Monday, September 29, 2014

#TeamLovie26: Weeks Three, Four + Five

As of Saturday, week five of half marathon training is complete, making this the official halfway point! I can't believe it. The Summer humidity is finally behind us (hopefully), which has made for some great running weather the past few weeks. With Mark and I both running, it's nice to not have to worry about us both getting our runs in early in the day to beat the heat. It's always nice to get a run done first thing in the morning, but I just seem to have better runs when I run at 4 or 5pm. 

Here's a training recap in numbers:

13 miles (3.22 miles, 9:54)Rest3 miles (3.28 miles, 9:38Rest3 miles (4.00 miles, 9:38)Rest4 miles (3.26 miles, 9:36)13.76
23 miles (3.23 miles, 9:57)Rest4 miles (4.17 miles, 9:49)Rest3 miles (3.11 miles, 9:08)5 miles (5.02 miles, 9:04)Rest15.53
33 miles (rest-sick day)3. 12 miles (9:34)4 miles (5.27 miles, 9:35)Rest3 miles (3.26 miles, 9:28)6 miles (6.26 miles, 9:48)Rest17.91
43 miles (3.29 miles, 9:32)Rest5 miles (5.15 miles, 9:41)3 miles (3.07 miles, 9:46)Rest7 miles (7.15 miles, 10:00)Rest18.66
53 miles (3.25 miles, 9:20)Rest5 miles (5.24 miles, 9:35)Rest3 miles (3.10 miles, 9:24)8 miles (8.18 miles, 9:53)19.77

Week three started with a little bit of a cold, so I took Monday off to rest. Thankfully, it was a quick case of the sniffles and I was back at it on Tuesday and didn't have to skip a day on my training schedule. My six mile run that week was my toughest run to date. My legs felt fine, my breathing was great, but I got terrible side cramps within the first two miles and had to stop a few minutes to walk. Honestly, the only thing that kept me from stopping that run entirely was knowing that the last time I ran six miles, I was SEVENTEEN WEEKS PREGNANT. Yes. I wasn't about to let myself give up and when I found a good groove and tightened my abs as I ran, the pain wasn't as bad. I was glad to get that run behind me! 

Week four was overall a great week that ended with a seven mile run which might have been the best run of my life! My sister and I have been running together on the weekends and we took a new route, which I think helped a lot. It was the first crisp, fall-like morning here, the sun was shining and we kept a comfy pace the entire seven miles. During this week, I also ran Thursday instead of Friday. I think that giving my legs a day off before my longer run definitely worked to my advantage. I dug my shuffle out of my desk drawer which made for a great change in playlists, too. The best gem that appeared? The Full House theme song. 

Week five proved to be another that I was easily cruising through, until I hit Saturday's long run. Natalie was out of town and we were off on our eight miles by our lonesome. Running is just more fun with a friend. The cramps hit hard during this run and I was kicking myself for not drinking more water on Friday to prepare better. Thankfully, the weather was gorgeous on Saturday morning and I just kept powering through. I stopped to walk for a few minutes and still finished in under a ten minute mile, which I was pretty proud of. This was also my longest run in my entire life, which was definitely something to celebrate!

I'm trying to really increase my water intake! I drink a ton throughout the day, but I still don't think it's enough. I need to chug, chug, chug on Fridays especially so that my long runs aren't even longer when I'm keeled over with a side cramp. 

Overall, I'm feeling great! Every time I lace up my shoes and head out on a run, I like knowing that I'm working towards a bigger goal. When I think running a few months ago, I'm amazed at how my mind has already shifted so much in terms of what I think is a long or hard run. A three- four mile run used to be my normal, but now I look forward to those runs as the quick and easy ones to get done! 

As for shoes, I am absolutely LOVING my Saucony Ride 7 shoes. These shoes have seriously changed my running life! I was running in Nike Free Runs for the past two years and besides being cute, they really didn't do much else for my feet running-wise. Greasing my feet up with vaseline or Aquaphor has worked wonders for the occasional blister. Another great tip from my California sister

Five weeks down, five more to go! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Roasted Sweet Potato, Black Bean + Pulled Pork Bowls

My love for "bowl dinners" knows no bounds. They are colorful, healthy and full of so much flavor. All of which are stellar key details for weeknight eating, if you ask me! I've been re-mixing some of my favorite recipes and transforming them into bowl form. Can't stop, won't stop.

This recipe started as a roasted sweet potato and black bean chopped salad, then I pulled out my rock pot and cooked up my favorite pulled pork. Done and done! This recipe for Slow Cooker Beer Carnitas from How Sweet Eats is fantastic. You can never go wrong with a bottle of good beer and a solid combo of spices. While this pork is great for tacos, we often eat it plain or on top of a salad, like we have here! 

I have said it before and I will say it again, every time I use the crock pot, I'm reminded of how much I love this method of cooking! It's perfect for busy days and leaves minimal prep work when dinner time rolls around. Williams-Sonoma has a new slow cooker cookbook that I'm thinking of adding to my collection. As the weather gets cooler and Fall rolls in, slow cooker recipes are perfect. 

Roasted Sweet Potato, Black Bean + Pulled Pork Bowl

2-3 large sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks and roasted
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed well
2 ears of corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Romaine heart, chopped
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to season
Lime wedges

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, toss sweet potato chunks in a Tablespoon of olive oil and season with pepper. Bake for 25- 30 minutes, or until slightly brown and crisped on the outside. 

To assemble your bowl, start with a bed of romaine. Add all vegetables and top with pulled pork. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with a lime wedge! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Will's First Birthday Bash!

It may be the first day of Fall, but before I say goodbye to Summer, 2014, here are some pictures and details from Will's First Birthday Bash back in June! This was definitely one of the highlights of our Summer. Planning this party for our sweet boy was SO. MUCH. FUN. I'm in my element when I'm party planning and entertaining and I love all of the extra details! 

A little back story...Way back when, before we even knew if our little lovie was a he or a she, a tiny pair of orange pants from Baby Gap were hanging in the nursery closet. Those orange pants with the matching onesie and zip up hoodie was the snuggliest little outfit and for whatever reason, orange became the signature color of Will. So, naturally, a little orange and teal combo was the only way to go for the party. I didn't want anything too theme-y, just bright, happy decorations, good food, and lots of people and love in our house to celebrate Will. I sent my good friend Jen (of Polka Dot Posie fame) some of my inspiration pictures for the party, and she came up with a darling invitation that couldn't have been more perfect! I literally cried when she sent me the proof. 

Will's monthly pictures made for the perfect banner decoration on our mantle. I used mini clothespins to attach the pictures to twine and used this circle party banner from Stampin' Up! to weave around. 

I used a giant easel and memo board to display some of our favorite pictures of Will from his first year. These were so much fun to look at. 

My mom made this incredible banner to hang outside on our screened in porch. It was one of my favorite decorations! The tiny details really made this pop. All of the products used are from Stampin' Up! as well. 

These cute lanterns from Target's party section hung over our drink table. My mom embellished two of them with washi tape and scrapbook paper- we LOVED the way these turned out! 

I ordered orange, gray and teal straws from Etsy and grabbed orange solo cups at Party City and found the orange striped napkins at Michael's. I love using mason jars and filling them with grocery store flowers for small touches throughout the house. This is an inexpensive way to add a little something extra to tablescapes, bar areas and end tables. Even the bathroom had a mason jar filled with a few white gerber daisies. 

With the help of my parents and my professional chef Godmother, we came up with a menu that was both easy to prep and cook, and also impressive to party guests. If I have learned anything with party planning, it's that making 4-5 items in bulk is much easier than making several different appetizers and smaller bites. This menu is perfect for a Summer party! 

No first birthday party is complete without a smash cake! My sister out did herself with this sweet creation and Will diving into it was certainly the highlight of the party. Andi made a homemade funfetti cake with blue vanilla buttercream and the most darling little bunting as a cake topper. Everything about this was perfect. Love love love! 

I think this moment was one of the highlights of Will's first year of life! 

Andi also made funfetti cupcakes for dessert! Simple and sweet. 

...and the after party was just as fun!

Special thanks to my parents and sisters for ALL of their help- we couldn't have pulled this off without them. And much love and many thanks to all of our dear family and friends who came to celebrate with us! We love you all. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pizza Knots

Fridays were made for eating (homemade) pizza and whoever decided that this was a rule should be crowned. Most Fridays, our homemade pizza tradition continues and it's a meal we look forward to all week long. 

These sweet little pizza knots have joined the Friday night pizza party and we are obsessed. They are the perfect little pre-pizza bites and oh so decadent when dipped in our favorite olive oils. We set up a little dipping station and enjoy these while we wait for the giant pies to come out of the oven. 

If we are having company, I typically make one batch of my Neapolitan Pizza Dough plus an extra half batch. One batch makes two large pizzas and I use the half batch for the knots. If it's just Mark and I eating, I make one batch of dough, making one large pizza and a bunch of knots.

Pizza Knots

1/2 batch of my Neapolitan Pizza Dough 
Olive oil, for brushing
Coarse salt
Olive oil, for dipping
Marinara, for dipping

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees.

Once the dough has risen, divide accordingly. With the dough that has been set aside for knots, I cut in half, then those halves in half, etc., etc., yielding 16-24 smaller balls of dough. Roll each piece out to about 5-6" pieces and knot. 

When the oven has reached 500 degrees, pull out the pizza stone. Place the knots on the stone and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Bake for 7-8 minutes. 

Serve, dip and enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Zoodles with Sausage, Cannellini Bean + Roasted Eggplant Ragout

We are crazy for zoodles in this house! I absolutely love this healthy alternative to pasta dishes and as they have gained more popularity on many healthy eating blogs, it's been fun to gather new recipes to incorporate into our dinner rotation. 

I've been playing around with some of my favorite pasta recipes and subbing in zoodles. While zucchini noodles aren't quite as good as indulging in the real thing, they are still SO GOOD. With hearty, saucy dishes, you almost can't even tell that the noodles you're twirling on your fork are made from a vegetable.

This Rachel Ray recipe was a staple in the apartment I shared with my dear friend, Ashley. The sauce tastes even better the second day and last night, I added some roasted eggplant for a little bit of a different texture. Eggplant seems to scare some away, but it is one of my favorite vegetables to roast. I love the buttery texture and the simple flavors when it's roasted with a robust olive oil and salt and pepper. Cooking Light is featuring some great techniques this month to give you more inspiration for incorporating this purple vegetable into your menu. 

Sausage, White Bean and Roasted Eggplant Ragout + Zoodles
recipe adapted from Rachel Ray

1.5 lbs. sweet pork Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 can (14.5 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
Handful fresh basil, chiffonade
1 small eggplant, cut into large chunks
3-4 zucchinis, spiralized or cut using a mandoline slicer
Olive oil
Salt + pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large bowl, toss the chopped eggplant with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (to help with sticking) and spread eggplant evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until eggplant is soft and roasted.

In a large, heavy bottom sauce pan on medium heat, cook sausage. Break up the meat as it browns. When the sausage is cooked, add onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, beans, basil and season with salt and pepper, and turn heat down to low. Cover and let the sauce simmer. 

Once your zoodles have been cut, place in a large saute pan and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Saute for 3-5 minutes, using tongs to turn and toss, until zoodles are slightly soft.

When the eggplant is done cooking, mix in with the sauce and toss in zoodles! Garnish with freshly grated Romano and red pepper flakes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Roasted Balsamic Vegetables + Grilled Chicken Kale Bowl

 This kale bowl is everything. I like to think of it as my idea of a perfect healthy meal. I took the flavors from one of my favorite early recipes and revamped them into this healthy, one dish dinner. Kale bowls are one of our favorite go-to meals. It's a great way to use up any fresh vegetables that you have on hand, just finish it up with a piece of grilled protein and you have a complete meal! I finished this one off with some lightly toasted panko for extra crunch and it added the perfect bite! And if you really want to add some extra punch, roast a few garlic cloves to throw in. 

Use your judgement with the veggie amounts. I roast enough for each bowl plus a little extra for lunch the next day.  your week off to a healthy start with this hearty and healthy bowl of goodness!

Roasted Balsamic Vegetables + Grilled Chicken Kale Bowl

Roasted Vegetables:
Eggplant, diced
Cauliflower, cut into florets
4 carrots, cut into 1" pieces
Red onion, quartered
Plum tomatoes, quartered
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt + pepper, to taste

Grilled Chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt + pepper

Kale, washed and torn
1/4 cup panko, toasted

Mix olive oil, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Transfer to a large ziploc bag with the chicken breast. Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper. 

Toss vegetables in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and light salt and pepper to season. Spread evenly on baking sheet or roasting pan and roast for 35-40 minutes. 

While the vegetables cook, grill the chicken either outside, or indoors on a grill pan. The chicken should be 170 degrees in the center at the thickest part.

To toast panko, spread evenly on a small skillet on medium heat, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Toss frequently, for 5-7 minutes, until panko is toasted.

Once vegetables are done, prep your bowls! Layer kale, vegetables and top with sliced chicken breast. Finish with a sprinkle of toasted panko. 

If you want more of a dressing to finish off your kale, try using this Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino as the your kale base.

Monday, September 8, 2014

#TeamLovie26: Weeks One & Two

Well, the first two weeks of half marathon training are complete! I've been in a steady groove for a few months now, but mentally, I like knowing that from here on out, all of my runs are preparing me for something. It's so much better when you have a goal to work towards. I am using Runkeeper to track my runs and for the most part, I really like it. I have it at my fingertips on my phone and can also log into the website to look at my logged activities as well.  

My runs are feeling great and Saturday's five miler was the first time I felt like I had to push myself a little bit harder. It was a great feeling! I have a feeling that seven and eight miles will feel like a huge accomplishment in a couple of weeks. The weather continues to be H-O-T here in Charlotte, and as the miles go up, I'm looking forward to come crisp air! I try not to pay attention to my pace too much while I'm running, but every mile or so, Runkeeper likes to let me know how I'm doing. Here's what the past two weeks looked like:

13 miles (3.22 miles, 9:54)Rest3 miles (3.28 miles, 9:38)Rest3 miles (4.00 miles, 9:38)4 miles (4 mile hike in Boone!)4 miles (3.26 miles, 9:36)13.76 miles
23 miles (3.23 miles, 9:57)Rest4 miles (4.17 miles, 9:49)Rest3 miles (3.11 miles, 9:08)5 miles (5.02 miles, 9:04)Rest15.71miles

We spent last weekend in Boone for a wedding, so I flip flopped my longer run and did it on Sunday when we got home. Speaking of our trip to Boone, Mark ran his first full half marathon while we were up there! It was a last minute decision, but it was so exciting. He had 12 miles on his training schedule for the weekend and was truly dreading a 12 mile run on Sunday evening when we got home. The Triple Crown High Country Half Marathon just happened to be last weekend and he decided to go for it. He signed up the morning of the race and finished in 1 hour and 57 minutes! I couldn't be more proud!

This week of running is off to a slow start. I woke up with a sniffly nose and a sore throat, so I am resting today with hopes that I can start week 3 tomorrow!