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!

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?

The Plan Is, There Doesn’t Always Have To Be A Plan

Many people often mention to me that they are interested in getting started with running but don’t know where to start and aren’t quite ready to hire a coach.  This is totally understandable.  There is an abundance of information available on the internet about how to get started, such as Couch to 5k Plans.  While these can be very useful, it is often difficult to read through everything and know what is actually helpful and what might not be such great advice.

The truth is, running doesn’t always have to be a science.  Sure, if you are looking to improve your speed or increase your distance for a longer endurance race, having a set plan or a coach to guide you can make the process much easier.  However, if you are simply looking to begin running, you can make it just that: running simple.

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As I have mentioned in other posts, running isn’t always easy.  It gets easier, but there will always be an element of challenge in nearly every run.  This is what makes you feel so invigorated and accomplished when you finish!

To make the process easier, it is often helpful to start with shorter distances and use run/walk intervals.  Set a goal of doing 10 minutes your first time.  Try running for a minute and walking for two.  You can gradually increase the duration over time, as your body begins to adjust.  If you prefer, the run/walk intervals can also lengthen out.  However, I have many clients and friends who use the run/walk method exclusively for all distances from 5k’s through the marathon.

A helpful tool to decrease your risk of injury is to follow the 10% rule.  When you feel that you have comfortably accomplished a certain amount of time or distance, increase that amount by 10%.  You should also start your run intervals at a shorter amount than your walking intervals.  Follow a 1:3 or 1:2 run/walk at first and lengthen or decrease as necessary.

Remember any amount of running is running.  There is no rule that states how fast, how far, or how often you need to run to be a runner.  If you run, you are a runner!

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Running is your own personal journey.  This is about you feeling good about you and the experience.  Remember that it will be challenging.  It will take time for your body to adjust and become more comfortable.  Give yourself the freedom to make it work for you.

With some time and patience, you might find that you are ready to start looking for an appropriate plan for you or to hire a coach.  Until then, just run as you wish.

How do you like to approach your running?

It’s Not Very Chilly-5 Minute Slow Cooker Chili

Apparently long weekends leave me a few days behind on catching up!  We had an awesome long weekend playing with family at Shanty Creek Resorts.  If you recall, we were there a few years ago when Mary just started crawling and we basically had the place to ourselves.  A year before that, we got married there in the summer.

Things have changed just a little bit!

This time, these non-skiers enjoyed a winter weekend playing in the snow.  Well Mary and Rock played in the snow and I sat at the Lakeview Restaurant and watched them tube down the runs.  They had a blast.  Lucy and I chowed down and had fun too.

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Just watching some Olympics.

We finished the weekend off by enjoying a delicious meal and flight of beers at Short’s Brewing Company.  I didn’t get any pics because I was fresh off of an 8 mile run and was both ravenous and seriously into my tasting of five delicious IPA’s.

Between our trip to humid Mexico, some dry and stuffy aired flights, and a chilly return to reality, my throat has been soar for a few days.  My tonsils are swollen and I am trying to remedy things with sweaty workouts, lots of hot and cold hydration, and some warm soothing meals.  While I have enjoyed a few meals that involved meat, I’ve stuck to my plant based eating most of the time.  It has been surprisingly easy.

I scoured a few websites to look at various planted based recipes and then decided to try my hand at making my own slow cooker meals.  Last night I made this Slow Cooker Lentil and Quinoa Chili.  I wasn’t certain how this would turn out, but I was pleasantly surprised.  This meal cost around $10 to make and as the lentils and quinoa cooked up, the slow cooker was filled to the brim.  This will last us for several meals.  There’s no browning of meat or veggies.  Just dump the ingredients in and turn your crockpot on.

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Enjoying some chili with her post ballet Happy Meal

I missed the last episode of “This Is Us” when it aired after the Super Bowl.  So I don’t know how things ended up, but I did see the episode when the fire started and I do cringe a bit each time I turn my slow cooker on.  But give this one a try.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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Slow Cooker Lentil and Quinoa Chili:

Ingredients:

1 onion (chopped)

1 green bell pepper (chopped)

1 red bell pepper (chopped)

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can pinto beans (drained)

1 can black beans (drained)

1 can chili beans (drained)

1 can tomato sauce

4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups lentils

1/2 cup quinoa

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

3 cloves minced garlic

Salt to taste

Directions:

Pour all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Top with your favorite fixings.  Enjoy!

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Check out my other chili recipes!

3 Cans And 6 Veggies Chili

Super Easy Turkey Chili

 

Which One? Healthy Eating Or Exercise?

The other day I was watching “The Doctors” and someone asked which was better: exercising or eating well?  Despite being an avid exerciser, I immediately shouted, “Eating well!”  As a certified health coach, personal trainer, and running coach, it has become increasingly clear over the years that what we put into our bodies is far more important than exercise.  Don’t get me wrong, exercise is essential to a healthy life.  But you can’t out exercise a poor diet, and you can’t outrun unhealthy eating.

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Sure, we have all put in an extra hour at the gym before, or run a few extra miles after a less than stellar day of eating.  And while that is a great way to bump things up when we fall behind, you certainly can’t rely on doing that every day.

Truth is, we need to eat well most of the time and exercise too.  There should also be some time for rest and relaxation, along with enjoying some indulgence as well.  I prefer the 80%/20% rule with this.  Keep it healthy 80% of the time and enjoy and indulge the other 20%.

When it comes to diet and exercise, what you put in is what you will get out.  If you eat poorly, you will get poor miles or poor results.  You can’t outrun a bad diet.

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This has been weighing on my mind a lot lately.  While I have been busy Netflixing, I spent a few hours watching documentaries.  Last year I had a client who told me she watched “Food Choices” and it changed her life.  She was focused on a plant based diet.  I watched the documentary and it hit me hard.  But it didn’t completely change my mind.

Earlier this fall I caught a bit of a segment on NPR where a doctor was discussing how Americans eat far too much meat.  He said that if you eat meat every day, you should work to go one day without meat each week.  If you eat meat once a week, you should aim for once a month….and so on.  Basically, he discussed how it causes inflammation in our bodies and Americans consume much more meat than most other countries.  I was intrigued, but still didn’t do much about this.

I don’t recall why, but I ended up watching “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix a few weeks ago.  This documentary emphasized again how we eat too much meat and showed a correlation between weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other issues.  As a health coach, I also know that if any diet can be recommended to clients, the Mediterranean Diet is the heart healthiest.

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DoctorOz.com

This information continues to show up and it was starting to make me consider what might happen if I adopted not a vegetarian lifestyle, but more of a plant based emphasis each day.  So while Rock was out of town for work last week, I set about finding recipes.

Here is what I found:  My grocery bill was so cheap!  I thought it would be much more expensive to just buy fresh fruits and veggies.  But the reality was, between produce and some canned and dried options, I was leaving the grocery store with a lot more money in my pockets.

While this wasn’t my main goal, I ended up dropping a few pounds almost immediately.  It was  a pleasant surprise.  One day I was walking by a mirror and noticed that my face looked a bit more thinned out and my muscles looked more noticeable.

A few days in, I was cruising along on the treadmill and found myself bumping the pace up because it felt good!  I was hesitant to run at this pace because I figured I would hit a wall.  However, I suddenly noticed that I was maintaining this pace and I wasn’t tired.  I really did just feel good.

It didn’t end there either.  I was watching the new season of “Grace and Frankie” and I was having such a fun time that I didn’t want to stop running.  My mileage soared and I felt so good, I didn’t even realize that I forgot to take a day off.  I ran eight days in a row and averaged 8-10 miles each day.  I didn’t have a super long run in there, but there was some really great mileage and my muscles weren’t complaining.  In fact, I made a mistake in an earlier post this week.  I actually ran 58 miles last week!

The Verdict:  I still love meat.  I’m still going to eat meat.  But we as a family have agreed that we are going to focus more on plant based meals.  My body felt good and I enjoyed what I was eating.  I made a delicious Indian curry that warmed my body and had some awesome anti-inflammatory spices added in.  The whole house smelled amazing!

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Chickpeas, Onions, Tomatoes, Spinach, and spices over rice.  So fast and so good!

Everyone needs to do what is best for their own lifestyles.  But there is a lot of evidence that adding more fruits and veggies and enjoying even a little bit less meat can make a big difference in your health.  I highly recommend checking out “Forks Over Knives” and “Food Choices” if you are curious about this.

Do you love a good burger like me?  Any thoughts on eating a little bit less meat?

Still Rocking The Treadmill & My Favorite Workouts

Well that was a long, but fun week!  Rock was out of town for work and I had the girls to myself.  We had some awesomely fun times and also some incredibly frustrating toddler moments.  I believe I referred to most days as a rollercoaster this past weekend.  There were some highs and some definite lows.

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This awesome gift was waiting on our porch Friday for the girls.  They spent the weekend watching cartoons in it.

I have actually found that being a mom of two has made me love parenting more than ever.  I’m surprisingly more patient than I was in the past.  And that is a good thing, because an infant and a toddler present all sorts of “interesting” challenges.

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It’s a Hard Knock Life being two.  I introduced Mary to “Annie.”

We survived the week and I was able to get in 49 miles too.  The week started off super cold, which made very appreciative to have the treadmill.  On Friday we were at 52 degrees and I would have loved getting a run in outside, but I have been enjoying my Netflix and watching Lucy swing while I hit the mill.  Treadmill workouts have been my jam lately.

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I love running outside, but am slightly freaked out by the idea of pushing 2 kids!

January has been really good to me as far as mileage goes, and I attribute some of that to some changes I have made in my eating.  I will touch upon that a bit more later this week.  But regardless of those changes, I have been loving my running and upping my mileage.  I’m considering some fall marathon options and am excited to be representing the Simple Hydration Running Team again this year!

I know a lot of people absolutely despise the treadmill.  It can be boring, and let’s be honest, running long distances isn’t exactly exciting to begin with.  However, there are a few things you can do to make the mill a bit more exciting, namely by implementing treadmill workouts.

Sometimes I like the treadmill because you can just zone out.  This isn’t always easy or wise when you are running outdoors.  You really should be constantly aware of your surroundings when you are outside.  On the mill, you can blast music or binge watch Netflix and not have to worry too much about what is going on around you.  Sometimes this can be a nice change.  Please note, this does not mean you have the freedom to be obnoxious at the gym!

I also like to do speed and HIIT \ workouts when I am on the treadmill.  Many people don’t realize that the treadmill can actually be a great tool for interval training, especially if you have difficulty finding or holding a goal pace for these workouts.  This can also help create a little variety and avoid numbing the brain.

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If you find that you are constantly watching the time on the monitor, these might be a great way for you to mix things up a bit.  My guess is that you will start to notice that you are so busy following your plan that you forget you are on the treadmill or how long you have been running.

These are also great ways to learn to mentally hold those faster paces.  You might hit your hardest pace and fear that you won’t make it, only to find that when the pace switches again, you recover well and really are capable of sustaining faster speeds.  This is great mental training for races or doing longer distances.

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The Pyramid Run:  This is one of my favorite treadmill workouts.  Start out with a short warm up at an easy pace.  After a few minutes start bumping up the pace every minute until you reach your hard pace.  You shouldn’t be running at 100% but should be to a point where it would be difficult to hold a conversation (about 75%).  Once you reach this point, hold that pace for one minute and then start bumping it back one minute at a time until you reach your starting pace.  Continue this pattern of building and falling back until you have reached your time or distance goal.

The Fall Back Run:  This is a great variation of the Pyramid Run.  Begin with a short warm up (around 5 minutes).  Then start building up as you would for your pyramid run.  Once you hit that difficult speed, fall right back to your starting pace.  I love this workout for anyone who is new to speed or HIIT workouts.  While it can be scary to push yourself at these harder speeds, it can feel less daunting knowing that once you hit that hard pace, you get to start back at the easy level.  Once again, continue these build up and fall backs until you reach your time or distance goal.

What are your favorite ways to make the treadmill more exciting?

Three Parties & We All Need A Nap!

Happy Tuesday!  I missed a Monday post because we didn’t even have time to catch our breath this past weekend.  It was fun filled and very active.

Friday evening we headed over to my parent’s house for Christmas dinner. We will be out of town, so this was the perfect evening for us to celebrate.  We had a lovely dinner and then Mary had a blast opening gifts.  It is so fun to see your child “get” the idea of Christmas for the first time.

A few months ago Mary made friends with a boy who is a drummer in a band and also the high school band.  He let her play his drums at the homecoming football game and she has talked about it every single day since then.

Her buddy showed up during our Christmas party and gifted her a drum set.  It was the highlight of her night and was all she talked about the entire weekend.

Saturday started out with a minor crisis in our house.  The belt flew off of the treadmill during Rock’s run and he found himself spending a few hours learning to be a treadmill mechanic.  It would be an understatement to say that my husband is a saint.  He worked like crazy to get it fixed so that I could get a run in before we hosted our own Christmas party.

Thanks to him I was able to run that day and the treadmill got me through 42 miles last week.

We cleaned and decorated and then I got to business on making a cheese platter for the table.  This year we did an appetizer and cocktail party and the centerpiece was my cheeseboard.  I bought these beautiful acacia platters at Target for $13 each and lined them with a variety of cheeses, meats, nuts, and fruit.  It made our dining room table the perfect gathering place.

Sunday morning we woke up and got ourselves together enough to go to church.  We coaxed Mary into going by promising her we would return quickly so that she could play the drums.  She went downstairs and wailed on the drums and even penned her own song.  Thanks to some lessons from Daniel Tiger she created a song where she simply shouts, “I’m so mad.  I’m so mad.  I’m so mad, mad, mad!”  Please trust me that she is not angry when she sings this but I think these are the only things she knows that should be shouted.

We were able to get her down for a nap with a promise that her friends would be coming over later for another party.  As soon as I walked in to wake her up she jumped up and said, “Oh!  I need my tights!”

We invited Mary’s friends and our friends over for a gingerbread decorating party.  We are so lucky that many of our good friends have awesome children that are so great to Mary.  Ages ranged from 1-11 and they all did a great job of making some pretty cool houses.  The older girls took it pretty seriously while the younger ones shoveled a lot of their projects into their mouths.

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Pre-party set up!

By the time we put the girls down to bed Sunday night and poured a glass of wine, Rock kicked his feet up and announced that we were officially done hosting for the holiday season.  While it was a little sad to see it come to an end, I am thrilled that there are so many more celebrations yet to come, and that we had some party successes over here!

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And this is how Mary decorates cookies. Can you figure out which ones she did?!

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How was your weekend?  

What would be your ultimate choice to have on a cheeseboard?

Holiday Fun and Delicious Recipes For The Season

Happy Monday!  What a fun week we just had and things are about to get crazy this coming week.

Michigan was freezing cold and all of my 49 miles of running were done on the treadmill.  When the thermometer plays tricks by saying it is a frigid 29 degrees out but actually feels like 9, there is no chance that I want to head outside.  Thank goodness for our treadmill.  It was nice and toasty in our basement!

I got into the gym to train clients a few times this past week.  And on Thursday we went on a family adventure to Traverse City.  My mom took us to Moomers, a local dairy, that is nationally known for their delicious ice cream.  Before they close for the season, they host gingerbread making for children (or adults).  For $30 you get a large pre-made gingerbread house, a muffin tin full of various candies, and plenty of messy frosting.  You can also make a sleigh or a gingerbread boy/girl for $15.

Mary and her cousin had a blast making houses.  This basically entailed us trying to hurry and get the candy on the house before the kids ate all of it.  Moomers does offer you extra candy if you need some.  Needless to say, we required seconds of a few things.

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The adventure wrapped up with pictures with their projects, which were later made into ornaments to take home.  Moomers also had boxes to carry the masterpieces home in.  It was really an awesome time and very well thought out.

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We then went downtown T.C. to try out a new to us venue.  The State Street Market Place opened in the last little while and houses several restaurants, a coffee bar, brewery, and a few shops.  Everything is open with communal tables to gather at.  We tried some delicious Lebanese food at Ziatun.  I am a sucker for beef Shwarma and spices.

Our weekend was filled with gymnastic classes, and a nice long run for me, followed by our first Christmas party of the year.  It was great to get together with family and enjoy delicious food and drinks.  There has been an influx of babies on my dad’s side of the family over the last year and it was a blast to see the cousins meeting each other for the first time.

We wrapped up Sunday with lots of baking, cooking, church and some great family time.  To start of the week I want to share some of the delicious recipes we have tried and loved this week.

These chewy white chocolate dipped ginger cookies are fantastic.  We are adding this to our cookie baking rotation.  I didn’t take a picture because mine look nothing like these beauties!  If you like a great ginger cookie, this one is chewy and the addition of white chocolate is perfect.

I found this recipe for shortbread while flipping through Better Homes and Gardens yesterday.  I tore out the recipe and immediately made these.  They are so easy and taste amazing!

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Recipe:  Simply combine 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 2/3 butter.  Use a pastry blender to combine.  Knead into a ball and then roll out on a floured surface.  Slice as you wish and place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle generously and then bake at 325ºF for 15-18 minutes until edges are golden.  Cool for a few minutes and transfer to a rack.

I am also a huge fan of Six Sister’s Stuff.  I made this delicious and super easy fudge.  I prefer make it without the marshmallows and nuts.  This comes together in minutes with just a few ingredients.

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Rock finished off Sunday evening in grand style.  He made these Six Sixter’s Stuff Fall Off The Bone Ribs in the slow cooker and then finished them off in the broiler.  They might have been the best ribs we have ever had!  I have yet to have a recipe go wrong from this website.  It is my favorite.

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Do you have a favorite holiday recipe you care to share?  I’m baking all week because we have 3 holiday parties next weekend and are hosting two of them!

Food Is Food, Sweat Is Sweat-Enough With The Guilt

I’ve noticed a lot of posts on social media lately encouraging people to work out so they don’t feel guilty about eating meals during the holidays.  I certainly admit that I ran a Turkey Trot last week, knowing that I was going to enjoy a big feast later in the day.  But I also told my husband that we don’t use exercise as a replacement for overeating.  The two shouldn’t be a means to balance each other out.  Sometimes it may seem that way, but it shouldn’t really be the case.

Of course, many of us exercise to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight, or even to lose weight at times.  But exercise isn’t just a form of diet.  It is a healthy activity that also releases endorphins and makes us feel good about life and ourselves.
On Thanksgiving there were a lot of #burntheturkey #earntheturkey and it was driving me crazy.  You don’t have to earn your turkey.  Thanksgiving is a holiday meant to be spent with friends and family.  The same goes for Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years and other holidays.  Exercise isn’t the ticket that allows you to enjoy turkey or any other meal.  You don’t have to earn that food through exercise, at any time.
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When we say that we earned a meal, it makes it seem like under other circumstances, we shouldn’t eat or enjoy such foods.  That is totally unfair!  Food is not only an essential part of life, but also a very important part of socializing and our cultures.
We should of course aim for a balance in our lives and strive to eat healthy most of the time.  We should also have times where we enjoy a little indulgence.  Dessert is delicious and so are hamburgers, french fries, or whatever your pleasure might be.  When we don’t allow ourselves to eat these things, we deprive our wants, and often go overboard when we have the opportunity.
Exercise on the other hand, shouldn’t be a punishment.  Sweat is not your fat crying.  That statement drives me nuts.  Enough with the fat nonsense!  Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle and sweat is the output from your effort.  Nothing is crying.  Your body, in fact, is likely rejoicing.
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Aim for balance this holiday season.  Eat mostly healthy.  Watch your portions.  And exercise when you can because it is good for you.  But please don’t punish yourself because you overdo it at a meal.  Go ahead and enjoy some holiday appetizers, desserts, or drinks.
Pick an exercise that you enjoy.  Carve out time most days to get a workout in and enjoy that sweat.  Then take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror and smile!