Gardens, Moving, and Running Injuries

Strawberries from the garden #mygarden #strawberries

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I didn’t plant much of a garden this year. I planned on it. In fact I had all the gardens tilled and prepped, seedlings started (what was left after the cats decided to snack on them), and a few plants purchased from the local nursery. But then we made the decision to move back to Illinois. The kids and I will hopefully get to move in a few weeks so they have time to settle in before the next school year begins. Because of that, I didn’t see much point in planting the garden. I did get a few tomato plants in before everything happened and the decision was made, but I seriously doubt that I’ll get to enjoy many of them before we move. My Lemon Boys have a few fruits on them, so maybe I’ll get to taste a few of them before we leave. I’m hoping I’ll get to taste at least one of my Hillbillies. I was most curious about how those would turn out.

I think I’m more attached to my garden than anything else about this house. I put so much work and sweat into it each year, I feel sad to leave it all behind. It is hard to watch the weeds grow in the main garden. I was keeping it clear of weeds for a few weeks out of respect (to what I’m not entirely sure), but then the summer heat and humidity kicked in. Suddenly it seemed silly and like a waste of energy, so I let it go. I have other things, like packing up the house, that I need to focus on right now. I did notice a rogue melon plant in there. It must be from one of last year’s plantings. Maybe the next inhabitants of this house will get to enjoy the melons and my heirloom tomatoes. I hope they like to garden.

Fresh picked radishes #mygarden #radishes

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I did plant some radishes, spinach, and mescalin salad mix in my smaller herb and gutter gardens. Those grow quickly enough, so I knew I would be able to enjoy them before we moved. And I can still get a small gardening fix before I leave.

Arugula and salad greens #mygarden #arugula

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The small patches I planted are doing quite well. I’ve been enjoying fresh-picked salads almost daily. My new favorite afternoon snack is a multi-grain Wasa cracker with olive oil mayo, fresh greens, basil, thinly sliced radishes and a few shakes of salt. Yum!

IMG_20130620_145808

I probably won’t be posting much until I’m resettled. I don’t see myself having much free time to post anything substantial. I’m also won’t be doing much running right now. I’m nursing a minor injury. I had it checked out yesterday. The good news is, no stress fracture. It looks like inflamed ligaments in my left ankle and bad shin splints in my left leg – the same one that gave me trouble during my last bout of training. The bad news is, no running for the next 7 days. I’ve already taken the last 7 days off, so 7 more days is hard. (I know…first world problems and it could be worse.) I can start back to running again after next weekend, but if the pain returns I have to go back for a bone scan and PT. At least I have plenty of packing to keep my mind off of the fact that I can’t run right now. And maybe I can finally knitting that pair of socks I started this past winter.

Do you like to garden? How is your garden doing this summer? Any summer running plans? Or are you taking it easy during the heat of the summer?

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Salmon and Pasta with Strawberry Lemon Cream Sauce

Pasta with Strawberry Lemon Cream SauceWe have a bumper crop of strawberries this year. I planted the patch the first summer we lived here. That was 3 years ago. It is finally producing lots and lots of berries. Big juicy ones too. We’ve had strawberry shortcake, smoothies, salads, and I’ve even frozen a few bags for later. We were getting a little tired of the usual berry dishes, so I tried to come up with something a little different. I got the idea for this dish after making a salad with tuna, arugula, basil, cheese, almonds, and strawberries with a lemon/olive oil dressing for lunch one day.

It’s a great pasta dish for summer. It is light and hearty all at the same time. It also has sweet, savory, and tart notes all in one dish, which will make your taste buds smile. At least they made mine smile. The kids approved too.

Salmon and Pasta with Strawberry Lemon Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 Salmon filet
  • 1 lb of your favorite pasta (I used Angel Hair, but any kind will work)
  • Olive Oil (a few tablespoons for sauteing and drizzling on the salmon)
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup cream (half and half works too)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • salt
  • freshly ground white pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Salt, pepper and oil the salmon to taste. Bake until flaky (about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your filet and your oven). You can also grill the salmon if you like.
  3. While the fish is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. When the fish is done, remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, heat about 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan.
  6. Saute onion until it’s translucent.
  7. Add garlic, cook about 30 seconds.
  8. Add basil, cook a few seconds until it wilts.
  9. Add wine, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a bubble and then reduce heat.
  10. Mix a small ladle full of the pasta water with the cornstarch. Then whisk the cornstarch mixture into the pan, stirring constantly until it thickens.
  11. Add cream, lemon juice, and zest.
  12. Toss with pasta and cook for a few minutes to finish cooking the pasta.
  13. Remove from heat.
  14. Add flaked salmon and strawberries and toss again.
  15. Serve immediately with fresh grated pecorino cheese, fresh basil, and lemon slices.

Salmon and pasta with strawberry lemon cream sauce

Wind, Mud, Hills, and Amazing Grace

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.

– Carl Sandburg

The above quote came to mind this morning because it applies to the past week in both a figurative and somewhat literal sense. Literally speaking, I actually got to watch 2 bald eagles soaring on a trail run and found myself covered in mud on 2 separate runs. Figuratively speaking, I’ve felt ready to spread my wings and soar, but I also really enjoy wallowing sometimes – not in negativity or self-pity, but rather in laziness.

I started the running week off with a wet and muddy run on Monday.  The grayness made me want to wallow. And the run started to go south quickly when some mo-moes in an over-sized pick-up truck purposely drove through a puddle as they passed me. This brought them uncomfortably close to me and covered me in mud. I really don’t understand their behavior, since they could have seriously injured me, but I’m not on this planet to figure out stupid people. I’m just thankful I only got muddy. Ironically, I chose to run on the road vs. the trail on Monday because I didn’t want to get muddy….

I don’t know what it is about Wednesday’s here lately, but Wednesday is when the snow seems to arrive. This Wednesday the snow came with 25 mph wind gusts. Running in wind is challenging on both a physical and mental plane.  It took a lot my energy just to punch down the negative self-talk during the first half of the run that kept telling me to go home and knit. It was tough, but it was a good tough. I liked the challenge in the end and I felt very invigorated when I got home.

Swan at Potato Creek

If you look closely, you can see the swan on the lake. It’s the best I could do with my phone.

On Friday, still in wallowing mode, I decided to lace up my trail shoes this time and set out on my favorite trail. I was still wallowing early in the run when I was startled back to reality by a large splash as I ran past the lake. I stopped to see what made the splash and saw a bald eagle flying into a nearby tree. It must have been feasting on a fish when it heard me coming. It dropped it’s fish in the lake and flew out to a “safer” tree. They are magnificent birds – and big. I’ve never seen one so close in the wild. It’s times like these when the photographer in me wishes there was a way I could carry my DSLR camera and all my lenses with me on my runs.

At first I was upset by the distraction and halt in my running. But after I stopped for a few minutes to take in the scenery and admire the eagle until it flew away, I noticed all the birds on the lake – swans, geese, a few ducks – and the noise was a beautiful cacophony of bird calls. I finally got out of my head and gave myself permission to make this a fun run, which turned into a fun muddy hill run; and much more of a workout than I imagined when I first set out. I also got to see a second eagle soaring over a swamp. And this time I came home covered in mud because I wanted to be muddy.

This week I learned the importance of variation and quieting my chattering mind. I still need to work on the quieting part. I’m making progress though. My mind is still chattering, but with positive, good thoughts now. The wind and the hills worked muscles that have been forgotten about on my recent, fairly flat road runs, which in turn made yesterday’s 2-mile shake-out on a fairly flat road much more enjoyable. The recovery seems better this week too. I think the new challenges woke up my tired leg muscles. I guess they need variety too. It’s easy to stay with familiar routines. It’s comfortable and not threatening or challenging. But because they aren’t threatening or challenging, it’s easy to get stuck and not move forward. And that applies both to training and real life.

I did decide to give into the my wallowing instinct just a little this week by giving myself an extra rest day instead of cross-training. I think it was good call. Wallowing isn’t necessarily bad if the intention is valid and good. And while self-discipline and sticking to the training schedule is important, so is listening to our bodies. It’s easy to get caught up in schedules and what the calendar says we need to do, when what we really need to do is slow down, take in the scenery, and not miss out on the life that is happening all around us.

And since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll leave you with the Dropkick Murphy’s singing Amazing Grace. I love this song. It’s one of my favorite running songs right now.  Since today is not only a rest day, but also a cheat day, the Irish part of me will be celebrating with some Irish whiskey, because we all know “what butter and whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Half Marathon Training Week 4

  • Sunday: rest
  • Monday: 3 easy miles
  • Tuesday: strength and yoga
  • Wednesday: 4 windy miles and core workout
  • Thursday: rest
  • Friday: 4 miles with hills and core workout
  • Saturday: 2 easy miles

Quick and Easy Pizza and Garbanzo Beans

pizza and garbanzo beans

This house is full of pizza lovers. We each have our own favorite toppings, so trying to get everyone to agree on a pizza for takeout can be an ordeal. That’s why we’ve taken to making our own. That way everyone get’s their own piece of the pie (ha, ha).  And my kids go nuts over fried Garbanzo beans. They are a quick, easy and healthy snack while you are waiting for the pizza to cook up.

pizza

Quick and Easy Pizza

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I think bread flour works best, but all-purpose works too)
  • 2 1/2 tsp fast-rise yeast (or one envelope)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • cornmeal for dusting

Sauce

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp Basil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP Olive oil

Toppings

  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Veggies, Sausage, Chicken, Pepperoni, etc….whatever you want to put on top.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and sugar together. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until it gets creamy.
  3. Add the flour, salt, and vegetable oil to the bowl and mix. (I usually start mixing with a fork and end with my hands when it gets tough to stir.) Shape it into a ball and let it rest in the bowl for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. While you are waiting for the dough to finish resting, heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the onions. Cook until onions are soft.
  5. Add the garlic and other herbs and spices, cook until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste. Once tomato paste is blended in with the spices, add the crushed tomatoes. Simmer until the dough is ready.
  6. Sprinkle a pizza stone or cookie sheet with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Roll, stretch, and press dough to desired size and thickness and place on pizza stone or cookie sheet.
  7. Cover the pizza dough with the sauce to within about 1 inch from edge.
  8. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  9. Top with your choice of toppings.
  10. Place in oven and bake about 15-20 minutes – until cheese browns and is bubbly.

For a crispier crust, preheat the pizza stone in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. I have 2 pizza stones, so I usually preheat one and use the other to assemble the pizza. Then I use a large spatula to transfer the pizza from the cold stone to the preheated one.

I also like to brush the crust with garlic butter before I cook it. And I brush it once again right when I take it out of the oven. It make the crust crispy and garlicky – yum!

garbanzo beans

Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz. can of garbanzo beans
  • pizza seasoning from above recipe (or seasoned salt)
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. You need enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan evenly.
  2. Cook the beans in the heated oil until the skins start to pop and they get a little brown.
  3. Add the seasoning just at the end of cooking.
  4. Drain on a paper towel.

My favorite pizza toppings are chicken, mushrooms, spinach, and red onions. I also have a weakness for a greasy slice of pepperoni pizza from time-to-time. What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Homemade Granola Bars

homemade granola bars

I’m on a mission to eliminate as much processed foods from my diet as possible this year. We eat a lot of granola bars (or ‘ola bars, as my son used to call them when he was first learning how to talk) in this house. They’re one of my favorite snacks after a run and the kids like to pack them for school snacks. Many pre-packaged bars have a lot of sugar hiding in them. They can also get expensive. I’ve tried a lot of recipes in search of the perfect one: some worked, some didn’t, and some just needed some tweaking.

One of my favorite recipes that worked and tasted good is the Raw Lemon Coconut Bars on this page. The other bars are ok, but the first recipe is so good. The Lemon-Coconut bars never last long when I make them.

And after much experimenting, I have come up with my own version of homemade granola bars. These passed the family taste test. I usually have a batch in the fridge.

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars

homemade granola bars

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/8 cup flaxseeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup other dried fruit ( I’ve used apples, apricots, or dates)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (preferably the natural kind with no added sugar)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Line a 8×8 inch square baking dish with aluminum foil.
  3. Spread the oats, nuts, and seeds onto a non-stick cookie sheet and bake until lightly toasted.
  4. Combine dried fruits in a large bowl. Add nuts and seeds when they have finished toasting.
  5. In a small saucepan, combine peanut butter, coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon. Heat over low heat until everything is melted together, stirring frequently.
  6. Pour the melted peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  7. Transfer to baking dish, press mixture down firmly, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).
  8. Remove from the baking dish and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They keep fresh for a few weeks in the fridge, if they last that long.

You can substitute almond butter, or any other nut butter, for the peanut butter if you like. And when I have a bit of a sweet tooth, I sometimes replace the dried fruit with dark chocolate chips.