My Favorite Recipes of 2015

For some reason it hit me a couple of days ago that I have officially stuck with cooking healthy, vegan meals for an entire year now! In honor of this anniversary, I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite recipes from 2015.

Best Recipe

Minimalist Baker Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls 

I made these on Thanksgiving morning and I am still thinking about them. They were a huge hit at our house – even with my non-vegan husband. This was one of the most complicated recipes I tried all year (I had to work with yeast for the first time ever), but it was well-worth the effort.

IMG_4549

Best Sandwich

Minimalist Baker Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich 

Make it. Now. It’s that good. And make sure you make the garlic hummus sauce, even though the recipe says it’s optional. It’s really the best part of the entire sandwich!

IMG_2512

Honorable Mention: Tiny Lemon Tree Cannellini Bean Sandwich

image2

Best Salad

Tasty Yummies Autumn Harvest Salad 

This hearty and flavorful roasted vegetable salad is meant to be served at room temperature. I highly recommend adding butternut squash to this one.

IMG_2520

Best Entree

Vegan Yumminess Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Tofu 

I’ve made a zillion versions of this now, using different combinations of vegetables and variations of the sauce, and they are all amazing. Tofu “stir fry” is a great way for me to pump up my vegetable intake when I feel like I’ve been lacking in that area.

IMG_2636

IMG_2721

Best Knock-Off of a Meat Dish

One Green Planet Tempeh Gyros with Tzatiki 

I actually hate most meat knock-off dishes. I just don’t find them appealing at all. And I’m actually not a huge tempeh fan, if I’m being completely honest. But this recipe is a winner. I think marinating the tempeh for several hours really makes the difference here, so make sure you don’t cut any corners with marinating. It will be worth it! I also suggest you make extra tzatiki because it’s awesome for dipping (veggies, pita chips, etc.) and as a salad dressing, too. 

IMG_4761

Best Chili

Taste of Home (aka “Julianna’s”) Chili

There are LOTS of veggie chili options and I like several of them, but this is my standout. It’s easy to make (the hardest part is chopping up all of the vegetables), super healthy, and has great flavor. I call it “Julianna’s” chili, since my friend Julianna (who is a meat-eater) introduced me to the recipe last winter and I have been hooked on it ever since.

The only photo I have of this one is pre-cooking, but you get the idea. It’s loaded with veggies!

IMG_4246

Please let me know what you think if you try any of these! Happy cooking!!

Vegan Thanksgiving 2015: Part II

I’m happy to report that my first homemade vegan Thanksgiving was a success! Generally, everything went well in the kitchen and the food was tasty (check out my previous post for links to all of the recipes I used).

So, how did we like each recipe? On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “spit out first bite and threw the rest in the trash” and 5 being “loved it and will definitely make again,” here are the scores:

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Pecans: 5

This was the most difficult of the day’s seven recipes and definitely gave me the most anxiety leading into Thanksgiving Day. I’ve never worked with yeast before and I was concerned that my dough may not rise properly. However, I didn’t have any issues with the yeast or any other aspects of the recipe. The whole process took about 2:30, including letting the dough rise, assembly, baking, and cooling, but for special occasions, I definitely think the effort was worth it and I will make these again.

After rolling out the dough, you add the yummy filling ingredients, including pumpkin butter, cinnamon, sugar, and chopped pecans.

IMG_4546

The final product, including icing and more chopped pecans!

IMG_4549

 

Pumpkin Chia Pudding Parfait with Ginger Snaps: 4.5

This pudding was super easy to make. It’s healthy (canned pumpkin, chia seeds, and spices are sweetened with just a bit of maple syrup) and delicious, and even won rave reviews from my meat and potatoes loving husband! I definitely plan to make this again. The only reason this didn’t get a 5 was because the cinnamon rolls were just too delicious for anything else to get the same score.

I was definitely glad I made the pudding the day before because it was one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving Day.

IMG_4539

I assembled the parfaits on Thanksgiving Day so the (store-bought) ginger snaps would retain their snappiness.

IMG_4565 IMG_4568

 

Mashed Potatoes: 4

This was my husband’s favorite dish of the day. Although the potatoes looked a little dry (there is no milk in the recipe), they didn’t taste dry at all. This recipe is a keeper for sure. The best part was that I didn’t have to peel the potatoes.

Roasted Carrots with Fresh Parsley: 4

This was the most simple recipe of the day, but it was really delicious. I don’t make carrots very often, but I will now that I have this recipe.

Meatless Loaf: 3.5

One of the main reasons this recipe appealed to me was because the author was clear that this loaf wasn’t trying to be meat. Personally, I don’t care for the taste of fake meats (yes, I’ve tried a bunch of brands), but I did want something that was a real, satisfying main course. I may be a vegan, but a salad won’t ever be enough to really fill me up, especially on a holiday.

This recipe really delivered what I was looking for. It was filling and hearty (and healthy!), with ingredients like tofu, beans, walnuts, and chopped vegetables. Although the recipe called for a lot of ingredients, it was not hard to make. Basically, everything goes in the food processor and you’re done.

The recipe makes quite a large loaf, so I’m thinking about trying to freeze some for future use. I will be honest that it isn’t the most attractive dish, so I added the carrots to the platter for some color.

The baked meatless loaf with roasted carrots.

IMG_4555

 

Whole Wheat Stuffing with Green Lentils: 3

I loved the addition of the lentils in this stuffing recipe because it made the stuffing more substantial than any other stuffing I have tried. That being said, this is only getting a three for two reasons. First, I wish I had added some additional vegetables, as my ratio of bread to vegetables seemed a bit off. Second, I wish I had used a different bread. I bought an organic whole wheat sourdough and, unfortunately, the sourdough flavor was a bit too overpowering. I will definitely try this recipe again because I think it has the potential to be a standout.

image1

 

Mushroom Gravy: 3

I will start by saying I’m not a huge mushroom person (I picked the recipe because my husband is), so I wasn’t expecting to love this. I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it, but I definitely didn’t love it. My husband liked it, but thought it was a bit heavy on the mushrooms.

 

FullSizeRender (10)

 

Things I would do differently

  • To the extent possible, I would grocery shop the week before the holiday, not the week of the holiday. Only a handful items really wouldn’t have been fresh if I bought them last Friday (e.g., the fresh baked bread) and I could have made one last minute trip for those few items.
  • I would either make my own pumpkin butter for the cinnamon rolls or purchase a few flavors to sample beforehand. I had a hard time finding already prepared pumpkin butter in the store and I did not love the flavor of the brand I ended up using.
  • I would use a different flavor whole wheat bread for the stuffing and might experiment with adding more celery and perhaps squash, mushrooms, and/or another vegetable to make the dish a bit less bread-heavy.
  • I would add a bit of sugar to the pudding (note: I like things sweeter than most and my husband said he liked it as is).
  • I would add some kind of green salad to the menu.

All in all, this Thanksgiving was a success! It was definitely a lot of work. Plus, we think it cost more to purchase all of the ingredients for this meal than we have spent in the past ordering our meal from Whole Foods. There are definitely pros and cons to each approach and I guess I’ll have to weigh those between now and Christmas. I think I’ll probably be doing dishes until then…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

May Favorites

I’ve really enjoyed putting together these favorites posts and while I usually stop at five favorites each month, this month I really had to narrow down my list to get to just six things! I guess that means I had a pretty great May!

Here are my favorites for this month:

1. New Recipes

Even though I haven’t posted many recipes lately, I am still plugging away with the plant-based diet. Unfortunately, one of the reasons I haven’t been posting recently is that I’ve tried a bunch of recipes that have only been so-so. I’m always so bummed when I put in the time and effort to find, grocery shop for, and then prepare a new dish and don’t love the final product. If I put in that much effort, I want the food to be stellar. Fortunately, I’ve had two winners this month and both were actually quite easy to make!

First, if you like Chipotle sofritas, you need to try this sofritas recipe from Yup, It’s Vegan!. The great part about this recipe is that it is super versatile – you could make burritos, salads, rice bowls, etc. using whatever toppings you like. I made burritos with black beans, green peppers, onion, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The seasoning was perfect – spicy, but not too spicy. This is definitely a recipe I will make again.

Second, I’m sharing yet another recipe from Minimalist Baker. I’ve shared several of her recipes on the blog before because they are always delicious and usually quite easy to make. This recipe for sweet potato black bean burgers satisfies both of those criteria. I will definitely make these again! I wish they had a slightly higher protein content, so I want to think about ways I can give that a boost. I’m thinking about trying to double the amount of black beans, but I’m not sure what impact that will have on consistency or taste. If I try it, I will definitely report back. In the meantime, try these burgers!

Making the Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers was quick and easy.

IMG_3028

IMG_3030

2. Training Partners

I’ve traditionally done almost all of my training alone, but this month, I’ve been able to coordinate quite a few training sessions with friends.

Don’t get me wrong – I love alone time and that is one of my favorite things about training, actually. I like time by myself to think. That being said, though, now that I regularly work from home by myself, with my hubs at the office, it is nice to have some human interaction from time-to-time. I also find it makes the training time pass so much more quickly.

Luckily, there are lots of great triathletes in the Northern Virginia area and there really is no shortage of people I can tag along with for a swim, bike, or run. In fact, every single weekend in the month of May, I was able to workout with a friend.

At the very beginning of the month, I got to ride around Charlottesville with Alyssa after Monticelloman. It’s always a treat to get to ride with her and even though I was tired after the race, I was super excited to get some time on the bike with my coach. I’m looking forward to riding with Alyssa even more during her tri camp in Charlottesville this July.

The weekend after Monticelloman, I had the pleasure of swimming with some local Team HPB ladies. Cris, who I rode Skyline with last month, celebrated her birthday with a 10k “birthday swim” and she invited several friends and team HPB-ers to join in on the “fun” (use of quotes there intentional). I came for the second half of the swim and, with Team HPB’s Megan, helped pace Cris to the finish line.

Cris, in the center, finishing her 10k swim, with Megan on the left.

11026087_10205665909560634_3246310454520482872_n

The following weekend, I got to ride with Taryn at the Friends of Homeless Animals charity ride. We had an awesome time and her company made a challenging day so much more fun!

And, this past weekend, I rode with Megan after the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim Sunday (which I hope to blog about soon) and then with Mindy and Katie yesterday! It was such a great weekend, and even though it kicked my butt, I had a blast!

Since coordinating the schedules of busy triathletes is no easy task, I doubt this streak is going to continue, but I hope to plan for at least a few more coordinated training sessions leading into IM Chattanooga.

3. Vega Snack Bars

I’ve mentioned Vega products a few times on the blog before. I’m a big fan of their recovery products and have been since I sampled them at Hillary’s Tucson camp in 2014. Vega products are vegan, but I used them even before I adopted a plant-based diet because they taste better than a lot of the other sports nutrition products on the market.

More recently, I’ve tried their snack bars and I am equally impressed with the quality and taste of those. I had purchased a few individual bars from Whole Foods and then those same flavors in bulk from Vitacost, and then Vega was kind enough to send me the other flavors to try, along with a great new smoothie cup!

Thanks, Vega!

IMG_2962

Vega Snack Bars come in five flavors: Dark Chocolate Cashew Cherry, Dark Chocolate Mixed Nuts & Sea Salt, Cranberry Almond, Coconut Cashew, and my personal favorite, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. All five flavors are available on the Vitacost website, and if you use my refer-a-friend link, you will get $10 off your order.

These are great to throw in your office desk drawer, gym bag, briefcase, or purse for when you need a quick and healthy snack on the go. I learned the hard way that the flavors that don’t have chocolate are better for leaving in the car, since you don’t have the melted chocolate to make your fingers messy. All are quite satisfying and tasty.

4. FlipBelt

My mom recently bought me a FlipBelt as a gift. I’ve seen these before on social media, but never in-person and was very excited to give the FlipBelt a try.

In particular, I was excited about using it to hold my iPhone 6 Plus, which is too large to fit in any pocket (I didn’t really think about that when I bought it!), but which I want to carry with me, especially on trail runs when I’m by myself, in case of an emergency.

The great thing about the Flip Belt is that it is basically a waistband for a yoga pant – i.e., stretchy, wide, and comfortable, with no bounce. I actually forgot I was wearing it on my first test run!

I own another brand of race belt that I purchased a few years ago, but my new, larger phone barely fits inside and there is definitely a bounce factor. I rarely ever use it.

If you are looking for something to hold your phone, keys, and gels for long runs, and especially if you own a larger phone, you should check out FlipBelt. Thanks, Mom!

5. Trail Running

Never did I think that “trail running” would ever appear in a “favorites” post of mine. Even though I am fortunate enough to have a beautiful trail practically right outside my door, I’ve never been a trail runner. I’ve run trails only a few times in all of my years of running and racing  – in Tucson at tri camp, in Bend at Oiselle camp, and once or twice at home here in Virginia, when Alyssa has specifically assigned me a trail run. The local trail runs I have done have always been short and I haven’t explored very much, so I didn’t really realize what I’ve been missing all of these years.

A couple of weeks ago, Alyssa assigned me another trail run – this time a bit longer – so I headed out on the “CCT” a bit apprehensive, but willing to have an open mind. It only took me about 10 minutes to run from my doorstep to the trail and just a few minutes after that, THIS was my view:

IMG_3010

It doesn’t get much more beautiful than that!

This weekend, I went out on the same trail again, this time running a bit farther than the last. I find trail running tires out my legs more quickly than running on pavement (I’m assuming because I’m using different muscles), but I couldn’t help but enjoy the scenery and, now that it is getting warmer, the shade!

Photo from this weekend’s run.

IMG_3079

I’m looking forward to doing more trail running now that I have realized I have this great trail so close to home. And, who knows – maybe a trail race will be my next “what’s next?” after Ironman!

6. Vegan Desserts

(I just realized that 3 of my 6 favorites for this month involve food. I guess I’ve been eating just as much as I have been training!)

I don’t want to turn into a “junk food vegan” – I really want to maintain a mostly healthy, whole food, minimaly-processed, plant-based diet. That being said, I have a sweet tooth and I like to have a treat from time-to-time.

This month, I tried two great vegan desserts: So Delicious Peanut Butter Zig-Zag non-dairy frozen dessert & Daiya New York Cheezcake.

So Delicious Peanut Butter Zig-Zag Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 

Even though this ice cream is dairy-free and made from soy, it doesn’t have a noticeable “not-real-ice-cream” taste. The consistency is smooth and creamy, as you would expect from a dairy-based ice cream. While I definitely plan to try more flavors, I really enjoyed the Peanut Butter Zig Zag’s chocolate and peanut butter combo: “[s]crumptious peanut butter and chocolate flakes swirled in a rich chocolate non-dairy frozen dessert base.” This is a rich and delicious dessert. Note that if you visit the So Delicious website (linked above) you can download product coupons.

Daiya New York Cheezecake

The Daiya cheesecake is equally decadent. I had seen a few posts about these new cheesecakes on social media, so when I saw them in the freezer section of my local Whole Foods, I knew I needed to give them a try. I bought the New York Cheezecake flavor (there are 3 other flavor options), and as a cheesecake lover (we actually had mini cheesecakes at our wedding reception instead of wedding cake), I was skeptical, but hopeful!

I followed the instructions on the package for thawing (this is important to note – you need to thaw this in the fridge for several hours, so don’t expect to take it straight out of the freezer and dig in!). One bite and I was hooked. Everything was right – the flavor, texture, and consistency. I will definitely try another flavor (probably the chocolate) the next time I stop by Whole Foods. Try one and let me know what you think!

Realtor Magazine Article & MooMotion Interview

Finally, since this will be my last post in May, I wanted to mention two media pieces I was fortunate enough to be included in this month.

First, I was interviewed by Melissa from MooMotion for a post on the MooMotion blog about training for my first 140.6.

Second, I was included in an article in Realtor Magazine about scheduling exercise into the work day, which can be difficult in a field where your schedule often varies significantly from day-to-day. I’m quoted in the sidebar that includes a list of ideas for doing so on the right side of the article.

I had such a great month and hope you did, too!

 

 

April Favorites

I’ve really enjoyed writing these “favorites” posts each month, so I’m sticking with it. Here are five things I’m loving in April, in no particular order:

(1) FINALLY training in the sun! It was a very long and very cold winter in the Washington, D.C. area. I’ve done a lot of training and racing in bad weather. I ran a race in a sleet storm, another in a cold rain, and had a race cancelled because of snow. I cut one recent outdoor training ride short because I couldn’t feel my face and my fingers actually hurt from the cold. It hasn’t been fun.

Things finally seem to be turning around, though. Last weekend, I had a total blast getting in a 3-hour ride in the sun!

FullSizeRender-1

It’s amazing what a few warm rays of sunshine will do for my mood. It made me really excited for everything that’s coming my way this year. I think this winter was so long that I didn’t realize that race season is right around the corner, but it is! My first tri is in less than one month. Things are heating up (literally and figuratively) and I know I have a really fun and exciting season ahead of me!

(2) No-Bake Almond Granola Bars. I tried making my own granola bars for the first time ever, using a recipe from May’s Triathlete magazine. I’ve always heard it’s “easy” to make granola bars at home, but “easy” is a relative term, and since I’m fairly new to cooking and baking, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out, it is, in fact, easy to make granola bars at home – although, I will say that the ingredients (in this case, almonds, almond butter, and dark chocolate) are not cheap!

These no-bake bars set in the fridge for two hours. I kept the dark chocolate in large chunks and that was a decision I don’t regret making.

IMG_2775

Despite the cost, the final product is delicious and nutritious! The recipe yields 16 bars, which you can store in the fridge or freezer. I think this recipe could be altered by using different nuts – cashews or walnuts, for example – or adding other ingredients, such as coconut flakes or dried fruit. I plan to experiment with this recipe after I finish enjoying my first batch of almond and chocolate treats.

I will say that these bars are a bit messy, so I’m not sure they are great training fuel, but they are good for snacking and/or dessert at home or in the office.

Check out the May issue of Triathlete for the recipe.

(3) MooMotion Cadence Cycling Capri. As I mentioned, it is finally warming up in Northern Virginia, which has meant more outdoor riding. YAY! Last week, I was able to wear my MooMotion Cadence Cycling Capris and a short sleeve jersey for a 2-hour outdoor ride.

After riding in so many layers for most of this winter, it felt so freeing to ride in only one layer of clothes!

FullSizeRender

This is the first time I’ve been able to wear the capris outside and they did not disappoint! They are super comfortable, have the perfect amount of padding, and are just the right weight for this time of year. They are going to be my go-tos for spring riding. 

(4) Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Green Figs. My friend, Oiselle Flock member, fellow triathlete, and dietetics student, Taryn, always posts the most interesting nutrition info on social media. I love reading her posts! I have learned so much from her and I highly recommend you follow her on Instagram if you have an interest in food and nutrition (follow her on Instagram at: instagram.com/tmbf).

Taryn recently posted about the health benefits of organic whole green figs available in the Trader Joe’s freezer section (and, yes, she has an adorable dog, too). 

IMG_2834 I picked up a bag during my last grocery shopping trip, along with some other frozen fruit. I’ve been adding the figs to smoothies with Vega Protein Smoothie protein powder from Vitacost (use my Vitacost referral code for $10 off your first order).

One of my favorite combos so far is a ripe banana, one fig, a couple of frozen strawberries, and a few frozen pineapple bits, with one scoop of “Viva Vanilla” flavor Vega Protein Smoothie protein powder, unsweetened soy milk, and ice. I blend it all together in the Vitamix and it tastes just like a milkshake! It is an awesome post-workout treat!

I love that my “treats” are now healthy things like fruit smoothies, instead of Twizzlers! I decided I wanted to change my diet at the end of last year and I did. As Taryn says, you have the power to #makeyourhealthhappen!

(5) TriEqual.com and #50WomentoKona. I’ve posted quite a bit about the #50WomentoKona issue on Twitter and on Facebook, but I still get questions about it, so I thought I would briefly discuss it and provide some additional resources here.

No matter how complicated WTC (the company that runs Ironman-branded events) tries to make this issue, it’s really quite simple: while 50 professional men can compete in the Ironman World Championships each year, there are only 35 slots for professional women. 35 does not equal 50.

I obviously don’t have any direct personal stake in this issue, as I’m not a professional triathlete. However, I do feel passionately about this issue. As I stated on International Women’s Day:

FullSizeRender-2

To me, the issue boils down to equality of opportunity (I can’t take credit for that phrase, but I think it’s perfect!) and that is a concept everyone should get behind – whether a professional or age-grouper; male or female; triathlete or not. 

If you want to learn more, I recommend the following:

  • Visit the TriEqual website for more information and to join the team of TriEqual volunteers. 

I hope everyone is having a great April!

March Favorites

Here are five things I’m loving this month:

1) Vitacost. This website is officially a new obsession of mine. They not only carry all of my favorite vegan brands (Bobo’s Oat Bars, Larabars, Vega), but they also offer great pricing, free shipping on qualifying orders, quick delivery, fabulous customer service, and an awesome referral program! Speaking of the referral program, if you use my Refer-A-Friend code, you can save $10 off your order! Claim the offer here. My husband is on a low-carb diet and they have tons of products for him, too. They also carry ingredients that I cannot find in my local grocery stores. I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with Vitacost! You should definitely check them out!

I can purchase Bobo’s Oat Bars at a local health food store, but they only carry a few flavors. I am so excited to try some additional flavors I ordered from Vitacost.com.

IMG_2701

 

2) Oiselle Toolbelt Rogas. Oiselle just needs to take all of my money because their Spring 2015 line is fierce! There are SO many items I love (seriously, you should see my online shopping cart right now), but I wanted to highlight the new Toolbelt Roga shorts. I think these are brilliant! They are super practical for long runs because they are loaded with pockets. If you’ve read my blog before, you know I am a big fan of pockets in my tri gear, so I was so excited when I saw Oiselle’s CEO, Sally, wearing these awesome shorts at Oiselle Team camp last August. Since then, my friends and I have been stalking the Oiselle website waiting for these to arrive. I am so excited that they are finally here and cannot wait to give them a try! I ordered a pair in black and I am obsessively tracking my package as it travels across the country to my door. I will let you know when they arrive!

Toolbelt Rogas rock! (photo from Oiselle website)

toolbelt-pockets_0

 

3) Vega Sport Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars. I have used Vega protein powders for a while now, even prior to trying to cut animal products out of my diet, because they are the best-tasting protein powders I’ve tried. Yes, they are a bit more expensive, but the flavor is so much better, it has been worth it to me. While I love a nice thick, cool recovery smoothie after a hard workout, recovery bars are a more convenient option when I’m working out away from home. I usually have one stashed in my gym bag, one in my car, and one in my purse. That way, I know I always have something to eat after a big swim, ride, or run. The bars I used last year contain milk, so I have been searching for a vegan alternative to help fuel my muscles after training sessions this year. I am happy to report that the search is over. I recently purchased a box of Vega Sport Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars from Vitacost (I told you I’m obsessed) and they are delicious! Each bar is 260 calories and contains 15 grams of protein. These Non-GMO Project Verified bars are also gluten free. If you order from Vitacost right now, a 12-bar box is only $26.87 (the retail price is $41.79)! That’s an incredible deal!

 

4) Smashed Kale & Cannellini Bean Sandwich. If you saw my February favorites, you know I picked a smashed bean sandwich as my favorite recipe of the month and, believe it or not, I have another amazing smashed bean sandwich recipe to share this month! This Smashed Kale & Cannellini Bean Sandwich is super tasty and was easier (quicker) to make than the Sunflower sandwich. It has a great garlic flavor and the recipe made enough sandwich filling for an entire week’s worth of lunches! It’s a great way to add some kale to your diet, too. Try it and let me know how you like it!

This sandwich. So. Good.

image2

 

5) Matt & Nat Bag and Wallet. As you know, I’ve been eliminating animal products from my diet and the next logical step is incorporating cruelty-free living into other aspects of my life. I started investigating vegan handbags and came across Matt & Nat, a company I wasn’t previously aware of. I immediately fell in love with practically everything on the Matt & Nat website! Their bags are gorgeous and look just like leather. In fact, my mom – who is most definitely not a vegan – even ordered a new bag and wallet. I am now the proud owner of a Matt & Nat satchel and wallet and I am in love!! 

I knew I was going to like the style and color of my new bag and wallet, but I wasn’t sure about the quality, being unfamiliar with the brand and ordering online, but I am really impressed. I can definitely see myself purchasing more from Matt & Nat in the future. If you check them out, definitely read a bit more about the company. I think you will be impressed with their brand values and ethics.

My new Matt & Nat handbag! The photo doesn’t do it justice!

image1

 

What are some of your favorites this month?

 

 

Race Report: Reston 10 Miler

On Sunday, March 1, I ran my first real race of the season, the Reston 10 Miler.

I had originally registered for this race with an eye on the Rock ‘n’ Roll (RnR) D.C. half marathon on March 14, thinking this would be a good training run for me in advance of attempting my first-ever sub-2:00 half at RnR. Last year, I shocked myself by running a 2:00:14 at the RnR half – an 11 minute PR. Since then, my goal has been to run a sub-2:00 half in 2015.

I had some great running results last year, including the aforementioned half PR and PRs in both the 5k and marathon. I also ran well during the run leg of Rev3 Poconos. However, since the Richmond Marathon, my running hasn’t gone well. I had knee pain I couldn’t seem to resolve. I changed shoes a couple of times. And, of course, the weather hasn’t cooperated for much running outside this winter. I think all of those things combined set me back a bit. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Reston, especially because the course is known as being hilly. For some reason, I settled on 10:00 min/mile pace as being what I would be okay with. Not thrilled with, but okay with. Any slower than that, and I would not be happy (keep in mind that I ran just under 10:00 pace at the Fairfax Four Miler in January, even though I felt like I was really working during that race).

This was supposed to be my second of two 10-mile races on consecutive weekends, but my race the prior weekend (the Howard County Striders Club Challenge) was cancelled because of the weather. Unfortunately, right up until the last minute, things were looking dicey for Reston as well, with a wintery mix expected Sunday morning.

After the prior weekend’s cancellation, I was watching the weather with a doubtful eye all week. The forecast got worse and worse as race day approached and there was some discussion in my running group (started by me, if I’m being honest) about whether or not the race would proceed. Sure enough, the night before the race, the race organizers announced that while the race was “on” for an 8:00 a.m. start, it could be changed to a 10k if conditions worsened after the start. I was worried (story of my life!) about pacing, since I wouldn’t know at the start whether I was running 6 miles or 10 miles, but there was not much I could do about it.

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and arrived at the race site promptly at 6:30 a.m. to pick up my packet. Packet pick-up was not even set up when I arrived and a number of people were already waiting ahead of me. About 15-20 minutes later than scheduled, packet pick-up finally started, but apparently it was moving too slowly. With just two people ahead of me in line at this point, one of the volunteers announced they would be changing the packet pick-up process by posting numbers at the entrance. Runners would have to look-up their bib numbers before getting in line. I don’t think I need to tell you that those of us who had already been waiting in line for some time at this point were not thrilled. Things ended up getting sorted out, but I have to say I was a bit surprised the process wasn’t better organized, as this is not a first-year race.

In any case, once I got my packet, I put on my bib and headed back outside for a 20 minute brisk warm-up run along the race route. I don’t know what my warm-up pace was because Alyssa wanted me to run without a Garmin, but I felt like I was moving quickly. I felt good and strong, and did physically warm up (it was quite cold). I took off my Oiselle sweats and got in the bathroom line to pee once more before the start. The line was long and time was ticking away. I was worried I wasn’t going to make it to the start on time, but I did – barely – and only because they started the race a couple of minutes late.

The race started and I felt strong. I anticipated that this would be a hilly course, compared to what I am used to and that definitely was the case. I can’t really recall any flat stretches. There were a lot of long slow climbs. I was very happy for all the downhills.

Elevation profile for the Reston 10 Miler course.

Screen shot 2015-03-03 at 7.27.42 AM

I can’t remember exactly when it started sleeting, but I think it was near the halfway point. It wasn’t really bad, and I was warmed-up enough that even with the sleet, I wasn’t terribly cold – I was actually able to remove my gloves. I was, however, worried about slipping and hurting myself, especially on the downhills.

Yes, I was bib number five. It’s hard to make out the sleet in this photo, but it was happening!

16683506421_79cef9db76_k

You can see the sleet against my black tights in this photo (below).

16066133273_e59568b5fc_k

I did start worrying about whether I had gone out too fast, considering the hills, and around mile 7 I felt myself really start slowing down. Again, I didn’t have a Garmin on, so I wasn’t sure of my pace at that point, but I knew from my watch that I was under 10:00 min/mile pace (I’m really bad at math, so that’s all I can ever go by with the watch). I knew I had to keep moving to maintain that and couldn’t afford to lose a lot of time. I told myself that I will feel much worse during the run in Chattanooga and I will need to just keep pushing. I focused on having fast feet. I told Leslie before the race that I was quitting sports if I had to stop and walk during a ten mile race, so I wanted to keep running. I’m not going to lie that I was ready for the race to be over at the finish line.

I ended up finishing in 1:34:01 (chip), which is 9:24 pace. My pace at the 10k mark was 8:59, so I was definitely right when I suspected I slowed significantly for those last few miles. The good news is that I was able to keep up my half marathon pace for the first 10k. I will just need to hold that twice as long at RnR.

Lots of Moms Run This Town (MRTT) ladies ran the race and it was so nice to see familiar faces before, during, and after the race. One of my new MRTT friends, Kim, came to the race to cheer, despite the weather. I saw her 4 or 5 times along the course and it gave me a boost each time. Thanks, Kim!

This was my first race in the Hokas and they felt good. I’m still getting used to them, but I have high hopes that they’ll work out well for me this year. We are certainly off to a good start.

Overall, I was really happy with my day. It hasn’t been a great winter for me running-wise, so this was a nice surprise. It gives me a bit of a confidence boost heading into RnR and I think that’s really important for me. I’m going to need a spectacular day to go sub-2:00 and this is a good stepping stone towards getting there.

While I’m blogging, I have a couple of other updates.

Yummy Recipes

I’ve, fortunately, tried a few great recipes lately that I thought I would share.

Roasted Vegetable Salad

I recently went on a double date to True Food Kitchen and had the most heavenly roasted vegetable salad. I immediately started looking for a recipe for it, so that I could try to replicate it at home. I tried this recipe from Tasty Yummies and it was delicious! It’s also beautiful, if I do say so myself!

IMG_2520

The only variation from the recipe was that I roasted butternut squash along with the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. The recipe also includes kale, pomegranate seeds, and pumpkin seeds. I highly recommend this one as it is both easy and yummy. I am definitely making this again soon!

“Meatball” Pizza with “Parmesan Cheese”

This is actually a combo of three different recipes from one of my favorite bloggers, Minimalist Baker: vegan meatballs, vegan parmesan cheese, and vegan pizza. It was a multistep process getting everything together and it definitely took me longer than I hoped, but it was worth it when I tasted the final results!

IMG_2580

Veggie Chili

My friend just bought an amazing apartment in D.C. and had a housewarming party to celebrate. I wasn’t expecting her to make anything special for me and I’ve gotten used to eating before I leave the house for parties. But a few days before the party, she sent me a text letting me know she would be making veggie chili for me – YAY! The chili was so good and thankfully, she let me take some home and sent me a link to the recipe. This is another one that I plan to make soon!

FullSizeRender

Monthly Goals for March

As you know, I’ve decided to set monthly goals for myself in 2015, in lieu of making a New Year’s resolution. In January, I focused on eating more vegetables and working on my strength. In February, I added foam rolling after every run and portion controlling sweets.

For March, I am adding (1) portion controlling the sugar in my morning coffee and (2) being in the moment. The first is pretty self-explanatory, so I will leave that one as is, but I will explain the second.

Last week, I tried to run before TRX class at 8:15 and by the time I showered and had breakfast post-run, I left late for class. Then, I hit a TON of traffic driving to class (isn’t that always the case – it’s never a light traffic day when you’re running late!). I ended up arriving a full ten minutes late to TRX class and it basically ruined my entire day because I felt so guilty about it. So, this month, I’m going to work more on being in the moment I’m in. Here are some examples I’m thinking of:

  • Taking last week’s example, once I arrived at class, I should have put my morning behind me. I should have enjoyed myself, since TRX is one of the highlights of my week, instead of letting being late ruin my experience.
  • If I have a bad morning workout, I want to put it out of my mind before my afternoon workout and not let the negative feelings bleed into another workout.
  • I don’t want to get distracted during my morning workout thinking about work tasks that need to be completed that day, or to-dos, like laundry and the grocery store. I want to focus on my morning workout, and my morning workout only, during my morning workout.
  • When I have TV time with my husband after dinner, I want to enjoy that time together and not be on my phone checking email, Facebook, or Twitter. I want to be in the moment during our time together, since I know we don’t get enough of it.

This last example is probably going to be the toughest for me, but I think I can do it. This is probably a good time to remind you (and myself) that my standard for these goals isn’t perfection – it’s just being better than the day before.

Those are my two new goals for March.

What are your March goals?

 

February Favorites

No one has ever accused me of lacking enthusiasm. I’m either not interested, or I’m all in. Here are five things I’m loving this month:

1. Minimalist Baker Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich I recently tried the most delicious recipe from Minimalist Baker. This chickpea sunflower sandwich is AMAZING! I really can’t say enough about it. The recipe says the garlic sauce (which is made with hummus and lemon juice) is optional, but you really need to make it. It’s so tangy and bright. That may even be my favorite part of the entire sandwich. I added sliced tomato and avocado, but you could certainly add other toppings (lettuce, red onion, etc.).

The most amazing sandwich in the history of sandwiches.

IMG_2512

FullSizeRender

While I initially made a sandwich, I have subsequently put a scoop (okay, maybe more than a scoop…) of the chickpea mixture on greens with chopped tomato and avocado and the garlic sauce drizzled on top to make a salad. I’m sure I will be using the sauce on a zillion different things going forward. Both the sauce and the chickpea filling were quite easy to make. I think this will appeal to meat-eaters, as well. Make this recipe – you won’t be disappointed!

2. TRX at Machine M3 If you live in Northern Virginia, you must try a TRX class at Machine M3 in Vienna. One of my major goals for this year is to work on my strength. I know I’m not alone here – getting stronger seems to be a popular goal for many runners and triathletes, based on the blogs and social media posts I’ve read lately. Several people recommended TRX to me and I finally tried it a few weeks ago. The great thing about TRX is that there are always alternate versions of each exercise to make it harder or easier. For example, in my class, I do sit-ups with a weighted ball, but only extend the ball forward (easier), as opposed to holding it over my head (harder). I hope to eventually be able to do sit-ups with the ball over my head, but for now, I like that I have the option to modify and still benefit from the exercise. I think I may be the last person on Earth to discover TRX, but if you haven’t yet and are a runner or triathlete looking to improve your strength in 2015, I highly recommend trying it!

3. MooMotion Revolution Shorts I know I have raved about the MooMotion Revolution Shorts before on my blog and social media, but they are that fabulous, and I know people may be looking for new gear as their cycling mileage builds heading into the spring. These shorts are comfortable, flattering, and durable. I used two pairs for almost all of my training and racing last year and they still look as good as the day they arrived at my door (I say “almost” because I also had a pair of Rosa Tri Shorts in the rotation, and although they are beautiful, I didn’t wear those quite as often because they didn’t mix and match with as many tops). One of the features I appreciate most in the Revolution Shorts are the pockets. There are pockets on both the left and right sides of the shorts for holding gels or keys (you can even fit an iPhone in the pockets), which is perfect if you’re running off the bike. They come in classic colors (black, navy, charcoal), so you can mix and match them with any tri top or cycling jersey. If you have been looking for new tri/cycling shorts, you should definitely give these a try.

That’s me at Rev3 Poconos, wearing the Hudson Tri Jersey and Revolution Shorts.

REV3POCONO.00001-583

4. Bobo’s Oat Bars I recently discovered Bobo’s Oat Bars and they are absolutely delicious. These vegan bars are made in Colorado, from non-GMO, natural, and organic ingredients. They come in many flavors and every flavor I have tried so far has been outstanding. These bars really do taste homemade. I have been looking for a vegan fueling option for my long training rides this spring and summer and these are going to be perfect! They are also great as snacks with a little peanut butter on top! I’ve found them in a local health food store (Roberta’s in Fairfax, for anyone in the area) and my local CVS (a pleasant surprise), but you can also order them online from the company’s website.

5. Hoka Cliftons As you may remember, I had some issues with knee pain leading into the marathon last fall and the pain reappeared when I started building my running mileage again heading into the spring racing season. Alyssa suggested I explore some other shoe options and after trying several different shoes, I bought a pair of Altras. I liked the Altras, but I never felt quite comfortable in them. While the knee did seem to improve from the added cushioning the Altras provided, I was starting to have some other issues popping up during runs. I went to see my chiropractor, and she suggested I try Hoka Cliftons, as they would provide the cushioning to protect my knee, but have a slightly higher drop (Altras are zero drop). I’ve worn them a few times and already feel more comfortable in them than I did the Altras. I’m hopeful that these are going to work well for me and keep me injury-free this year.

My new shoes!

IMG_2481

I’m always looking for new things to try, so let me know in comments what you’re loving this month (I know it’s not the weather!).