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Adventures in the kitchen, in fitness and with glitter!


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Race Week!

We are less than five days away from the American Family Fitness Half-Marathon in Richmond. The countdown is real and so are my nerves! I know I have trained well and am prepared, so I am focusing on my food in-take for the next four days as my final preparation.

I really needed to use some beets that have been in my kitchen for over two weeks, and a ripe spaghetti squash. I found an easy Roasted Beet and Garlic Pasta recipe and decided to adapted it to what I had at home. I made the beet pesto by boiling the beets on the stove for about 45 minutes. Then ground them in the food processor with the walnuts, garlic, sun dried tomatoes and EVOO. I was skeptical of the taste but it turned out really nice. I would add more than the recommended 2 tablespoons of sun dried tomatoes for a bit more balance of flavor.

Then instead of serving it over pasta, I roasted the spaghetti squash, scooped it out of the shell and mixed in the pesto. Spaghetti squash was a great substitute. We sprinkled some freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top too, it was delicious! We rounded out the meal with a fresh baguette we got a Trader Joe’s. I warmed up in the oven with a bit of butter and minced garlic. I love a good, fresh baguette!

I have my last set of intervals in the morning, 3x800m at 3:33 pace. The BF has been sick for the last several days so I may be on my own in the morning. Wish me luck!

More recipes to come this week – we are cooking lasagna for our friends with a new baby and I will be carbo-loading a couple days this week for the race too. Have a great week!


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Home Stretch

I’ve reached the home-stretch in my fall training! I’m 10 days away from the Anthem Richmond Half-Marathon and today was my last hard interval workout. Daylight savings came in clutch this morning and the sun was up as we did 4x1600m on the track. I’ve been coercing the BF into running my weekly track workouts with me. It really hasn’t taken too much coercing, he ran track in HS, so goes back to his roots on the track, but it still can be early for him. My goal pace for the 1600m was 7:27. We hit 7:16, 7:28, 7:25 and 7:19. I felt great for most of the workout but was definitely tired by the end. I am coming off a 12 mile run on Saturday so I feel good about my training level and taper plan leading into next Saturday.

Over the next 10 days I am going to try to concentrate even more on what I am consuming. Eating a plentiful amount of fruits, vegetables and lean protein and (try to) avoid too many sugars. I have been intrigued by stuffed peppers for months now, but also avoiding them. Today after work I decided to dive in after finding this Rachel Ray recipe for Lamb, Feta and Couscous Stuffed Peppers and recognizing I had the makings of this recipe at home. Now before you get too excited, I didn’t use lamb. We had chicken in the refrigerator that needed to be cooked. I have also been trying to find a creative way to repurpose leftover couscous and this fit the bill. Any recipe with feta gets my attention too! Another note, I subbed the zucchini for fresh carrots I had leftover from the soup. So not quite everything in the recipe from my fridge, but I think the substitutions I made were a delicious twist. The stuffing mixture came together quickly in a frying pan, cooking and shredding the chicken and softening the onions and carrots. I tossed it all with the tomato sauce, couscous and feta and once the orange pepper was softened in the oven I stuffed each half of the pepper and roasted it again.

The recipe came together in about 35 minutes.

The recipe came together in about 35 minutes.

I realized a silly part of what intimidated me about stuffed peppers was how to eat them once they come out of the oven. Easy trick – a knife. Not even a trick, just common sense! We paired it with a nice spinach salad, with more feta of course. My latest salad dressing obsession in Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette. It’s sugar free which is a huge plus for a salad dressing!

Full & clean plate!

Full & clean plate!

This recipe made lots of leftovers, so I am looking forward to packing some easy lunches for the rest of the week. Happy eating!


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SFFD

I’m rejoined a weekly tradition since I’ve been back in Charlottesville, SFFD. A close friend of ours started SFFD with her family and has passed along the tradition of Sunday Family Dinner to our little foursome. We alternate cooking and tonight was our night. I’ve still got that autumn food obsession and after a cold morning volunteering with the Junior League of Charlottesville, all I wanted was soup! Luckily I had picked up a butternut squash at the Farmers’ Market yesterday and decided on this Savory Butternut Squash soup. I had nearly everything at the house and roasted the squash, onion and apples with the spices in the oven. Once that mixture was soft, I dumped the tray in my dutch oven and added the broth. I then used my immersion blender instead of a regular blender to liquify the soup. It just dawned on me, I forgot the garlic! Quite out of the ordinary for me, especially with garlic! But I added a pinch more salt and several grinds of pepper during the simmer process and didn’t know the difference. Now I am really curious about how the garlic will change the flavor. I’m libel to try this again next week for version two: with garlic. I added a bit of cream at the end, but after tasting the before and after, I don’t think the cream is completely necessary.

One small squash in the recipe and it made over six cups of soup!

One small squash in the recipe and it made over six cups of soup!

We paired the soup with some gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, with grilled onions and extra sharp Cabot cheddar. Yum! After dinner I remembered the caramel in the cupboard I had purchased a week ago and it almost burning a hole in my pocket! I decided to whip up a couple carmel apples. We had just bought apples this afternoon and I couldn’t resist.

Sprinkles for me, roasted peanuts for the BF!

Sprinkles were my choice, roasted peanuts were the BF!

Sunday’s are always a nice, relaxing time with the crew and it feels great to be back with everyone again. Happy Sunday, y’all! Have a great week.


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Fall Flavors

Fall has really taken over Albemarle County. We enjoyed a lovely Sunday drive through the country and took in the colors (along with two wineries!).

What a view!

What a view!

We also picked up some more squash! We got another spaghetti and a butternut squash. On Tuesday, we made this spicy butternut squash, along with some barbecue chicken on the grill. Tonight I was feeling a little more adventurous and wanted to use the remaining squash so I dug out my old recipe book and found a Spicy Chicken and Butternut Squash recipe. It was fairly easy and with the squash at home, I had most everything else and didn’t have to make a special trip to the grocery store. Turmeric was missing from my spice cabinet, but I substituted with some curry powder.

The chicken cooking up in the spice mix and stock.

The chicken cooking up in the spice mix and stock.

The recipe recommend it to be served with some Citrus Couscous, which was a great addition and these roasted almonds smelled awesome.

A handful of almonds roasted before adding the couscous and stock.

A handful of almonds roasted before adding the couscous and stock.

The whole meal took little more than 40 minutes to throw together and was delicious! It was a curry-like sauce that we poured over the citrus couscous and the chicken was nice and moist. Our effort to eat a more balanced diet and a little cleaner is working with yummy recipes like this! (Full recipe below).

Simmering and waiting to be served.

Simmering and waiting to be served.

Full Recipe*:

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), seeded, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 4 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, chopped
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced
  • 12 dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup (a large handful) cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Yields: 4 servings

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Arrange the squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat and roast in the hot oven until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the squash is working, place a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken to the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown and almost cooked through, 6-7 minutes.

Add the onion, dates, spices, bay leaf and cinnamon stick to the pan, and continue cooking until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the pan and cook for about 1 minute. Add the stock to the pan and bring up to a bubble. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened and dates are plump, 5-6 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick from the stew. Stir in the roasted butternut squash. Garnish with the cilantro or parsley.

*I did cut this recipe in half to serve two people and we still had leftovers.


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Spaghetti Squash – A Fall Favorite

Growing up I remember eating a lot of spaghetti squash. That could be why in my adult life I rarely make it for myself. But I changed it up this week after impulse buying a great looking squash at the Farmers’ Market and decided to roast it up this week. I went for simple in the preparation, I started by slicing it in half, then removed all the guts and seeds, brushed on some olive oil, cracked some black pepper and garlic salt over the flesh and laid them flat on a baking sheet in the oven at 375 degrees.

Used some tinfoil on the baking sheet for less mess.

Used some tinfoil on the baking sheet for a little less mess.

While the squash was roasting, I whipped up some tomato sauce. I combined some crushed tomatoes along with a can of tomato paste and diced garlic tomatoes, and used my emersion blender to mix it all up, adding in fresh garlic, oregano, basil, black pepper, crushed red pepper and a sprinkle of sugar along the way.

Boiled the sauce and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

Boiled the sauce and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

After 45 minutes, we were ready to go! I removed the sheet and scooped the flesh out of the spaghetti squash onto plates and topped it with some tomato sauce. I am a huge fan of parmesan cheese, so I sprinkled some on top for some extra flavor. Now it was exactly like real spaghetti, but it was delicious and warm on another cold, rainy day we had in Charlottesville. Happy eating!

Good to go!

Good to go!


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Embracing A Fall Weekend!

Last weekend was a bye week for the Virginia Cavaliers football team. As they happen the BF’s employer, it was good news for him because it meant he had the weekend off! After I got in a good 10-mile run with an old friend on Saturday morning, we enjoyed the pleasure of watching college football on a Saturday afternoon and he didn’t have to worry about his work, or agonize over the play of the Hoos.

On Sunday we planned to take advantage of our relaxing weekend and go for a hike in the Shenandoah National Park. The park boasts beautiful fall colors this time of year and plenty of hiking trails to explore all year round. We decided on the Jones River/ Doyles Falls trail, it was a 6.5 mile loop, which was a max for me after 10 miles the day before, and a good mix of up and down hill. Unfortunately the weather didn’t exactly cooperate. We drove up to the park in a cloud of fog and saw threatening dark clouds through occasional breaks in the fog. We bundled up in our fleeces as we set out on the trail, determined to do our hike. We were lucky to have a nice canopy of trees for most of the hike, so we didn’t end up too soaked as the rain came down for over half the hike. But we still had fun and the colors did not disappoint!

SNPHike_Trail

Our trail through the woods and welcome canopy from the rain!

One of the three waterfalls we saw on the trail.

One of the three waterfalls
we saw on the trail.

After the hike, we needed to warm up! I was chilled to the bone by the end so we fired up the crockpot when we got home and made some Turkey Chili. The combination of three different types of beans appealed to me and we used three fresh jalapeños we had from the farmers’ market last week.  I did add the corn but used a combination of crushed tomatoes and unseasoned diced tomatoes in place of the tomato sauce to add a different texture to the chili. I cooked up the turkey, onion and spices in a skillet and added that mixture to the beans, corn, etc…, in the crockpot then about four hours later, we were ready to eat. It was the perfect meal for a rain, chilly fall evening and filled the house with a nice, spicy scent.

Hearty, delicious and healthy!

Hearty, delicious and healthy!

I also whipped a little cornbread as a side, which was awesome. I had been in search of a quick, yet delicious recipe and came across this cornbread recipe on Pinterest last week. Definitely another repeat recipe for my recipe box.

Just a bit sweet, not too dense and so delicious!

Just a bit sweet, not too dense and so delicious!

We wrapped up the evening catching a little Sunday night football on TV before heading to bed early to get a good night’s rest for the week. We needed it, we’re off to Canada at the end of the week!

 


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Pushing into Fall

I eat a fairly vegetarian diet, not on purpose always but I don’t often cook meat just for myself. That being said, even though I am back in Charlottesville with the BF, I had to try out this new Sweet Potato Corn Cake recipe, which had been on my Pinterest board for months!

The Charlottesville farmers’ market is a downgrade from Madison, which isn’t surprising, and the cheese selection is sub-par, but it’s still awesome to stroll in downtown Charlottesville and pick-up fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and sometime a treat. We picked up a few sweet potatoes over the weekend at the market for this recipe, and a bunch of cilantro and some green onions. From there the recipe came together pretty easily. We roasted the potatoes, first in the oven and when they were being stubborn, we finished it in the microwave, as the recipe recommended. While it was cooking we chopped the green onions, cilantro, washed the corn and combined the spices. The BF likes a kick to his food, so I added some extra cayenne. I used panko breadcrumbs, cornmeal and mixed it all up. We were getting a little hungry at this point, so I tried to speed up the absorption process they described by putting it in the freezer. I don’t think it actually worked but because the mashed mixture was so cold forming the patties was easy, they weren’t sticky and held together well.

Pre-cooked Sweet Potato Corn Cakes. The only picture I managed to capture. We held out a little to late for dinner!

Pre-cooked Sweet Potato Corn Cakes. The only picture I managed to capture. We held out a little to late for dinner!

While the mashed mixture was in the freezer, I whipped up the garlic sauce. I added a scoop of garlic and handful of cilantro to a cup of plain Greek yogurt. In hindsight, I would have done the sauce the night before, it was lacking a little bit of flavor. We added a little extra garlic and a touch of salt to add flavor the first night. However, the next day, with leftovers, the garlic sauce definitely packed a bigger flavor.

We cooked the patties on the stove top in a touch of oil, drained them and served them over lettuce with the garlic sauce for a nice dinner. Definitely a recipe that will go in the recipe box for another night.

This was great fuel for my running plan. I’m back in my routine and hitting my stride during interval days and feeling good on the long runs. Happy Monday all, seize your week!