Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sun River - part two (& beyond)

Good Eats. Seriously, we ate well on this trip. Cooking didn't seem like a chore; instead we got excited about what we could make that would be moderately healthy and delicious. And I have to say, we nailed it. Here are some of the goodies we enjoyed in Sun River. 

As usual, each family was responsible for cooking one dinner (for 21 people) on the trip. We were on our own for lunch, so that's when we really rocked it out in the kitchen. Our first lunch was the green bean/tomato dish we frequently make. It's simple, fresh and easy. We severed it over whole wheat spaghetti with fresh parsley. And dined outside. With chardonnay.

green beans/ pasta
Breakfasts were early - this is just a snapshot of one morning with steel cut oats topped with fresh strawberries.  (and pre coffee shop coffee..because let's face it, I need coffee just to get me to the coffee shop!) 

oats and berries
Another lunch - this one was the kale and chick pea dish with chorizo and poached eggs. (we were limited on spices so we had to be creative about how we added flavor - chorizo took the place of spiced paprika and added some heft to this dish).

And a photo of this tasty drink - the Mother's Helper (detailed in the previous post).

refreshing pool bevie
Another lunch - Leftover green beans/tomatoes on grilled bread topped with goat cheese and avocado.

And then it was our turn to prepare dinner for the crowd. We picked burgers because it is easy and a crowd pleaser. Our side was the beet and potato salad - prep work for the salad seen here.

potatoes, celery, herbs, and onion
Dessert was grilled peaches. And a selection of chocolate bars.

grilling peaches
And our appetizer was a grilled pepper / smashed avocado (meyer lemon/salt) crostini topped with fresh mint and basil. 

Burger toppings included lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickles and bacon. It was clearly a smorgasbord!

Buffet line

beet and potato salad
A couple kids about to dress their burgers.

family style
And dessert was a huge hit! We topped the peaches with a bit of whipped cream and fresh mint.

peaches and cream
And here's another lunch - braised beet greens (left from the beets used in our salad - we waste not) with bacon and onion. Topped with poached egg.

braised beet greens
We went out to lunch once (with the whole family) and out to dinner once (on the last night, with the fam). So I feel this was a huge gastric success! However, there was an abundance of Oregon pinot noirs on hand each night in addition to a nice selection of Deschutes beers. #drinklocal #partyresponsibly

When we returned to Chicago, we wanted to keep the goodies coming. Sunday was a pool day, a run in the woods (3.5 miles) and a grilled shellfish extravaganza. It started with clams dusted with rosemary infused butter.

The next course was gulf shrimp with basil infused butter. And a grand cru chablis #splurgebottle

Sides were grilled corn on the cob and a broccoli/red pepper salad (D. Mad  recipe with olives, capers, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs).

And lastly, scallops. With thyme.

It seems like a lot of food (and it is) but really it's a few bites of seafood per course. We like to think of our cooking nights as an event - and we drag it out for hours, sipping wine, bringing out each course, sitting outside and chatting. We've been lucky to have some fabulous summer nights, so these meals have really been awesome. We did it again last night with a grilled shrimp course and steak fajitas. And we will likely strike again - summer is short. Live it up. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sun River - Part One

Vacation sprawl. That might be the right term for what is happening now. Or perhaps "Trip" Sprawl, as was made clear to me from this article that we go on "trips" rather than "vacations" when we have the wee ones in tow. Anyway, the short story is we are away from home for the foreseeable future due to major construction on our floors and won't be able to return until it is complete. And that date is TBD. So, in a way, I feel like we are still on "vacay" because I am not at home and we aren't honoring our usual routine. Instead, we are kind of in a summer-y vacuum where we spend a lot of time at the pool and doing other random summer things. It's not a bad deal. And my MIL has been amazing to let us stay with her for so long! Though, admittedly, I am anxious to get home!

Anyway, we scheduled the floor construction to coincide with our vacation trip to Sun River OR - this year's family trip destination. It was supposed to take a week and a few days - but NEVER believe contractors when they provide timelines for work like this. I have never experienced things actually staying on schedule. And this time was no exception. But we left optimistically for OR a couple Saturdays ago. The travel took all day, and it was a long day, but it was simply gorgeous when we arrived. Chilly, crisp and peaceful.

after a long day of travel

Oregon definitely encourages activity. The backdrop naturally invites walking, hiking, running, biking, or anything else that gets you moving outside. Some active parts of our trip included, but were not limited to, running and biking. My first run was Sunday morning - it was actually advantageous to wait until mid-morning because the early morning air was quite cold (low 40s), and I honestly worried the shorts and tanks I brought wouldn't be warm enough. But the sun came up and produced enough heat to make running feel just about perfect. The routes I picked were also ideal - paved winding paths with sun peeking through the tall trees and just the slightest breeze, though I might have imagined the latter.

My first run was four miles - it was basically a way to check out the resort area and get my bearings. The roads were a bit confusing at first - so having a map with me was critical. At one point, I was a bit lost, so I stopped to do some planks on the bench at this little park while I sorted out my location on the map.

planking on wooded planks
Anyway, I think my workouts went like this for the week: 

Sunday - 4 miles (several planks in the middle of this run)
Monday - 3.5 miles 
Wednesday - 4 miles with 2 x 1600 (7:26 and 7:46, respectively). I tried to do a decent workout with these mile repeats, but they were rough going, especially the second one, going mostly uphill. 
Friday - 4 miles

Paces for most of the runs were between 8:30-9:20, FTR. 

running in OR (photo cred to my second oldest niece)

One morning I returned from my run to find these two doing some rock climbing (or bouldering?). Big Girl and her cousin were quite adventurous! And it was adorable to hear their conversation while they climbed ;)

nature's playground
Swimming wasn't exactly a workout - but neither was it relaxing. Baby J was constantly needing assistance, so unless she was snacking in the shade with cousins or Grandma, she was in my arms wiggling around in the water and helping me strengthen and tone all the arm muscles.  Maybe one time she released her grasp on me and tried her hand at swimming (see pic below). Big Girl was mostly independent, but she did need an eye or two on her at all times. I squeezed in some poolside drinks when I could - the "Mother's Helper" was a winner (sparkling wine, vanilla vodka and a splash of grapefruit juice).

swimming with a mountain view

Baby J swims alone for a millisecond 

So biking. We rented bikes for the week and were able to use them for recreation and transportation. One of my favorite things about this trip was biking to a local coffee shop in the early mornings. It was downright chilly when we pedaled, but the rewards were sweet. The adults could enjoy iced lattes, and the kids could run around and play nearby.

fam pic by the coffee shop
We had two bikes - one with a burley trailer and another with a mini tandem. Baby J sat in the burley - and was occasionally joined by Big Sis when she was tired from biking or I was alone with the two kids (yes there was room in there for two!) I have to say, the Burley was a smooth ride - I hardly noticed I was towing it and it rolled seamlessly over the roads.

burley trailer

Big Girl and Daddy 

We did a few rides just for fun and some to explore the area. One of our longer rides included beautiful scenery along the Deschutes River. Of course we had to stop for some pics.

photo cred to Big Girl 


Our trip was really lovely! So I've decided to include a few more random pics in this post - 

This was on a shirt in a running store in Bend - it's a play on their area code (541). Btw, Bend is really awesome! Amazing restaurants and shops - I wish we could've stayed longer to explore.

running tee

And a bunch of us after a day of pooling -

My girls in the shallow water together.

sisters swimming

And our family pic before our last dinner together.

2015 runner26 family 

And of course, Mount Hood as seen from the car on the way to the Portland Airport. As sad as it was to leave, this was truly breathtaking.

Mount Hood

So now we are back in the Chicago area but are staying in the burbs until our apt is livable again. My next post will include all the cooking and delicious eats we enjoyed in Oregon.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Summer and Menu Planning : July 5, 2015

There were a few warm days last week and we took full advantage! Big Girl had summer break at her school last week, which meant more time to do fun things. We snuck in an afternoon at the beach last Tuesday -

J has some MOVES (like Jagger..)

two thumbs up

Since I ran that morning too (a shake out 3.5 miler with the duallie after Monday's 12 x 1 min sprints), it only made sense to whip up some peel and eat shrimp after a run/beach kind of day.

peel and eat shrimp platter / IPAs

We spent the tail end of last week in the suburbs visiting family and friends. My bestie has a beautiful home on a quiet lake - and three wonderful kids. We always have the best time playing there - it's so peaceful and relaxing and I LOVE spending time with my bff. It was a little chilly last week, but nice in the sun.

relaxing by the lake

sand box



Another fun surprise was taking Big Girl to a big outdoor swimming pool in the burbs. It has since been remodeled big time, but it was the pool I grew up near, spending almost every day there in the summers. It was a real treat to take Big Girl. It did make me feel a bit old seeing photos of the "old" pool displayed like it was ancient history. I guess it was over 30 years ago - but still. I'm trying to preserve my youth!
fun pool toys

huge pool!

And then there was the Fourth of July - we attended the parade donning red, white and blue and met up with my bestie again and her kids.

waiting for the parade

happy independence day!

with their grandparents

group shot

There was some running over the weekend - I did two four milers while away, which was kind of enough since I ended up dealing with a cold that probably required more rest that I wanted to admit. When I got home yesterday, I took a nap and we discussed menu plans. 

The Grateful Dead performed last night at Solider Field for the last show of their Fare Thee Well Tour. My husband went to the Saturday night concert, but we kind of wanted to see the last show. So we decided to grill (weather was A+) and then live stream the Sunday night concert on our TV. It worked out perfectly! The kids played on the patio while we munched on fruit salsa (watermelon/mango) and grilled marinated beef kabobs and corn on the cob. The salsa was outstanding and so easy to make! Even Baby J agreed ;) 

salsa and a happy toddler

The rest we put in soft tortillas with the grilled kabobs and a dab of sour cream. Icy summer beers were on hand, and the weather was just gorgeous. Can't beat that kind of summer dinner! And the concert was pretty awesome to have on TV well into the night - but my husband also said it was nothing compared to being there live. 

So for this week - 

Monday - I'm making quinoa/kale/apricot salad tonight (will use fresh apricots) along with some fresh bread and a soft cheese

Tuesday - cucumber/pepper salad (it has fresh cucumbers, red pepper, scallions, a fresno pepper, peanuts and a lime/cilantro dressing) along with an herb omelette (probably using parsley, rosemary and parmesan)

Wednesday - tofu marinated in tamari, sesame seeds, maybe some soy sauce - with broccoli and soba noodles

Thursday - hoping to have some leftovers to use up

Friday - not sure, as our apt will be in shambles due to the start of a floor repair project that will likely be awful (we must have all of our hardwood floors replaced due to some water damage that occurred in February - and our entire apartment is hardwood except for the bathrooms and laundry room. So this will be a joy.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hard Workouts; Menu Planning - June 28 ; Summer Fun Randomness

At the moment, I have no "next" race on the horizon - though I do have my eye on a 5K at the end of July. Until then, I would like to keep up the training. Last week I did a couple stroller runs - Tuesday might have been four and Saturday was 3.5. Thursday was my hard workout, which I did on the treadmill. I picked 1200s. After a mile warm up, here is what went down:

1200 @ 7:30 pace -- quarter mile recovery
1200 @ 7:18 pace -- quarter mile recovery
1200 @ 7:13 pace --quarter mile recovery
800 @ 7:04 pace; 400 @ 7:30 pace
mile cool down. 

It started out good - and I guess it ended well. I was pushing, but trying to hold onto some energy for the end. That last quarter at 7:30 felt easy, which is what I wanted to experience. Run til 7:30 feels "easy." 

Today's workout was an outdoor five miler with 12 x 1 minute sprints. I really tried to give those 60 second bursts my all. Inbetween each one was a minute recovery (admittedly, sometimes 45 seconds of that recovery time was spent walking (with lots of huffing and puffing). I felt pretty much dead at the end of this. Like wiped. 

Onto menus - 

The tail end of last week held some serious deliciousness. Thursday was a tagliatelle with fava beans that were cooked in butter, thyme, spring onions and wine. There was crispy panchetta on top along with some thinly shaved pecorino cheese and fresh parsley. Duckhorn chardonnay made for the perfect pairing. There was also a simple green salad with butter lettuce and mizuna (a type of lettuce). 

salad and spring pasta

Friday was another round of simple summer goodness. We started with thinly sliced radish on soft bread with triple cream. There was also a side dish of english shelling peas (cooked with lemon, wine, butter, and shallots) and topped with fresh mint. We also had lamb chops with a rosemary balsamic reduction (we have a rosemary plant so we are really taking advantage of it!). A Oregon Pinot Noir completed the meal.

lamb chops and peas

We spent the weekend with cousins having all kinds of fun. There was lots of swimming and fun in the sun and an outdoor music event. Lots of wine rounded things out.

Baby J steals my fedora at the pool

cousins taking a break from swimming

Saturday night's dinner was another gem. We put the cousins to work chopping herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers - whatever kitchen jobs we had. Big Girl mixed up a nice tzatziki for us too. We marinated chicken in various herb mixtures and grilled them up. One had a mild summer flavor (lemon, garlic, rosemary) and the other had a bit more of a kick with cumin, pimenton, cayenne We also did a spatchcocked chicken that ended up being extraneous so we served it for lunch the next day in lettuce wraps with rice and thai chili sauce. All turned out fabulous. 

Our weekend ended with an outrageous patio roof top party that offered stunning views of the city. There was plenty of room for the kids to run around and play - and they even had a little swimming pool! The food theme was Korean Barbecue, and it was just outstanding. Coupled with good friends, good wine and good conversation - this evening was priceless.

driving in their car

So for the week's menu: 

Monday - tonight was leftover chicken in sandwiches (lettuce, tomato, mayo)

Tuesday - standard panzanella (stale bread, vinegared onions, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, homemade vinaigrette) and a side of rosemary chicken (store bought - we are cheating a little)

Wednesday - Sunday - out for holiday weekend.

I'll end with this recipe for refreshing, hydrating popsicles that I am eager to make. They seem like the perfect post summer run treat! If we ever experience real summer weather, these will be perfect.