Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Abs are made in the kitchen"

As I enter the fourth week since having shifted my focus towards higher protein/cleaner eating plus more resistance training/less running, I can't help but smile when I realize what changes I have gone through in just a month's time. Such positive changes, too.

Working on getting those abs back - they say abs are made in the kitchen!

I can't explain to you how hesitant I was the first week of this shift, especially when it came to cutting back on running. I went from running about 25 miles a week down to under 15. I half expected to blow up into this water-retaining, fat harboring blob. I got very used to my runner's diet where I didn't have to monitor calorie intake too much, since I knew I would be running it off throughout the week. But what I didn't realize is how easily your body can maintain itself when you cut out processed carbohydrates, even when running is removed from the equation. 

It's like magic, almost. And by magic, I mean science can easily explain this phenomenon. 

It's simple, really. Insulin. Your pancreas produces insulin, and your body needs insulin to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. When you eat, insulin is secreted to remove blood sugar and store it. This is a necessary function. However, it's HOW the blood sugar gets stored that differentiates between reducing and gaining body fat.  If the sugar gets stored as glycogen in your muscles, this is ideal. This provides your muscles with energy for effective fat-burning throughout your daily activities. However, sugar often times gets stored in fat cells; these fat cells enlarge, (you guessed it) making people fat. Your diet controls this mechanism.

Carbohydrates are simple molecules that digest very easily and are converted to sugar quickly. When you eat carbohydrates, the sugars get broken down and enter the bloodstream all at once, causing blood sugar levels to sky-rocket, which in turn stimulates the secretion of insulin to come remove the sugar. This type of severe insulin response prompts excess fat storage as well as low blood sugar, which causes hunger. When your blood sugar is low, this triggers hunger, and your body naturally craves easily digestible foods to recover blood sugar levels, which is why we often crave carbohydrates when we are hungry. It becomes a very dangerous cycle!

With that being said, carbohydrates are NOT our enemies. It is extremely important to choose the right carbohydrates in your diet: complex carbohydrates that digest more slowly and enter the bloodstream gradually, which in turn keep blood sugar levels more stable. Another great way to avoid the rapid release of sugar into the blood, and hence ensure the carbohydrate is not stored as fat, is to pair carbs with other foods that digest more slowly, such as proteins (i.e. eat your apple with a handful of almonds).

Bottom line: the more processed a food product is, the more easily it is digested, the quicker the blood sugar levels increase, and the more the carbohydrates get stored in fat cells versus muscle, causing fat gain. So keep it complex and stick to more slowly-digested foods!

Believe me, I know it's impossible to avoid pasta forever (in fact, I just had some as my splurge meal on Saturday!), but it's important to make sure you are exercising on days where you indulge so that your body is using the carbs as energy and not storing them away as fat. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Digital Lately.

My outdoor yoga sesh last week.

Now that the weather is getting warmer, we are finally able to escape from our nest and do fun things on the weekends...OUTDOORS!

We went into Boston last week so Brent could get his hair cut, and we used it as a great excuse to check out one of the highest-rated steak houses in the Boston area: Grill 23 & Bar. This place did not disappoint.

Their bread basket was out-of-this-world good. When we were being seated, we passed by their bread carving station, which housed about 6 or 7 different kinds of bread, most of which made it into the basket. Absolutely worth the splurge.
My iPhone did this no justice. I ordered the scallop entree, which came with a bacon gravy, roasted fingerling potatoes, sliced avocado, radishes, and tangerine slices. Honestly, in the top 5 meals I've ever had. The flavors were magical. YUM!

Asparagus at a restaurant is always a million times better than when made at home, and this bugs me. Someday, I will prove that statement wrong. Someday.

Sunday, I hit the gym in the morning for my leg workout, then Brent and I went for a hike so that I could show him the Western Greenway Trails and Stonehurst.

One of these days this summer, I'm totally hiking to the spot under the tree and sitting with a good book for the afternoon. 

The day was still young, and the last thing we wanted to do was go home and sit inside, so we headed into historical Concord Center for the afternoon to walk around and check out the shops in town.

We stopped in at the Liberty Restaurant at the Colonial Inn for some grub and wine while we sat outside.

Mixed greens with grilled chicken, dressed with maple vinaigrette - refreshing and delicious!  

I hope you were able to get out and enjoy the nice spring weather this weekend, as well!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Recipe: Vanilla Protein Pancakes

Just because you are eating clean doesn't mean you can't have fun with it. While there are plenty of options to switch it up for lunch and dinner, breakfast may be the least creative meal of the day. I am a huge fan of breakfast, and one of my favorite splurges is a heaping pile of pancakes. By the weekend, I get a little tired of the usual egg white omelette or yogurt.

Muffin Topless has an incredibly simple and delicious pancake option for those who are trying to eat clean and increase your protein intake: Vanilla Protein Pancakes.

I followed her recipe to a "T", using unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead of coconut milk, and these pancakes came delicious. The recipe made three medium sized pancakes, and I found that two ended up being quite filling. I served mine with half of a sliced banana and ~2 Tbsp pure VT maple syrup. . Two pancakes (without the banana or maple syrup) contained 213 calories, 2.2g of fat, 2.2g of sugar, 21g of net carbs, and 26.3g of protein. No wonder why these were so filling!

Recipe from Muffin Topless can be found here.

If you're a little iffy on trying whey protein powder - you are not alone! I have tried my share of powders that are gag worthy, making me question why the hell I was putting myself through the trauma of eating something so disgusting. BUT I will also advocate that I have found some really amazing tasting protein powders, where you really cannot tell the different between sipping a protein shake or a milkshake. My recommendations:

1.) Jay Robb Whey Protein Isolate: Vanilla flavor | I just recently bought a 12 ounce package of both vanilla and of chocolate to try and man, do I LOVE this stuff. One scoop contains an entire 25 g of protein, and they sweeten it with Stevia instead of sugar. I wish I could say this product was cheap, but believe me, you get what you pay for. I highly recommend trying the Vanilla flavor - it smells and tastes like birthday cake. This is exactly what I used to make these pancakes!

2.) GNC Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60 Protein: Chocolate flavor | One of the GNC employees raved about this when I went in one day, and I walked out of the store with a giant bag of it. Again, it's not cheap, but it is absolutely worth every cent. Mixed with some almond milk and half of a frozen banana, you seriously would believe you are drinking a chocolate milkshake from a diner. The chocolate flavor is rich and satisfies my ridiculous sweet tooth, and it does not AT ALL taste like protein.

3.) EAS 100% Whey Protein: Chocolate flavor | This was my first ever attempt at trying a protein powder, and it was good enough to get me hooked. The chocolate flavor is not nearly as intense as GNC's, but it is still delicious, especially mixed with some peanut butter. One of the best parts about this brand is that most chain grocery stores will carry this, so you don't need to order it online. It's also cheaper than the above two brands mentioned.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Clean Eating Update

Although a simple concept, eating clean is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. Not only is it less appetizing, it is time consuming and requires a lot of planning ahead. There aren't a whole lot of grab and go options, since most packaged food contains fillers and preservatives. But it IS absolutely doable.

Since having began my journey of clean eating, I've struggled with all of the things I mentioned above. I considered myself a pretty healthy eater beforehand, but I was totally guilty of the morning Milky Way cappuccino, microwaveable soups and/or frozen lunches, snacking on pretzels or chips when I get home from work, and making a habit of chowing down on 1/4 bag of chocolate chips at night after dinner - damn sweet tooth! A lot of these habits formed out of pure laziness - it was so much more convenient to grab a can of soup out of the cabinet in the morning before work than it was to prepare a salad with grilled chicken the night before. And a handful (or three) of chocolate chips were so much more satisfying than the thought of an apple with a few almonds. It really would have been one thing if I was super busy every night of the week, had children to take care of, or worked 80 hours a week, but I was fully aware I had plenty of time on my hands to prep more wholesome meals. I was just being SUPER lazy about it.  It was time to amend these habits.

Clean eating is not a fad diet and is meant to be more of a lifestyle change. By eating clean, I am not eliminating any macromolecules or even counting calories for that matter. I'm just making an effort to become aware of the quality of foods I am eating.  During the work week, it's actually quite easy - I spend Sunday night preparing all my breakfasts/snacks/lunches for the first half of the week, and Wednesday night, I prepare for the second half of the week (keeping cooked meat in the fridge for over 3 days creeps me out!) That way, all I have to do is pull it out of the fridge at work, and voila, it becomes convenient, and I won't resort to packaged food. The weekends, of course, have been the toughest part - if I am a guest at someone else's house, I will eat whatever is there - no one wants to be that person that turns their nose up at food! Plus, it's not realistic to completely cut out processed foods forever; some weeks will be easier than others I'm sure, but I'm going to try to do it as often as I can.

I've been trying to switch it up with my meals so that I don't get sick of the same thing over and over again. So far, I've been pretty successful. Also, by pairing protein with a carb during every meal/snack, I find myself staying much fuller longer. Here's an idea of what my my experience with clean eating looks like:

Breakfast Options:

1/2 C oatmeal (made with 1/2 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk + 1/2 C water, sweetened with Stevia and cinnamon) + 1/2 C egg whites + 1/2 C bell peppers (seasoned with sea salt, garlic powder, and tobasco) + green beans

1 C nonfat plain Chobani Greek yogurt (sweetened with 1/2 tsp Crystal light powder) +
1/2 C mixed strawberries and blueberries

1/2 C coconut oil roasted sweet potato + 3 oz ground lean turkey + 2 C baby spinach/arugula, 5 cherry tomatoes, 1 hard-boiled egg, and honey mustard dressing (homemade with Greek yogurt)
*Instead of sweet potato, some days I take brown rice or quinoa. I also will bring tuna or sliced turkey in as my other protein option.

Snack Options:

1/2 C nonfat cottage cheese (sweetened with Stevia and cinnamon) + apple

1 Bosc pear + 1/2 ounce almonds (plain, unsalted)
Dinner Options:

4 oz ground turkey + 1 C broccoli + 1/2 C baby spinach + 1 oz nonfat Feta cheese

{Meal from Bobby's Burger Palace}
Topless burger salad: turkey burger with BBQ sauce, Monterey Jack cheese, and coleslaw on top of baby greens and balsamic dressing

4 oz grilled chicken breast with salsa + serving side of roasted kale

4 oz ground chicken (seasoned with salt and garam masala) + 2 C roasted brussel sprouts

Every day after my workout, I also take down a protein shake:

Ingredients: 1/2 frozen banana, 1 scoop protein powder (I'm currently using Jay Robb's vanilla whey protein and LOVE it - it tastes like birthday cake!), 1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and occasionally I'll add in 1 Tbsp of PB2 or natural peanut butter. I blend it all together in my Magic Bullet, and it's ready in less than 5 mins!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Split Schedule

Can I just mention how much I love my workout schedule lately? Every day, it's something totally new and different from the day before, and it challenges me in a way that my running schedule didn't.

These are my splits over the last two weeks:

Monday: 10 minute treadmill warmup + chest + 20-30 min cardio
Tuesday: 10 minute treadmill warmup + back + 20-30 min cardio
Wednesday: 30-45 min endurance run + 30 min yoga
Thursday: 10 minute treadmill warmup + shoulders + abs, no cardio
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: 10 minute treadmill warmup + arms + 20-30 min cardio
Sunday: 10 minute bike warmup + legs, no cardio

For cardio, I've incorporated a mix of running and walking. When the weather is less than ideal, I tend to stick to HIIT on the treadmill, and when we get the occasional 60 degree sunny day, I go for a jog or long power walk. I have not been logging mileage; instead, I try to aim for 30-45 minutes of cardio 4x a week. One of those cardio days, I dedicate to a 5+ mile run to challenge my endurance; but mostly, I am focusing on increasing my strength every week by lifting heavier weights.

By working one major muscle group at a time, you can focus solely on that muscle group and give it 100% of your concentration. By splitting into one muscle group per day, you are able to dedicate 30-45 minutes at a time to each muscle group. Imagine trying to incorporate a full body workout of the same caliber: that would translate into two and a half hours of weight lifting! Your muscles would fatigue early in the workout, and your chance of injury would be much higher.

Splitting also allows each muscle group to rest and recover for 7 days before being worked again. It is during the recovery period that the muscle is rebuilding and strengthening. Depending on the experience level of the person lifting the weights and the intensity of the workout, it can take 3-7 days for muscles to fully recover.

I have to admit though, one of my favorite parts of splitting has been the every day change in workouts. It makes it exciting yet challenging, and I genuinely look forward to hitting the gym after work to test my progress from the previous week. I know I'm not the only instant gratification fan out there!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Christmas in April

This post has no real purpose, but to emphasize HOW EXCITED I AM FOR ALL THE THINGSSSS.

It's like Christmas in April for me this week.

My new compression socks came in yesterday, and I cannot WAIT to test them out this weekend on my 9-miler. After reading many runners' praises of using compression socks on longer distance runs, I decided to invest in a pair myself. They are supposed to stimulate blood flow, helping legs recover faster after a long run, and reducing muscle soreness. Even if they don't work, at least they're super stylish - and by stylish, I mean they make you look like a naughty school girl.

My PB2 powder also came in yesterday, and I am already a huge fan. You all know about my love affair with peanut butter - I eat it daily. I love the texture, I love the smell, I love the taste. I kept hearing of this PB2 on some of my favorite health blogs...I thought maybe it was some peanut butter flavored protein powder, and it didn't seem all that appealing at first. However, I found out all PB2 consists of is peanuts that are slow roasted and pressed, removing 85% of the oil and fat, and retaining most of the protein and other natural goodness you find in peanut butter. You can reconstitute it in water to make "peanut butter"; you can sprinkle it into yogurt; you can add it into baked goods; or you can sprinkle dump a Tbsp into your post-workout protein shake like I did last night. If you're a fellow peanut butter lover, give it a try!

I'm still waiting on my new whey protein powder to come in. I'm testing out Jay Robb's brand in chocolate and vanilla - this brand got rave reviews health websites, so I figured why the hell not.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Running updates

So you may have been wondering on Monday where my weekly training summary was...or maybe you didn't notice at all...but either way, you're going to get a healthy dose of Jen spewing about her running struggles.

No, I am not suffering a running injury, not physically at least. I kind of decided to throw out my training schedule last week. I just hadn't been feeling it, and it wasn't fulfilling. It was becoming something I do only because I felt I had to. So I switched it up for a change. I still ran all week, I just did so on my own terms. I took up more weight lifting instead, increased my protein consumption, cut out processed sugars for the entire week, and in turn, seriously cut down on simple carbohydrates...and just like that, exercising instantly became fun again. I was genuinely excited to leave work and get my workout in, knowing it was something challenging and different. Not that running isn't challenging, because it sure as hell is, but going out just to run 6 miles wasn't cutting it for me anymore. I needed something more. And I didn't want to be tied down to a strict cardio schedule.

I keep asking myself why I've hit this mental hurdle. Perhaps, it's the weather. Last year at this time, I was running all my long runs in 70-80° weather. This year, I'm lucky if it reaches 50° mid-afternoon on a Sunday. I just don't get as excited about running in 50° like I do when it's 70° - and I know I'm not alone in this! Perhaps, it's not as much of a "shiny new toy" as it was last year. Last year, I had never attempted running distances over 6 miles, so it was a huge challenge to work up to 12 miles while training, and an even bigger accomplishment to have completed 13.1 miles on race day. Now that I know I am quite capable of it, it's not as exhilarating. Perhaps, it would be easier if I trained with others? Maybe I'm bored running the same routes in my neighborhood? I really don't know. All I know is, I still love running with all my heart, and I want to keep it that way, so I'm taking a temporary step back from the training. I would still love to run the half marathon in May, so my tentative plan is to keep up with a long run every week, and change up the workouts in between to include more cross-training and challenging weights. It may mean my half marathon time is not as good as last year, but so be it.

I also wanted to comment on my decision to cut out processed sugars last week. After the long New England winter we had this year, and the pounds of cookies, cakes, bars, etc that were created in my kitchen during the snow storms, and the bottles of wine consumed while being snowed in, I felt I truly needed to give my body a "spring cleanse", if you will. I wasn't sure how it was going to go, but I was determined to make it through one week where the only sugars I was consuming were from fruit and other natural sources. First, let me emphasize how eye-opening it was to become aware of how much sugar I was taking in on a daily basis. The little things add up - a 2-bite cookie here, a few pieces of Easter candy there, and a small portion of a baked good to end the day. I got into the habit of relying on something sweet every night after dinner, and I would feel like I needed to have a glass of wine in my hand while I watched TV at night before bed. I had to kick that habit, and moderation wasn't cutting it for me, so I bid goodbye to processed sugars for 7 days. All it took was not having them sitting around in my kitchen cabinets, and come to find out, I didn't even miss them. I felt amazing going into this week, and my goal is to continue limiting the amounts of processed sugars (and foods, in general!) that I consume - everything in moderation, of course!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts & Prayers

My heart is so heavy right now.

The only Monday of the year that people in Massachusetts look forward to: Patriots' Day. Many companies in the Boston area have shut down for the day, spring is in full swing, April school vacation has begun, and one of the most esteemed events in the world begins at 9am. Family, friends, tourists, students, pets, volunteers, and supporting runners line up along the 26.2 mile course of the Boston Marathon to cheer on athletes from all over the world as they make their way from Hopkinton to Boston.

Yesterday began as any other Marathon Monday. Unfortunately, it was not a vacation day for my company, so I sat and watched behind my computer screen at work: only the second year out of 26 that I have missed being along the course. I knew of a good 6 or so people running this year, so I made sure to add them to my tracking list first thing in the morning. We all gathered around my screen to watch as the elite women and men crossed the starting line, and we cheered from my office building in Waltham.

I would take a peek every now and then to see how far the front pack had made it and couldn't help but smile when I saw all the little kids on the sidelines with signs, cheering on the runners, handing out orange slices - I had flashbacks to when I was a child watching from the sidelines in Ashland at my grandparent's house. Friends and family were posting pictures on Facebook of the race from where they were standing. I saw a few of the runners that I had been tracking made it to the finish line (in amazing times, nonetheless), and I decided to head home to get my own run in.

Just as I was heading out the door, Brent yelled to me to come back in and look at a video he just saw posted. Two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I used to stand there to watch the race in college. Every year. That's where family members and friends await their runners before heading out to celebrate their achievement. This can't be happening. 

Chaos unfolded in downtown Boston. Spectators, volunteers, and runners scattered. I can't imagine what that feeling of imminent danger is like, not knowing if there was more to come, if it would end at two blasts. Cell phone service was shut down to prevent any further remote detonations, leaving runners separated from their family and friends, some runners in completely foreign territory. Runners who had not yet made it to Boylston Street were stopped and diverted elsewhere. While it was a blessing they were all okay, these poor runners dedicated the past 6 months to a year of their lives training for the Boston Marathon and fundraising for charities, and they were stripped of their ability to cross the finish line. Many had run over 25 miles of the race at this point, and they will not be able to say they completed the Boston Marathon this year. As a fellow runner, I cannot imagine how this feels. My heart goes out to all of those runners who did not get their opportunity to cross the finish line; I do hope you will take another chance next year.

I don't think I was able to actually shed tears until I saw the footage of the aftermath - seeing spectators rush to the scene of the explosions to help those who were injured; the blood that coated the sidewalks of my city; paramedics rushing people in stretchers and wheelchairs to safety. I also had great pride for my city as I watched videos of bystanders providing their help to the victims of the explosion, spectators selflessly running to the scene of the attack for help, local residents offering their homes to the runners, who were unable to get back to their hotels.

Unfortunately, this wonderful, fun, innocent event that brings together men, women, and children from all over the world was tainted yesterday. The Boston Marathon will never be quite the same again. I'm praying for everyone who was affected by this tragedy. I hope you have all found your loved ones and are able to make it home safe and sound over the next few days. Every mile I put in this week is dedicated to you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

200th + Western Greenway Trail Run

As I'm logging in to type up a post, I see in the side bar that it's my 200th post on FitterSelf - crazy! I sort of never expected to make it to 100 posts, never mind 200. I'm not insinuating that I'm one of those people that can't follow through with things (could not be further from the truth!), but when I started this blog (in the middle of planning a wedding, I might add), I really didn't foresee it being something I consistently contributed to. I quickly learned it takes a lot of work to make a blog something people want to keep coming back to, and I developed loads of respect for those full-time bloggers out there - it really takes so much self-motivation to own a successful blog (not to mention, some serious photography skills!) I'm incredibly envious of the culinary photos on some of my favorite food blogs out there (X, Y, and Z), and I'm really hoping once I own a house, I can set aside a room with good lighting and make it a goal to improve my own photography skills. Until then, I will continue to write about what I love - health and fitness - and settle for the less than ideal lighting that my apartment provides!

Okay, onto my intended post topic...

So I'll begin with a story. Yesterday, I get home, go to grab my pocketbook on the passenger seat of my car, and reach out to emptiness. Eff. That means I'd have to go back to work to get it, which really isn't that big of a deal, I live only 3.5 miles away. I didn't feel like driving back right away, so I figured I'd workout first then head back over. Then I was struck by the genius idea to RUN to work, get my bag, then run/walk back home. It would be a 7 mile trip, but it would be the most productive workout I've probably ever had. So I get dressed, throw on running shoes, gear up my Garmin, and I'm ready to head out. The only thing left to do was take my - OH CRAP, my inhaler....which was conveniently located in my pocketbook....which was inconveniently at work and not at home with me. I contemplated just going anyways, but I thought better of it. So I ditched the running idea, grabbed my damn car keys, and gave in to driving. I successfully recovered my bag, and got stuck in a ridiculous amount of traffic during the commute - 7 miles took almost 25 minutes - UGH! On the drive back home, I made a spur of the moment decision to turn into the local high school, and check out the wooded trails that branch out from there - I wasn't about to let the last bit of sunny 60 degree weather before 2 full days of rain slip away from me unused.

And then I realized that everything happens for a reason. I ended up discovering my new favorite running spot yesterday. For the past few years, the town of Waltham has been working on cleaning up trails in the area and extending what is known as the Western Greenway. This is a completely hidden gem with miles and miles of trails through conservation land. Some of its trails are located less than a mile from where I live, and somehow, I am JUST discovering this now - better to be late than never, no?

I fully intended on just walking through 1-2 miles to scope it out, but then I got to running and exploring, and before I knew it, I covered 4 miles. I don't know what it is about trail running, but it is SO much more enjoyable than road running, in my opinion. Time goes by faster, you don't get the mental fatigue that you do with road running, and the surroundings tend to be pretty incredible. I had to resist stopping every 5 minutes to take a picture.

Oh my gosh, and I ran into an English mastiff on my route that totally looked just like my Max! The owner was nice enough to let me snap a photo to send to Brent - it's not very often you run across a mastiff, you know. The Greenway is also home to Stonehurst, which was the estate of Robert Treat Paine (a social reformer of the Civil War era).

...Brent doesn't know it yet, but we will be frequenters of this over the summer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Coconut Oil Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Are you guys ready for a crazy simple recipe that is so delicious it will blow your mind?

I thought so.

Seriously, the hardest part of this recipe is the cutting of the sweet potatoes...and  then waiting for them to cook while your house is filled with the glorious smell of roasted coconut oil and cinnamon. YUM! It took all of my will power not to just sit there and eat the entire tray...

Coconut Oil Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2" cubes
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper or Silpat.
  • In a medium bowl, combine diced potatoes, coconut oil, cinnamon, and sea salt. Toss well to coat evenly. 
  • Transfer to baking sheet and spread in an even layer.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Briefly remove sheet from oven to stir, then bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Servings: 4 (1/2 cup each)
Calories: 96.7 | Fat: 3.9 g | Total Carbs: 15.8 g | Dietary Fiber: 2 g | Sugars: 3.2 g | Protein: 1.2 g

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Grocery List

Grocery shopping is not exactly my favorite activity in the world. I tend to go first thing in the morning on Sat or Sun before people wake up because I hate trying to navigate a cart through a full aisle. And gosh, people can be SO damn rude!

To save my sanity, I always go to the store prepared with a list. For all you smart phone users, I cannot praise the app, Grocery iQ, enough. Get it, it will change your life.

Pretty much every week, I make two separate stops for groceries: one for produce at my local farm stand and another at Shaws for the general stuff. Some (rare) weeks when I'm feeling a little lazy, I make only one stop at Shaws, but the produce is just not the same. So then I end up vowing to never be lazy again and always make the trip to the farm stand. Better produce + saving money = happy Jen (and therefore, happy Brent). We also try to make a BJ's wholesale trip once every month or so to pick up meat to freeze away. We'll buy chicken breasts, steaks, ground meat, and shrimp in bulk quantities, and freeze it in individual servings to use throughout the month.

I love my food, so my grocery list is very important to me. We try to plan up meals for the week ahead of time and make a list of only those things we need. Not only does it save money, it saves time during the week, and it forces us to eat at home. I refuse to throw out good food for the sake of dining out. This approach has helped us financially, and it has helped us control what we are eating to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

If you're like me, you probably wonder what other people have on their grocery lists - I never denied being nosy! - so I thought I would share with you what I threw in my cart yesterday:

1 bunch kale
3 zucchinis
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
7 Fuji apples
4 Bosc pears
1 bunch of fresh chives
1 bunch of basil
Baby spinach
Fresh arugula
Brussel sprouts
1 head of broccoli
Green beans
Frozen peas

Liquid egg whites
Plain non-fat Chobani Green yogurt
Nonfat cottage cheese
Sara Lee hardwood smoked turkey breast
Ground turkey
2 Tilapia filets
2 Haddock filets
2 Polluck filets
2 packets of StarKist tuna, lightly marinated

Teddie Smooth Natural PB
FiberOne Garden Vegetable wraps
Unsweetened organic apple sauce
Russel Stover sugar free candies
2 sweet potatoes
Alexia sweet potato waffle fries, frozen

Brent and I are in super healthy-eating mode now that spring it in full swing, and we are cutting out a lot of processed foods and simple carbs. After all, we have a cruise to get in shape for and only 8 weeks to do it! But in general, we really try to avoid buying too much packaged crap. If it's not in the cabinet, we won't be tempted!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Week Five Training Summary

Weekly Training Summary: Week Five 04/01/13-04/07/13

Total running miles: 18.1
Average run pace: 8:11
Total walking miles: 3.5
Total weekly mileage: 21.6

This was a pretty sub-par training week in my book. The weather was all over the place, and we spent Thursday and Sunday at airports, traveling back and forth from Michigan. I knew going into this week, it would be difficult to get workouts in. It would have been a little more doable if the weather had been better, but it didn't get much over 40° on most days. I did get a great track workout in on Friday, the one day it was sunny but with a pretty intense wind chill, which I ended up suffering from with asthma complications the rest of the day. I took both Saturday and Sunday off, so I'm more than ready to tackle my 8 miler tonight after work.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Virtual Cocktail Date #4

If we were sipping cocktails together, I would tell you I am likely on a plane this very moment heading to Michigan to visit my in-laws for a long weekend. And chances are, I probably am enjoying a Bloody Mary right about now. I think that Brent's family may be under the impression we are coming out to deliver some exciting news - and by exciting news, I mean a baby - so maybe if I come off the plane smelling like tomato juice and vodka, then all questions will be answered. Unless it just creates more questions and possibly induces cause for concern that maybe I'm disregarding how serious fetal alcohol syndrome is. Okay, I'll just stop there. Getting back to my original thought...we are SO excited to see the Morse clan! And this time, we won't be visiting during a 110° heat wave - win!

If we were sipping cocktails together, I would tell you we just booked a cruise to Bermuda for May 31st through June 7th!! I've never been on a cruise, and I've never been to Bermuda, so I'm pretty effing excited. Before you ask any questions, we are NOT taking Carnival. And our room is close to the top of the boat. So if we lose power (which we won't, because we are taking Norwegian and they better damn well not start any electrical fires), we will not have to worry about drowning in cruise sewage. This also means, I've got a lot of work to do to get back into bikini shape over the next two months. Help.

If we were sipping cocktails together, I would tell you that Brent and I have been talking, we've thought a lot about it, and we think we're ready....to get a PUPPY!!! (Hah, see what I did there?) While Brent would be more than happy getting another extra large Mastiff, I kindly suggested we consider something a little smaller and more manageable this time around. I am absolutely in love with goldendoodles (golden retriever bred with a poodle) and have been in contact with a great local breeder about getting one. We will find out by the end of the month, so keep your fingers crossed! Confession: I cry almost daily looking at goldendoodle puppy pictures, and it would really be the most amazing thing to become a puppy mom this summer. And can we just talk about how effing adorable this dog is (...and how I'm totally going to do this someday):

If we were sipping cocktails together, I would tell you I have a borderline addiction to registering for running events. So far in 2013, I have completed two and between now and October, I have 7 more planned. I guess there could be worse things to be addicted to?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Indian-Spiced Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Living without a grill can drive a burger-lover insane. I live with a burger-lover, and when we moved from our last apartment two years ago, we left our beloved grill with it. There have been a few times since then we have tried our hand at making burgers on the stove top, but they are really just never the same as a grilled burger. If the pan gets too hot, the burgers tend to form a tough crust on the outside, and the outer layer is way more cooked than the inner. Plus, I find most burgers kind of need that char-grilled-goodness to provide the depth of flavor that makes a burger legit.

THIS burger is the one exception. It is so incredibly flavorful, you won't miss the grill! 

I prefer a turkey burger (or veggie burger, for that matter) to a hamburger any day. I find using ground turkey tends to absorb spices a lot better - plus, turkey burgers are still loaded with protein but lack the majority of the fat contained in a traditional hamburger. Win and win. 

I loosely adapted this recipe using ground turkey instead of chicken because that's what I had in my fridge. I also opted to stuff the burgers with a little shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese because I am totally against a burger without cheese. And what's better than biting into something to find cheese oozing out of the middle? Yeah, exactly. The original recipe called for the addition of panko crumbs to the mixture, but I opted to use ground flax meal instead for a healthier, lower-carb option. This burger was so good, you did not need a bun. Just a little bit of your favorite BBQ sauce, mustard, and/or chipotle cream sauce and you're good to go! 

Indian-Spiced Stuffed Turkey Burgers
Makes 4 stuffed burgers

1 lb ground turkey
1 jalapeno, seeded
1/4 C fresh cilantro
1 inch knob of fresh ginger
1 small onion
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 C ground flax meal
1/4 C low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

  • Add the seeded jalapeno, cilantro, ginger, and onion into a food processor and pulse until minced.
  • In a large bowl, add the ground turkey, egg, ground flax meal, garam masala, garlic powder, salt, and jalapeno/cilantro/ginger/onion mixture. Use your hands to mix well. 
  • Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions. For each portion, form two separate patties, about 4" in diameter. Add 1 Tbsp of the mozzarella cheese to the center of one patty, and place the second patty on top to cover the cheese. Seal the edges of the burger. Repeat with the other 3 portions.
  • Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and cover lightly with cooking spray. Add your stuffed burgers and cook 5-6 minutes per size, until juices run clear. 
Nutrition Facts:
Per burger (without bun)
Calories: 248 | Total Fat: 13.9 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Total Carbs 8.2 g | Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g | Protein: 35.5 g

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter weekend

Life over here has been pretty fantastic lately. Winter is over, race season has begun, and summer is right around the corner. I can slowly feel my body starting to transition from its fat-storing winter state to summer form. You know it's finally running season when your mailbox is filled with these gems:

This past weekend, I participated in my second running event of the season, the Shifter's 5K. My schedule called for a 3 mile run that day, so it was perfect. It was meant to be a training run, so I didn't push it. My Garmin has proved to be a life-saver when it comes to pacing, which I know I am horrible at! I targeted an 8:30 mile, and finished right on the mark. I don't have another 5K planned until the beginning of May, so I can focus on my long runs on the weekends. A few hours after the race, I was STARVING and craving a big ol plate of protein and veggies to refuel:

 Saturday night, I made a delicious maple "pudding" cake to bring to my Mom's for Easter:

Mmmm maple topping

And around 9pm, I started to get hungry again, so I finished up my leftovers from Thursday night's amazing dinner:

Spaghetti squash with quinoa "meatballs" from Vine Brook Tavern

Sunday morning, I woke up early and spent awhile at the gym before we headed to my Mom's for Easter.  I don't eat Peeps. I think they are disgusting. But they sure are cute and make for a GREAT garnish!

Festive Easter cupcakes

Everyone was in a food coma after dinner, so we lounged around before heading back home. My Mom's cat was a little hesitant to let Brent leave.

Garcia claiming her territory

It was a wonderful first-Easter-as-a-married-couple! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Week Four Training Summary

Weekly Training Summary: Week Four 03/25/13-3/31/13

Total running miles: 24.04
Average run pace: 8:28 min/mile
Total walking miles: 2.6
Total weekly mileage: 26.64

As I was inputting this week's workouts, I realized I never had an off-day. Usually, I feel the need to incorporate at least one day of no cardio, mostly to give my leg muscles a rest, but because the weather was so nice out this week, I couldn't resist going out for a jog whenever I got the chance. My legs were quite tired during my 4 miler on Sunday, but it was worth it.

I planned to do my long run tonight since the weather reports said the temperatures would reach 60 degrees here in Boston today, BUT when I checked the weather this morning, things changed quite a bit. Now it looks like when I get out of work, rain and strong winds will be paying a visit. Good ol New England!