Off The Beaten Path: February 24, 2017

I’m trying something new with some of my blog posts. Late last year, I brought back my old “Running and Reading” posts because I realized that I was reading a lot of great articles that I wanted to share with others. I admit, it got burdensome to keep the posts fresh and light and relevant. Most of what read, given what I do for a living and where I reside, is all political. Not necessarily one-sided, but issues-oriented. I want to steer clear of that. There’s enough of it out there, and I need a break from it, too.

Also, when I relocated to DC back in 2014, I used to write posts called “Off the Beaten Path” to update friends and family back home in Nebraska about what I was doing in DC besides “running all the time” and working my “I’m not sure what she actually does in DC” job. I attempted to revive that recently, but then I sat down to write it and realized that I really don’t have a whole lot going on right now. Or at least not enough to keep the post going and keep it interesting. I get the sense that readers gravitate toward bloggers who “keep it real” but there’s a fine line of keeping it real and oversharing that I enjoy a graceful dance with, so I could write about how I am struggling to accept where I am in life… or I can keep it on the sunny side up.

So, I’m going to try consolidating things and see how that works. Even if no one ever reads it, I swear sometimes I keep up this blog because I just really enjoy the simple art of writing. Let me know what you think! Continue reading “Off The Beaten Path: February 24, 2017”

Fueling Up for Long Runs and Workouts't-out-exercise-a-bad-diet
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I often get the question from both fellow runners and curious encouragers, “How do you get through all of that training?” As in, what do you eat to get through it. While I can’t lie that I sometimes eat like a 12-year-old (I’m known for my love of Pop Tarts as pre-long run breakfast because they digest easy and are a quick source of fuel, but regardless not a healthy choice), I try to eat healthy so that I can recover from hard runs faster. Sure, it’s great in theory to be able to eat “whatever you want because you’ll just run it off,” but the fact is, you can’t do that because your body needs nutrients to repair itself from all the work you do. One time, after a long weekend training run, all I wanted was a big fat salad. You know things have gotten pretty bad in Diet Town when you crave salad after a long run. Continue reading “Fueling Up for Long Runs and Workouts”

Yummy Eats: Creamy Roasted Carrot and Pumpkin Soup

Right before leaving DC for Nebraska for the Christmas holiday, I made a sweeping inventory of my fridge to toss anything that might go bad during the week I’d be gone. I threw out some bottom-of-the-tub Greek yogurt, a nearly empty jar of strawberry jam that I didn’t use up during my rediscovered PB&J phase, and a couple of fruits and vegetables.

What is it about fruits and vegetables that make them the first things we grab at the grocery store and the last things we reach for when we’re at home? The night before I left, I “didn’t have anything to eat” so I went out for Chipotle, gave up on the 5-mile line, and decided on a low-key crackers and hummus dinner instead. One of the items I had tossed earlier that evening was a bag of baby carrots. Um, hello? Baby carrots and hummus? Perfect. Yet I “wasn’t up for it” and instead threw out probably $.75 worth of perfect carrots and opted for a $2.50 box of cracked pepper Triscuits instead. I’m not a penny-pincher or money hawk, but that was $3.25 I’d basically just wasted. Put it that way, that kind of cash can add up! Not to mention, I ate twice as many calories for probably not much nutritional value by opting for the Triscuits, which coincidentally were so rich that I could only eat a few with half the hummus that expired while I was away, so I lost probably another $1.25 on a half-eaten tub of expired hummus. It just makes me wonder through what other cracks my money was disappearing. Continue reading “Yummy Eats: Creamy Roasted Carrot and Pumpkin Soup”

Yummy Eats: Quinoa

Would YOU trust me with this kitchen??

Sometimes I believe the reason I have not yet become a mom or wife is because I am a dunce in the kitchen. Of course, that was a joke….I’m an awesome cook. 😉 But seriously, I am always trying to come up with meals that accomplish a trifecta of lifestyle goals: keep me within my budget, help me lose or maintain weight, and not bore me to death with those two labels of “cheap” and “healthy.” Usually, I fail at accomplishing all three things.

Last weekend, it was kitchen-palooza in my Arlington high-rise studio apartment. I mean it, I was on my feet cooking for just myself for nearly 4 hours. On my agenda, I was making my own honey wheat bread (trying not to buy overly-salted and sugared processed bread), making a creamy spinach and potato soup for my lunches (I needed a serious detox after a work trip in Las Vegas), cooking and freezing creamy pumpkin pasta for dinners this week (again, cheap but not boring), and baking an apple crumble for dessert (trying to use up the apples I’d bought in Sperryville two weeks prior). It was a crispy and windy fall day in early November, I had autumn-scented candles burning, and my apartment smelled so damn good from all the food. This week is going to be awesome!! I thought to myself.

Well, here’s what actually happened: Continue reading “Yummy Eats: Quinoa”

Yummy Eats: Salted Blueberry and Walnut Dark Chocolate Bark

Double chocolate cupcake on the roof last Thursday. Because whatever!

After two weeks on the new job in DC, I realized I had a huge problem: I was eating out waaaaay too often. Every day, I was leaving the office between 12 and 1 to scout the local salad, sandwich, and pasta/pizza scene for something cheap and healthy to eat. My selections ranged from clam chowder on a rainy, gloomy day to a lobster salad with wheat berries, spinach, and onions (I could not resist…) to a shrimp and avocado salad with a double chocolate cupcake for dessert. It wasn’t always healthy or cheap. But things still felt kind of unfamiliar to me at the office and with my new routine, so I felt like I needed the flexibility of “where should I go to grab something?” instead of being the new girl who eats weird things. Luckily, after one of my new colleagues suggested all the girls in the office have lunch on the rooftop this past Friday afternoon to which she brought a very healthy lunch of fresh berries in vanilla yogurt and a super earthy power salad in real dishware and not Tupperware, I finally felt safe enough to let my own freak flag fly. So, I am back to making my own lunches.

One thing I always need as part of my lunch is a sweet tooth fix. Finding something that is chocolate-y and healthy can sometimes be a challenge. If you make a chocolate baked good, you have to have all the other ingredients that make up the baked good. Dark chocolate is obviously the healthy choice, but if it’s too dark, it’s like eating tar. Hot chocolate and chocolate milk are other options, but more often than not, they are too sugary or processed to be a healthy alternative.  Enter chocolate bark. Continue reading “Yummy Eats: Salted Blueberry and Walnut Dark Chocolate Bark”

Yummy Eats: Bacon Pineapple Kebabs

So, I haven’t posted a “Yummy Eats” post in awhile because, to be honest, I’ve been way too lazy to cook anything worth writing about or even try anything new. However, over the Fourth of July weekend, I talked my mom into letting me make an appetizer instead of “just” bringing the wine. This not only stoked my cooking ego but it helped alleviate my mom’s self-concocted fear that no one was going to help bring anything for our family dinner (to which I responded, “Mother, four of your six children are near or over 30. I think we can continue contributing to family holiday dinners!”) Continue reading “Yummy Eats: Bacon Pineapple Kebabs”

Yummy Eats: Hazelnut Butter

“Clean eating” seems to be the diet fad catch-phrase these days, and while I’m not completely sure what it means, from what I understand from my fragmented, over-stimulated Internet browsing research, it basically means that you try to eat things that are as close to natural form as possible. No processed foods. Anything store-bought has to have ingredients that are pronounce-able and as close to form as possible. From here, various factions of dieters can take the concept in such directions as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, Paleo, etc. but the fundamental theme seems to be the intent to reduce intake of chemical or natural food additives that may be harmful to some degree. May I take a sidebar to note that I’m not a nutritionist, nor anything close to a medical professional who knows the ins-and-outs of the generalized “clean eating” trend? I’m simply a blogger whose personal tendencies are to gather as much information as possible about the food I eat in order to decide what works best for me.

Anyway, personally, I try to abide by this still-evolving concept of clean eating and try to only select foods that, if I can’t make it for myself, have as few ingredients as possible— like, just because I moved back to Nebraska doesn’t mean I’m about to start making my own Greek yogurt, puh-lease. One example is peanut butter. I go through about a jar of peanut butter in a week. Okay, maybe like 4-5 days. Is that bad? I don’t know. All I know is, it’s freaking amazing with green apple slices that I used to replace my usual toasted whole wheat English muffin at breakfast. I either choose Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter or Trader Joe’s Creamy Unsalted Peanut Butter, both of which only use peanuts as the main ingredient. However, sometimes it occurs to me that I could probably make my own nut butter if I wanted to and right now, due to a recent hazelnut impulse buy at Trader Joe’s and the fact that Santa for once paid attention to my Christmas list and left a food processor under my tree (my first one ever owned), I decided that it might actually be worth a try to make my own hazelnut butter in the name of all things clean eating. Why not, right?

Wish you could smell how wonderful roasted hazelnuts are…

Here’s what I did: Continue reading “Yummy Eats: Hazelnut Butter”

Yummy Eats: Black Bean Cremini Mushroom Soup

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere in the South Pacific for the past month (lucky), you know that everyone in America has been battling polar vortexes, Arctic wind chills,  and snowstorms. Today, half the country is literally under some kind of wind chill advisory, and this morning when I left for work, the wind chill was -21. It’s winter y’all, and we’ve just gotta get through it. And when it’s this cold outside, it’s the best time of year for a nice, comforting hot meal. Right? Continue reading “Yummy Eats: Black Bean Cremini Mushroom Soup”

Yummy Eats: Banana Spinach Smoothie

It’s not very often that I say that I “swear by” something. I don’t remember who said variety was the spice of life (or I’m just too lazy to Google it), but whoever said it got it right. However, for the past two years, I have been making a smoothie that I (deep breath) swear by: my banana spinach smoothie. Yep. Banana. Spinach. Together. In a refreshing, vitamin and mineral, protein-packed fountain-of-youth-esque medley of clearer skin, stronger hair, faster muscle recovery, consistent [ahem] regularity, better sleep, and sturdier bones. Nicknamed by a less-than-convinced ex-boyfriend the “baby poop smoothie” for its pale green color (something I still find funny), this versatile blend has earned the coveted spot of “never letting you go” in my vast array of daily clean and healthy eats. Continue reading “Yummy Eats: Banana Spinach Smoothie”