m a perfectionist and never want to quit, but I just didn’t feel now was the time to be training for an endurance race.  You can imagine my relief when I received my e-mail that the race has been cancelled.  Even better, I could choose to defer my bib to next year.  Kudos to the race director for allowing this generous option!

Now that I am home and we have been inside for the majority of the past week, I’m trying to sort out my feelings about our current situation.  I have moments where I enjoy the quite times and moments where I feel anxious and scared with all of the uncertainty.  I’m happy to be with my family, but sad to see what is going on.  I decided on my run yesterday to compile a list of all of the benefits to social distancing.

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Benefits Of Social Distancing:

Sleep-ish:  When you have two young children and school/work schedules, sleep is never certain.  Our schedules are now wide open and somedays, the kids allow a little extra rest.

Extra Family Time:  I read that most families only get 30-60 minutes of one-on-one family time each day.  Right now, we are able to spend unlimited moments together.  Sure, it isn’t always perfect.  When we try to make the most of it, there are fun experiences to be had.

The Road To Yourself:  We live in a rural area, but we definitely have neighbors.  Now that non-essential Michigan residents have been asked to stay home, I basically have the road to myself.  I’m enjoying my cooler runs, now that I am home.

Creative cooking:  We are trying to avoid going to the store as much as we possibly can.  We’ve been working to be creative and resourceful with meals.  Last night we even made this super easy chocolate cake that requires no butter or eggs!

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Time To Relax:  I rarely give myself a chance to just sit down and do nothing.  Now I have nothing but time.  I still get my daily run in and try to spend some time focusing on work, but I also have time to watch TV, read magazines and books, and just be present.

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Try New Workouts: I usually focus my workout time on running with a bit of time set aside for free weights.  Now that I am not training for a marathon and my schedule has opened up a bit, I have shortened my runs and added kettle bell workouts.  It’s so fun to change things up.

Family Workouts:  We are taking advantage of our smart TV and adding in kid’s yoga workouts.  The girls love Cosmic Yoga on YouTube.  We especially like the Trolls, Frozen, and Moana sessions.  Namaste!

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Things are definitely up in the air and very different.  It can be easy to let these changes get to you.  But, I encourage you to look for the positive changes when you can.

Challenging Long Runs And A New Favorite Smoothie

Hello from Sunny Florida!  It feels so great to be here after a few months of gloomy winter.  I absolutely love that feeling of being in the car for hours and stepping out into warmer air.  It reminds me of childhood Spring Breaks.

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It’s so nice seeing the sunset again!

This year, I am even more excited to be here right now because I’m currently in week 6 of marathon training.  Michigan has had a relatively mild winter, but that still hasn’t helped my long run game.  It has either been too cold or too snowy to get long workouts in outside.  We live in a rural area, and the roads don’t always get plowed in the timeliest manner.  To be quite honest, I don’t love winter running and I find that snowy conditions mess with my gait, putting me at risk for injury.

The treadmill has been my friend this winter.  So far I have done my weekly 8 mile speed workouts, 10 mile moderate pace runs and long, slow distances ranging from 12-16 miles on the treadmill.  I was really looking forward to taking these outside in Florida.

That isn’t to say that I don’t realize the challenges of running in warm weather immediately after leaving Northern Michigan.  My body always takes awhile to adjust to the warmer weather and that often messes with my head.  This time around, I was mentally prepared to slow the paces down and just fit in whatever I can.

First, I needed a trip to the Asics store to get some new shoes because I’ve logged upwards of 500 miles in my last pair.  On Wednesday, I was so excited to lace up my new Kayano 25’s and do a slow 10 miles to St. Augustine Beach.  Things didn’t go quite as I had planned.  Around mile 4, the ball of my foot began to feel like it was chafing.  I soon had to stop every mile and let me foot stop stinging.  I was so frustrated and in a lot of pain.

To say that I was nervous about Friday’s 18 mile run, would be a major understatement.  My stomach was sick with fear.  How should I approach the run?  Do I run 4 out and 4 back with the option of switching into my old shoes?   The idea of 18 miles suddenly seemed enormous with this fear about my shoes.  I headed out into the wind and just kept going.  I took deep breaths and reminded myself that every mile is different.  First you have to calm your mind or you will never make it through the entire run.

It wasn’t until I stopped for water at mile 14 that my feet started to ache again.   At that point I was pretty sweaty and a bit dehydrated.  I gave myself the option to stop every mile or so for the last 4 miles, and to be honest, I was totally okay with that.  I made it through a big mental and physical challenge and that is a huge takeaway in endurance training.

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Then I headed back home for a shower and some recovery time, which includes both rest and fuel.  I have a new favorite dairy-free smoothie that my girls and I can’t get enough of.  Every time I make one after a run, the girls insist that they get one too.  Some evenings at snack time, they even request this.  It is super easy and full of antioxidants.

We generally limit our dairy, so we usually get our calcium from orange juice and almond milk,  We always have Tropicana Trop 50 No Pulp on hand,  along with Minute Maid Sugar Free Lemonade to mix with sparkling water or even dilute with water.  Both of these are the key to a really great smoothie!

Dairy Free Cherry Mango Recovery Smoothie!

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup Tropicana Trop 50 Orange Juice (or any citrus juice)

1/2 cup Minute Maid Sugar Free Lemonade

I cup frozen cherries

1 cup frozen mango

Directions:

Pour everything into a blender and blend well.  Serve and enjoy.  It doesn’t get any easier than that!

What do you like putting in your smoothies?

Spring Race Training=Delicious Recovery Smoothie

Happy New Year!  I hope this year brings you plenty of happy mileage and health.

Despite the fact that we are just now getting deep into winter, we are also entering Spring Race Training Season.  I’ve been keeping quiet, but I definitely caught the spring racing bug and signed up for a race.  I will be running the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI on May 23, 2020

To be quite honest, I am pretty nervous.  This will be my sixth marathon, and up until my last one, I had nothing but great experiences with the 26.2 mile distance.  I qualified twice for the Boston Marathon and spent two other times running well over 26 miles as a running coach for a charity at the Chicago Marathon.  Nine months after I had our first daughter, I ran a marathon PR at the Run for the Red Poconos Marathon.  Four weeks later, I ran Grandma’s Marathon and had the worst experience of my life.  I went from an absolute high to an absolute low.  That left me completely deflated.

To be honest, I was so relieved to be 15 weeks pregnant the following spring and have an excuse not to run Boston.  I just wasn’t mentally ready to do another and that was okay!

I’ve definitely had some time to clear my head.   I would also like to think that I have grown as a runner and know that not every race has to be a PR.  This race for me, is a way to look 26.2 miles in the eye, and go back after it.  It also helps that it is basically in my backyard.

As an ACE Certified Health Coach, I also have a new approach to my training.  I still love all food and any dessert.  But I also know the power food has to work as both fuel and a recovery system.  I’m using this tool to take me into training and keep me healthy.

I recently added a delicious new smoothie to my post workout regimen.  I am loving it and so are my kids!  It can also work as a great breakfast to take to work or school as you run out the door in the morning (hint, you can also blend some oatmeal or granola into this!).

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Mary Approved!

The key is blueberries.  Rich in fiber, Vitamins K and C, and antioxidants, it is the perfect potion to refuel your muscles and help repair damage done during a workout.  Your muscles are only as good as you treat them.  Long runs require plenty of repair and antioxidants are key to this recovery.

Blueberries also contain 85% water.  Hydration is essential to sustaining a training session, and is also vital for getting your muscles back into working order.  If you don’t rehydrate after a workout, your body isn’t going to function at it’s best.

This smoothie only requires 4 simple ingredients and can be whipped up in a flash before or after a workout.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup Greek or vanilla Light and Fit yogurt

1/4 cup almond milk

1 tbsp honey

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Directions:

Simply place all ingredients in a blender and pulse on smoothie mode.  Pour into a glass and enjoy.

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The great thing about frozen blueberries is that you can get them year round at an affordable price.  The freezing process also maintains the fruit at it’s freshest point so you don’t miss out on any of the vital nutrients.

Happy Running!

“I Don’t Think I Can Finish The Race”-But You Will!

Happy holidays!  I’m adding a quick post that I have been meaning to do for a few weeks now.  Our family joined several cousins, aunts, and uncles in a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and I’m finally sitting down to share a special moment from that day.

For weeks our family had been talking about doing a Turkey Trot and we finally signed up the day before Thanksgiving.  Several family members had said they would be doing the kids run/walk and our 4 year old thought that would be a lot of fun.  Only after we had talked about it for several days, did we find out that the kids race was a 5k!

This past summer Rock completed his first Half Ironman and Mary was disappointed to find out that she missed out on the opportunity to do a kid’s race.  When she knew that everyone else was doing the 5k, she insisted she needed to do it.  We decided that Rock would run the race and push Lucy in the stroller and I would do the kid’s race with Mary.

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We literally showed up as the gun went off and Mary hopped out of the stroller and began running.  For the first mile, she actually ran the entire time.  I was really impressed by her endurance and speedy little legs!  Then things began to slow down.

Somewhere between mile 1 and 2 she needed a drink.  I explained that there was only one way to get refreshments and that was to press on until we found an aid station.  At mile 2 we found our oasis and after downing a cup, she shrugged and said, “That wasn’t the best water ever but it will do.”  She knows how to make me laugh.

Things began to go downhill from there.  She started to feel tired and her feet were hurting.  We had discussed this before the race and the rule was that if she was going to do this with her cousins, I wasn’t going to carry her.

“I don’t think I am going to make it, mom.”

I looked around me and several older runners were also struggling and beginning to walk.  I could tell that many people were doing this for the first time, together.

I squeezed Mary’s hand and explained that this happens to every runner at every distance.  Part of the reason people do races is for the challenge it presents.  Regardless of how fast or how far you are going, you are always going to have a moment in a race where you question if you are going to be able to do this.  Pushing past that point is the way to reach your goal.

I reminded her of our afternoon a few weeks before, cheering runners on at the NYC Marathon.  “Remember how we saw people walking and some people were crying?  They didn’t think they were going to finish.  But they kept on going.”

We held hands and continued our run/walk to the end where she flew through the finish chute and grabbed some bananas and water.  The smile stayed on her face the rest of the day.  She proudly had finished her first 5k.  I was incredibly proud of her.  The mental barriers of running are often more difficult to overcome than the physical challenges.

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This was a good reminder for me.  If you continue to run, you will continue to face challenges.  They come when you aren’t expecting them.  If you fight through and stay confident, the reward on the other side of that challenge is bigger than you can imagine.

She also reminded me the next day as she came shuffling down the stairs, that your legs will always be sore the morning after a race!  Happy Running and Happy Holidays.

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That’s What Races Are All About

Hello, friends!  Please excuse my absence.  I’ve been doing a lot of coaching during this summer/fall marathon season.  I also spent the latter portion of the summer studying for and getting my real estate license.  I hadn’t planned on taking such a long break from blogging, but I also hadn’t planned on delving into two really fun businesses at once this fall!

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See More @SarahDudek-Realtor on Facebook!

Running in the fall is a pretty fun experience, especially after spending a few months slogging in the summer heat and humidity.  There are also so many fun marathons to choose from.  I’ve literally had runners racing in a marathon every weekend of the month of October into November.  My phone has been actively tracking everyone!

We are once again in New York City, teaching at Wollman Rink in Central Park.  If you are here, please stop by and say hello!

Being in New York this past week has been incredible.  We saw the Marathon Route flags going up along First Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and the Central Park Drive.  We watched the finish line being set up and we saw the masses of runners flocking to the park as the week came to a close.

The subway system in NYC is far too difficult to navigate with a double running stroller, so I make the 3 mile trek to and from work each day with the girls across the city.  Over the past few weekends, we’ve come to work along First Avenue where runners were getting in their last few long runs.  We also go across the park where runners from around the world come to log miles.  As we made these adventures over the past few weeks, we talked about long runs and marathon training.  We discussed how running a marathon is never easy, regardless of how many you have under your belt.

I love these little talks with my girls.  Mary is 4 and she takes in every detail and asks so many questions.  Lucy is now 2 and she simply repeats whatever we have to say.  The biggest take away from these talks is that we should cheer on the runners.  Unprompted, Mary started shouting, “Good job, runners!” to anyone we passed.  This was then followed by, “Good job, wawa!” from Lucy.

The girls helped make signs for our friends who would be running the marathon.  They asked about each runner and where they were coming from and practiced cheering for each of them.

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On Sunday, we stepped out of the apartment to the Mile 19 marker and found a perfect place to track our friends and cheer on everyone.  The perfectly rehearsed, “Good job, runners!” and, “Good job, wawa!” were met with oohs and ahhs.

We chatted about how we were waiting for our friends at one of the hardest places in the race.  Somewhere between mile 18 and mile 23, the excitement of the race ends and the panic starts to hit.  Fuel supplies run low, and the reality of the amount of time you have been on your feet, and the amount of time you have left, starts to settle in.  Being able to be on the flip side, and cheer for someone who might be struggling, is pretty magical.

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After we had found the last of our runners, we headed home for naps.  I asked the girls if they had fun cheering and Mary said, “Yes, mom.  That’s what we do for people at races.  That is what races are all about.”

The final part of that comment made me smile, inside and out.  That is what races are all about.  They aren’t about winning or losing.  They are about achievements and accomplishments.  Races are about disappointments and setbacks.  They are injuries and comebacks.  At the end of the day, they are about running with thousands of other people, sharing in the same great moment, together.  We do it, cheering each other along, because that is what races are all about.

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The bench in Central Park honoring running great, Ryan Shay.

What do races mean to you?

 

No Boring Salads Here & Kid’s Deconstructed Salad

You might think this is boring, but I love salads in the summer.  Sure I am a Health Coach, and you would assume that I love all things healthy.  However, my family would tell you I have a deep love for Cool Ranch Doritos and Crunchy Cheetos.  In fact, a few days ago, Mary and I took a date day and went out to the lake to enjoy these treats on the dock.  It was a special moment for this mom!

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Back to the salads.  As soon as the warm weather arrives, I crave a fresh pile of greens and toppings.  Over the years, I have learned there are so many ways to spice up a simple salad and save a ton of time in the kitchen, leaving you more time to play outside with your family.  Even better, most of the simple ingredients you use, can be plated for kids (or salad hating adults) to enjoy as their meal.

Grab a few ingredients, and you can easily switch things up throughout the week for a different dinner every night.  You can also throw leftovers together for lunch the next day.

It’s all about the base.  These days, there are so many types of pre-washed greens.  You can buy these by the bag or container.  You can also buy salad kits.  I discovered last year that my 2 year old loved Caesar Salad kits and now she loves the kale and Brussels sprout with poppyseed dressing.  The cool thing about kits is that you can use the fixings, or skip their dressing and add your own favorites.  I personally love the kale kit, but usually just use the greens and then make my own creation.

Veggies are great, but think beyond the produce section.  Sure, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, and carrots are great.  But don’t forget about canned and frozen veggies.  Canned black beans, corn, and chickpeas can easily be rinsed and thrown into the mix.  They are also budget friendly!

Frozen veggies are picked at their ripest and flash frozen.  You can often find them in steam packets that go directly into the microwave.  Warm them up and then pop some onto your plate.

It’s okay to add a touch of carbs to the mix.  One of my favorite meals is the Caesar salad from a place called The Noodle.  As you might guess, they are known for their homemade fresh pasta and even the salad comes topped with noodles.  It is a delicious addition.

Orzo is easy to make and let cool off in a colander.  Rice packets are another great addition.  Toast some day old bread and break into croutons.  

You can always add dairy.  Add this for some extra flavor and protein.  There are so many delicious options from shredded cheddar and parmesan, to bleu cheese, feta, and crumbled goat cheese.

Maybe you protein.  Maybe you don’t.  I do love meat, but I have been making a conscious effort to eat more plant based meals.  By adding a bunch of other flavors and textures to my plate, I don’t always need meat.  But when I do, I sometimes think beyond the traditional chicken, steak, or salmon.  You can find tuna packets, which are a lower calorie protein with high Omega 3 healthy fats.

Morning Star farms offers traditional black bean and Mediterranean chickpea burgers.  I also really like their veggie “chicken” patties.  Boca Burgers have a surprisingly great texture and taste pretty darn similar to a regular burger.

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Meat free “chicken” patties with BBQ and ranch.  So good!

 

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The girls had a taco.

Deconstruct your salad and please even the pickiest eaters.  Before I go further, I urge you not to underestimate your kids.  I never thought my oldest would love Caesar salads at 2 years old.  I didn’t know my one year old would beg for bites of cabbage.  Try adding a small salad to a plate.  Don’t make a big deal about it.  Don’t refer to it as “healthy.”  Just make it part of the meal.  If they decide they don’t like it, no big deal.

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Whatever “tools” you use to build your salad, plate them out on your kids’ dishes.  For example, if you decide to make a Mexican salad, add cheese, beans, meat, and peppers to your little ones’ plates.  Add some dip or salsa and a tortilla.  Let them roll theirs into a taco or burrito.

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I can’t pass on some Annie’s mac and cheese shells!

What I love about this approach is that you are never eating a salad while the rest of your family eats something different.  This isn’t about healthy vs. unhealthy or one person eating healthy while others are eating a different dinner.  You are eating together as a family.  When you put together ingredients for the week, you can easily whip up a meal in minutes for everyone.

What is your favorite way to eat a salad?

Incorporating Running Into Vacations & Work Trips

One of the biggest hurdles many of the runners I work with, is getting training runs in during vacations and travel.  Whether you are away on a trip, out of town for work, or at a wedding, there are usually ways to get your runs in.  Research is almost always your best bet to make this process easier.

Plan ahead:  The internet is your friend.  Get on Google and Google Maps and take a look at what the area will be like.  Is it safe to run?  Are there sidewalks or running paths?  Many area websites offer advice on great places to run.  I research hotels and resorts based on their gyms.  When we took a trip to Punta Cana, I made sure there was a good indoor space to run, knowing that outside wouldn’t be a safe option.

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Super pregnant me, made sure our hotel at Grandma’s Marathon had room for me to run!

Get on the phone:  Call your hotel concierge and ask about their gym and recommendations for places to run.  Make sure you tell them how far you are looking to go!  Did you know that some Westin’s offer Running Concierges?

Contact the local running stores.  Many offer weekly and weekend group runs.  Fleet Feet in Chicago has a fantastic Chick’s Night and a variety of group runs throughout the week.  These are great ways to meet people and learn about other fun places to run, eat, or drink in the city you are visiting.

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This was recommended by the concierge during my visit to Cleveland for a wedding.

Find a local gym:  If you know that the place you are visiting won’t be great for outdoor running or the weather is looking questionable, call local gyms and find out what type of day passes they offer.  Some will give you one day for free.  I recently got a day pass at a beautiful new L.A. Fitness for $15.  When I went to pay, they reminded me to keep my receipt because it was valid for 24 hours!

Try something different:  When we took a weekend trip to Boston, I had read about a local running tour that visitors often use.  We booked our tour and added on the Harpoon Brewery tour option.  City Running tours made our visit to Boston one of the best memories of our vacation.  Our guide was fun and knowledgeable.  We were able to visit far more places than most tourists get to do on foot in one day, let alone in two hours.  Plus, we got to visit a brewery and enjoy unlimited sips for awhile.

Find an event:  Whenever we visit a place for more than a few days, I go on Running In The USA to see if the area we are staying in has any events going on.  It doesn’t always work, but we’ve been lucky enough to find a few races during our stays.  We once found a really fun 10k at a golf resort near where we were staying in Florida.  It was such a great way to start a Saturday morning of vacation.

If you are staying somewhere safe, go explore:  When we went on our honeymoon to Aruba, we chose our vacation because the island is incredibly safe.  It is also conveniently small and basically experiences the same weather every day, year round.  Knowing that it was okay to run around the island, allowed us to log 70 miles over the course of a week.  We took time to stop in shops and wandered through neighborhoods and touristy areas.  We left feeling like we really got a great understanding of what Aruba was like.

It might take a little research to find a place to run.  But if you take some time to plan ahead, running during a vacation or other events, can really be a great way to enjoy your time in a new place.

How do you like to get a run in when you are out of town?

Slowcooker Cheesy Ranch Chicken

I’ve been going through a salad phase lately and was recently looking to make a big batch of protein to top my salads.  At the same time, I wanted to find a family friendly recipe that could be used in versatile ways.  My three year old loves salads and my one and a half year old has yet to meet a food she doesn’t like.  I started looking at chicken with ranch recipes, hoping to appease our Midwestern tastebuds.

I found a few recipes that I liked and decided to switch things around and make one that I thought my family would enjoy most.  The result was that we ate one batch for three days straight and then made another double batch by request of everyone in our house.  The picture below doesn’t do it justice.  It’s not the prettiest shredded chicken.  Let me promise you, this is a crowd pleaser!

RanchChicken1

My husband commented that the chicken tasted really decadent, and while it does have a lovely combo of cheese going on, it isn’t as decadent as it tastes.  It is delicious topped on salads, in wraps or burritos, or simply for dinner with some veggies and rice on the side.

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prep and then does it’s thing in the slow cooker while you are doing your own thing.

I threw down a bed of romaine and added diced tomatoes, red onion, a variety of beans, and corn.  When I make salads I chop up a variety of veggies and keep them in the fridge so I have quick options for dinners or lunches during the week.  You can also grab a microwaveable pack of rice and add a bit to your salads or wraps too.

The fun thing about salads is that you can change the fixings and feel like you are having a different meal every night.

Slowcooker Creamy Ranch Chicken:

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (or water)

2 packets ranch dressing mix

1- 8 ounce package cream cheese

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Directions:

Spray the inside of your slow cooker and then place chicken breasts in the bottom.  Pour broth or water on top of chicken and sprinkle one packet of ranch on top.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Remove lid and discard most of the liquid, leaving a few tablespoons inside.  Shred the chicken and then add cream cheese and another packet of ranch to the slow cooker.  Let cook for 30 minutes and then remove lid and stir ingredients.  Add the cheese and stir again.  Put lid back on and keep on warm until everything is well mixed and you are ready to eat.

Note:  I added the second packet of ranch because when you discard the juices, much of the mix is also removed.  Since most of the liquid is removed before the rest of the ingredients are added, it might not be necessary to use broth, as it doesn’t add a lot of flavor.  The liquid simply keeps the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If you are concerned about sodium intake, it might be helpful for you to skip the broth.

We also served this at a party as a dip.  Try it with crackers, pieces of tortilla, bread, or veggies.  A few people even made mini quesadillas.