Thursday, February 26, 2015

What the Emergent Eaters are Eating .. plus workout(s)

We continue with the cold/snow/cold/snow sequence that defines the quintessential seemingly endless Chicago winter. The chilly season has meant a lot of time at home snuggling with my sweetie pies. It seems (and I hope I'm not speaking too soon) that my #threenager is no longer a classified #threenager and instead has transformed herself into the sweetest, most fun, cooperative little angel (we are enjoying it while it lasts..). And she has been a terrific big sister to Baby J! When you get in a phase like this one, you enjoy it and enjoy it good. Because it could turn on a dime. 

So, with all the time indoors, I thought it would be fun to document a "What They Ate" day, because feeding little ones can be a challenging, frustrating, crap shoot that rarely land a hole in one.. but it can also bring great satisfaction if (gasp) they actually eat the healthy meal you prepared. I keep trying though, and to be honest, they are doing pretty well, expanding their palates at their own pace. A couple days a week they are both home with me, and since we had very few plans on Monday, I snapped pics of their three main meals. 

Breakfast - I made a fresh batch of homemade pancakes because our freezer stash has been long gone. And we were not in any kind of rush Monday morning, which is paramount if you plan to make pancakes. This also meant that I had time for coffee - but if I'm being honest, I sporadically slurped it down while simultaneously flipping flapjacks over the hot stove and balancing Baby J on my hip while she pointed at the pan and remarked, "hot" every so often. Just in case I was unaware that the stove was hot. Big Girl was running wild (and loud) around the house making all the messes everywhere, but she was in good spirits so I'll take it. Making a leisurely homemade breakfast for tots is not as glamorous as it sounds, nor is it by any means leisurely. But both of them loved the 'cakes. So it kind of makes it worth it. We drizzled minimal maple syrup over the pancakes, and I believe they also had some applesauce, but that may not be pictured. At the moment, Baby J is the more attentive and gracious eater. Her sister prefers to grab mouthfuls while playing (read: making messes). Incidentally, they have both been eating their meals at their little table - Baby J just despises her highchair, so if the meal is not too messy and she doesn't climb up and start walking all over the table, I let her sit there. For the record, they both ate three pancakes.


Lunch - I took a risk and gave them some leftover brussels sprouts that we had braised in leftover pulled pork sauce. They both tried it; Baby J spit hers out, presumably because she only has 1.5 teeth and had trouble chewing the spouts? and Big Sis followed suit (presumably because she is less adventurous when it comes to eating - her full set of teeth could have easily managed). They also had fresh mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil and some whole wheat bread.


And dinner - homemade hummus and pita, cucumbers, and yogurt. Big Girl prefers tortillas to pita and she also had some avocado, which Baby J does not yet like (but she apparently likes yogurt..a lot..)


Snacks are not pictured but they tend to be fruit (bananas, berries, and pear are current favorites), fruit and veggie squeezies, cheese and crackers (usually Triscuits), dry cereal, homemade muffins, or graham crackers. Neither of them are big meat eaters, but they do like tofu and Baby J will dabble in red meat. It's been tricky to put together balanced meals that both of them will eat - but it's a puzzle that I will never give up on. They are also two of the smallest people around, so they typically eat tiny portions at meals. I've found that when I put a very small portion on their plate at first (like laughably small), they tend to eat more overall. And sometimes they blow me away with the amount of food they gobble up at one sitting - like more than I do! In sum, they are both doing great and learning more and more about food and healthy eating every day. 

Moving on to workouts, there has been a total of one workout for me this week (besides abs). The relentless cold/snow/cold/snow sequence has wrecked havoc on my ability to run outdoors with Baby J, and we've also had a number of evening events that have made evening runs impossible. Today was actually my first real workout of the week : 8 x 400 at 7:03 pace. With the warm up and cool down, it totaled 5 miles. That is kind of pathetic, but it is what it is. 

For an afternoon snack today, I made some killer hot chocolate, which was just perfect for the cold, snowy conditions outside. It contained: 

2 cups of vanilla almond milk
1 TBSP cocoa
1 TBSP melted coconut oil
1 TBSP raw honey
(an optional half tsp of cinnamon which I omitted)

Basically you heat the milk on the stove and then add it to the rest of the ingredients in a blender for a minute or so. Truly fantastic. I gave Baby J a taste with extra almond milk and she declared it something not worth spitting out. Big Girl downed her share proclaiming it "yum." 

hot cocoa

And that brings me up to my birthday weekend. I have a few fun plans in the works and will fill in the blanks accordingly. Happy almost Friday ~

Monday, February 23, 2015

Menu Planning ETC

Here we go again - another week of summary and meal plans. As usual, it will be all over the place (like my head these days..) 

1) C of Team Stick told me about this fun little app and I decided to include it in one of last week's dinners. It's a roasted sweet potato and goat cheese crostini with fresh parsley. As easy as it sounds (roast the spud, puree with goat cheese, add salt, pepper, sage or whatever, spread on bread, bake or broil, top with fresh parsley) and delicious.

sweet potato/goat cheese

2)  some baking on a(nother) freezing snowy day. Winter has settled itself for sure. It's like 0 degrees as I type. When my Big Girl is at school, the little one often lends her hand in some of the baking. She loves putting the muffin liners in the pan - almost as much as she loves emptying the dishwasher. We ended up baking pumpkin chocolate chip muffins (not pictured) -  and they were devoured in mere days.

doing her share

so proud of herself!

3) One of my best friends who happens to live next door to me is moving to California at the end of this week. I am heartbroken and will miss her and her awesome family dearly. But one thing I've learned from the experience of several cross country moves is that life goes on and we will always have the memories we made together. To celebrate our time together, we went out Wednesday night last week - which was great fun (so much fun!!) but too much fun and left me suffering the next day, which is usually my hard workout day.

many, MANY, bottles of prosecco

i love these people

So instead of rocking some speed work while the sitter watched my little one, I took a two hour nap and then enjoyed a burger, fries and a milkshake for lunch. And I have no guilty feelings about this whatsoever. It happens. And as L of Team Stick pointed out, I never just bum around, so I was due for some bumming ;) 

4) To make up for the bumming, I did my speed work on Friday since my parents came over for the morning and watched the kids. It was one I've done before that included various intervals of speed at 10K pace (8:00/mile) and half mary pace (8:30/mile) - about 6.5 miles total. The difference was that I felt great!

5) I finally got outside for a run yesterday - about 5.5 miles I think. My pace was about 9:20. It was still in the teens and downright frigid but compared to what we've been experiencing (i.e. "a cold, gray, bucket of suck") it was manageable. 

ain't that the truth

6) Menu Planning time

Sunday - last night we pulled out the Texas Red leftovers from the freezer. It seemed appropriate for a cold Sunday night dinner. I was shocked to see that Baby J ate an entire (child sized) bowl of it! Her sister tried it but preferred avocado and tortilla. Toppings were sour cream and green onions. 

Monday - Tonight will be homemade hummus with goat feta, cucumber and tomatoes in toasted pita

Tuesday - leftover homemade chicken noodle soup and fresh bread with a soft cheese

Wednesday - I actually have a work event this night.. But the fam will have the kale/chick pea dish I love so much and I'll add fingerling potatoes to make it more substantial. 

Thursday - the hub is out this night so the girls and I will have grilled ham and cheese on sourdough

Friday - homemade pizza with onion and calabrian chilies topped with eggs (the girls have spinach and cheese usually)

Saturday - maybe a tofu stir fry

and that takes us to Sunday which is my birthday - more on that later.

7) Ab Month is still going strong. One more week!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Menu planning - February 15 .. And life lately

First, a few snap shots of life during this chilly winter. 

* Big Girl got her first hair cut last week - 8 inches of beautiful blond baby hair. We tied it in a ribbon and plan to save it for all eternity. 
first hair cut

* We currently have no dining room table. (This should hopefully change at some point this week..) In the meantime we are making do with the kids table. 


* We threw a rockin Valentines Day party for our friends. There was food, fun and awesome crafts. The kids had a blast (so did the adults ;))

happy heart day

one of my sweet valentines

* We took Big Girl on our Valentines Day oysters/champagne date. She was super!

oysters and champagne 

first oyster

down the hatch
* The kids haven't been the only ones using the little table for fine dining. We stooped to their level (literally) for Saturday night's dinner of braised pork chops in a tomato and porcini cream sauce. This was accompanied by braised collard greens and a solid Oregon Pinot. Yes, we lounged on camp chairs and kid chairs - it was a bit hilarious!
Valentine's Day dinner

* Workouts have been mostly short and sweet (and relatively speedy). Last Thursday, after a mile warm up, I did a 4 mile tempo run at 8:35 pace. Then there was a short recovery jog and a half mile tempo at 7:44 pace. I finished with a short cool down. 

* Saturdays' workout consisted of 8 x 400 repeats at 7:03 pace. These were pretty intense, but short. I think 8 was a good number, but I don't really know what I'm doing? Between the intervals I did a very short recovery jog. So it seemed like a well thought out workout. 

* Today I just did a four mile run - just needed to log some miles. 

* And I think there was a three mile run with Baby J last week too (before the cold front moved in..) 

And now, the week's menu. 

Sunday - last night was homemade chicken noodle soup. After our blowout weekend (which included a fun little flood in our apt at one o'clock in the morning -- could have been worse but we still have to deal with repair), we needed something healing. Chicken soup sounded perfect. Plus the temps were pretty low - like single digits maybe. Who even knows at this point. Regarding the weather, I just figure it's either "cold," "really cold," or "just stay inside."

Monday - tonight was a tofu scramble and a raw kale salad. I kind of borrowed the kale salad concept from Whole Foods when I was picking up Valentine's Day party food - it was kale with pine nuts, dried cranberries, and tomatoes in a lemon vinaigrette. I served a version at our party and it was so good I made it again for dinner tonight (but truth be told, it was just kale, cranberries, lemon juice and oil - the right amount of crunchy plant, citrus tang, and sweet chewy cranberry). 

Tuesday - braised brussels sprouts (in leftover pulled pork sauce) and roasted sweet potato/goat cheese puree with a touch of sage over crostini. 

Wednesday - leftover chicken noodle soup (there are two events this night, so perhaps this will change in some manner)

Thursday - fresh pasta with leftover tomato/porcini/cream sauce and possible a side salad to round things out

Friday - double date with some terrific friends!

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Menu Planning - February 8 (and winter activities)

Winter isn't the greatest, but I certainly feel like we are making the most of it. The girls and I had a lot of fun this weekend - Friday was very active with an African Drum performance in the morning (after which Big Girl decided she and her friends would do strides on the stage), lunch with a BIG group including six kids ages 15 months - 5 years, and afternoon gymnastics. Though Friday was a rest day for me, it certainly didn't feel like it because managing two little ones all day long (even if they are well behaved)  can often be tougher than a running workout!

strides on stage

Yesterday was no slouch either. I was fortunate to start my day with a five mile run with a friend. Usually I do my Saturday runs solo, but she just happened to text at the right time and we made it outside on a 40 degree sunny winter day for a gorgeous, refreshing run (and chat!). Our afternoon was spent mostly outside - and I just can't resist sharing these pics of my Big Girl on a snowboard. Somehow we stumbled into a free snowboarding experience for kids - and she summoned her courage and took to the course in the most adorable snowboarding gear! Well done, Chicago. This activity rocked!

snowboarding in the city

in a dress

little snowboarder

After this the adults enjoyed a bloody mary before we headed off to gather ingredients for the night's meal. We went with a Japanese theme, trying to replicate Japonais's broiled spicy king crab and adding some appropriate vegetables on the side. And, of course, sake was in order.

sake and bok choy

Our recipe for the king crab can be found here. The eggplant was lightly sautéed in vegetable oil and then simmered in a dashi broth that also included soy sauce, coconut sugar, and mirin. The bok choy was just sautéed in toasted sesame oil, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. I topped it with scallions and black sesame seeds for fun. The crab looked awesome but truth be told - the king crab wasn't great. We bought it for Christmas dinner and it wasn't great then either. Sadly this kind of ruined the meal for us especially since King Crab is pricey. But we made the best of it.

broiled crab legs with sake and yuzu kosho sabayon

And that brings me to this week's menu.

Sunday - kind of still thinking on this. We usually watch the Grammy's every year, so whatever we pick it will be light and fun. 

Monday -Pulled Pork in the slow cooker.  I'm trying this recipe because 100 Days of Real Food raves about it. It looks easy enough and will provide lots of leftovers. It will go with a salad. 

Tuesday - vegetable fajitas. (I'm thinking red/yellow/green peppers, onion, mushrooms, cumin, lime, something like that - in tortillas with salsa, sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese, scallions)

Wednesday - meatballs with whole wheat pasta (and I usually throw in spinach to make it extra healthy and pretty)

Thursday - I'll be out but will leave homemade hummus for the hub (Big Girl requested this anyway)

Friday - leftovers or something else fun (I'm throwing a big Valentine's Day party for the kids that day so I will probably be uncorking wine for dinner ..)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Five by the Fifth on the Fifth

Rarely do I wait til the last minute to do anything. I am typically the opposite of a procrastinator. But for some reason this week got away from me and soon I found it coming down to the wire regarding my participation in the February race for the Five by the Fifth Virtual Race Series (which runs from February to May). I've participated in the past, but last year's efforts were compromised due to pregnancy. This year I plan to be back in full force, using these virtual races as practice for what I hope will result in a record breaking 5K race some day.

Here's why this race ended up being today. So Sunday was February 1, and my legs were kind of beat from Saturday's six miler. Instead, I ran a couple miles on the treadmill in an effort to recover (there was also a blizzard outside..). Monday was a rest day - the snowfall was like 19.3 inches, which was pretty intense. Tuesday was pretty cold but I made it outside for a three miler with Baby J, who was bundled in her stroller. Luckily the sidewalks were clear(ish) and the lake path had a narrow cleared path. I'll mention that I got lots of thumbs up and cheers from passing runners (presumably for running with a stroller in the middle of winter after a massive snow fall in sub freezing temps - gotta love Chicagoans). That's been it for my workouts (besides everyday abs), so I was ready to rock it today. 

Pre Race Fuel: sprouted grain toast with peanut butter / grande size glass of homemade iced coffee 

Pre Race Activity: Walking Big Girl to school with Baby J along for the ride in her stroller

Race Start Time: 10am

Race Location: Local treadmill, Chicago, IL

Pre Race Warm Up: half mile on the treadmill which took about five minutes / some light stretching

Race: At the "horn," I set the treadmill to 7:53 pace and it was go time. During the race I bumped it up to roughly 7:40 pace for most of it. I noted the first mile was 7:52. The second was 7:43. The last 1.3 miles was 8:26 (7:39 pace). I finished in 24:01 so things averaged to 7:44 pace. 

5K stats

Now, I understand that treadmill racing is probably complicated because I started from zero - and arguably wasn't up to speed for (C of Team Stick estimates) 15 seconds. So perhaps I would have landed a sub 24 minute time had I actually accelerated on my own from the start, like in a road race. Instead, I kind of waited for the treadmill to increase the speed at its own pace, which was slow. In any case, I don't care about these details. Plus I wanted the picture of the treadmill board showing my time and distance ;) 

I also wanted this lame picture of my "off the grid knickers" and beat up purple pure flows resting on the belt. Because without these photos, how can I deem this a true "race experience??"

feet selfie

So that's the story of my first virtual race of the year. I'm happy to see where I stand, especially considering it was on a treadmill in a sun box (when the sun is shining, the gym heats up!) which is not super motivating. I did my share of huffing and puffing, but I maintained and stayed strong using mantras like "you got this" and  let's "burn it" - for some reason that helped. So I'll take my 24:01 5K and set some goals to hit sub 24 for March. Cheers. 

Post race festivities included (a kid free!) lunch with a friend at a cute cafe and posting pics to insta (because that's how things are nowadays ;))

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Adding Some Speed and Spice

Workouts first. Then food.

This week was kind of unusual for me in that I did TWO speed workouts. I have been coasting for the past (nearly) five years - starting when I found out I was preggo with Baby number one. But the truth is, speed wasn't something I did too often even before the wee ones entered the picture. I want that to change. Monday night I was feeling rather blasé about a run, but when my husband came home and Big Girl attached herself to him (God Bless the #daddyphase), I slipped out for a quick treadmill sesh. My plan was to do a warm up, one fast mile, and a cool down. I ended up doing TWO fast miles. At 7:35 pace. That counts as #milerepeats, right?? In total, it was only 3.5 miles, but my legs blew it up with those 1600's, and I was perma-grinning when I got off the belt. It's hard to top that feeling of accomplishment, even when you start small. 

Wednesday was my run fail, but Thursday I was determined to put something decent on the board. Once again, I was on the treadmill (blame the #wintrymix and crap Chicago winter weather, but also I needed speed). After a mile warmup, I settled into some half mile intervals. In my head, eight seemed like a good number. But my head is often fuzzy and not up to speed (haha), and I soon realized that eight half mile repeats might be a bit too much at this point. So I dropped it to six, which seemed perfect. I hit them at 7:30 pace and did a quarter mile recovery job between. The halfs went by quickly and actually felt pretty good. And soon I found myself jogging the cool down mile. In total, it was a 6.5 mile effort. I am happy with this and will move forward as I see fit.

Yesterday was my solo outside run, which ideally I'd like to be a long run. But I am settling for six miles right now. Time can be short and I like to have enough remaining energy to get through the weekend. So six works now, but hopefully by spring I'll be increasing that distance. I'm not sure about today's deal - snow is coming down full force and we have a "blizzard" warning this afternoon.

So food - We are still working out the menu plans for the week. I may edit/update later. But I wanted to share two meals from last week that are (IMO) worth sharing.

First up, I went a bit far in the vegan direction and we enjoyed mostly vegan meals all week (the exceptions were chicken stock in the sweet potato chili and cheese on top, and cheese on the grilled cheese. I kept the pad thai vegan (was delicious but I wouldn't call it pad thai), and kicked things up a notch with a easy cabbage salad and tofu scramble on Thursday night. (Note: I skipped the beans in the scramble and served it over toast instead of in tortillas). Wine worked nicely for this meal.

vegan cabbage salad and tofu scramble

Friday we had leftover vegan indian  - so by Saturday, I was ready for a change. With the cold and predicted snow on the way, we picked Texas Red and used this recipe. We wanted to keep it authentic using just meat, chili peppers, and spices. No beans.

Texas "Red"y to go
After letting it all simmer for some time, it was time to crack open a(nother) cold beer and give it a try. And it was nothing like I thought it would be - just delicious with so many flavors coming together (I mean there were several different kinds of chilis, beer, and unsweetened chocolate in there!). But it was mostly chunks of tender meat in a sauce that made history in our household. We topped ours with green onions and sour cream, which worked perfectly. And the icy beers hit the spot. 

I'll get back with the week's menu soon - but I'll close with the fact that today is February 1 and thus National Ab Month begins!!


Well, the first #fABruary workout is done! 3 x 30 second planks (side, front, side). Must start slow. And here are the menu plans…assuming we can get to the grocery store this afternoon in this blizzard…

Sunday - chips, guac, wings, and beer. Because --> Super Bowl.

Monday - braised carrots/shallot with thyme in homemade chicken stock with spinach over quinoa topped with fresh grated parmesan

Tuesday - spaghetti and bolognese (for everyone but me..girls night..)

Wednesday - chicken/avocado wraps (probably just shredded chicken, avocado, green onions, shredded carrots, lime, cilantro in wraps with whatever leftover chips make it from Sunday to Wednesday

Thursday - polenta with braised carrots/celery/onion/thyme and white beans

Friday - homemade pizza - thinking roasted mushroom and onion topped with eggs (still working on the whole egg-on-top-pizza concept)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

just how it goes

1am. Restless. Still waiting for slumber.

2am. Visit from three year old. Thankfully only a quick bathroom trip. Back in bed. Restless. Dozing. Vivid dreams.

5am. Cries from baby. Escalating. Do you hear me?! Louder.

5:30a. Visit baby's room. Thankfully, Baby falls back asleep.

6:40am. Three year old in room. Wake up! Try desperately to ignore everything. Persistent three year old. Very persistent.

7am. Throw hands up in air. Figuratively speaking. Cue constant demands needing immediate attention. <> Baby's bowl, cereal, milk and all, crashes to the floor. Uh oh. She blinks, innocently. More cereal, please, says her sister, also innocently.  (Why is the coffee taking so long!?!) 

Get your socks/shoes/coat/hat/mittens/scarf..  where are your SHOES!? (I don't know.) Search house frantically. Notice that the baby is practically naked. Also covered in cereal. Start over. Finally, an eternity later,  the clan is suited up. We are outside. Winter air greets us. At least the sun is out. We squint.

School drop off.  Pretty flawless. A highlight to be noted. Kisses goodbye.

Time to run. It's colder than expected. Vicious wind in face. Baby starts to doze. NOOOOOOOO!!!!! DON'T SLEEP NOW!!!! Wind is killer. Baby's eyelids are fluttering. Too distracted (apathetic?) to propel legs or make effort to run. F*ck it. Just forget it. Take shortcut home. Logged approximately 0.57 miles. Baby squeals with delight. Kicks legs happily. Killer grin, sporting her (cute, lone) tooth. Can't help but smile back. Head for home. #Epicfail.

Attempt to make it up with yoga/pushups/core work. Baby cooperates. Parallel plays. Count my blessings. Decide to document this. Write it up quickly as baby plays and pandora treats us to 80s music. Can't complain. I do love my cute bundles of messy energy. I do. Sigh, as house is already a disaster zone. Small price for a bit of refreshing calisthenics.

I'm out. Peace.