Sunday, August 30, 2015

Roasted Vegetable Baked Ziti

I have actually made this recipe several times since I first came across it. I have been splitting the baked ziti (well, more accurately, penne or rigatoni since I can never seem to find ziti) between two pans and freezing one. It freezes great! I just leave off the last sprinkle of mozzarella, cover the dish with plastic wrap and press down to keep out air, then add foil on top.

Original source:

1 crown broccoli
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
½ tsp dried oregano
¾ lb. (12 oz.) uncooked ziti
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
salt and pepper
1 (24 oz.) jar marinara sauce (or a batch of your favorite recipe)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop red pepper into matchsticks or large pieces, slice the onion, cut the squash into quarter rounds, and cut the broccoli into small florets. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and seasonings.
Divide the chopped vegetables between two baking sheets covered in foil. Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until they are soft and slightly charred on the edges. Stir once, half way through roasting.
While the vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes, or until al dente). Once cooked, drain the pasta and return it to the pot with the burner turned off. Add the sauce and toss to coat.
In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, the egg, one cup of the shredded mozzarella, ¼ tsp salt, and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper. Stir until smooth and even.
Coat an 8x8 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread ⅓ of the pasta and marinara sauce over the bottom. Layer ½ of the ricotta mixture over the pasta, then ½ of the roasted vegetables. Repeat these three layers, then end with one final layer of pasta and sauce, and the final cup of shredded mozzarella.
Reduce the heat in the oven to 375 degrees and bake the casserole for 30 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese on top is melted and slightly browned on the edges.

Southwestern Black Bean Salad with Citrus Dressing

Original source:

15 oz. can black beans
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, diced
1 cup corn (I used frozen, thawed)
1 large orange bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
3/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, stems removed

{For the dressing}
Juice from 1 large orange
Juice from 1 1/2 limes
1/4 tsp. cumin, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. agave (or honey)
1/8 tsp. salt
Optional: cayenne pepper or chipotle for a kick!

Make the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until agave/honey is incorporated. It should yield about 1/2 cup dressing. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the beans (rinsed and drained), tomato, corn, red onion, bell pepper, and roughly chopped cilantro.
Add the dressing and toss to combine.
Best if chilled 1 hour (can be longer) before serving.
Stir well before serving, as some of the dressing gathers at the bottom.

Yum! I had this as a side dish to a veggie burger, then mixed the leftovers with quinoa to take for lunches for a few days.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dallas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon 2014

After a long hiatus, it's time for a running update!

Right after my marathon in December, I experienced severe IT band pain every time I tried to run. I saw my doctor, who sent me to an orthopedic doctor, who then sent me to physical therapy. By the time I got to physical therapy, the IT band pain was much better so my physical therapy involved strengthening my hamstrings and quadriceps in order to prevent the injury from happening again.

So the last few months have been focused on recovery and building my mileage back up. I did a couple of shorter races and also ran/walked the Cowtown Half Marathon with a friend who was doing her first. Meanwhile, I still had the Dallas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on my mind. I had signed up to run (my fourth time!) very early so that I could get the best price. I had a PR in mind when I signed up, but this was before the IT band issue came up. Even though my IT band was doing better, it still didn't feel completely healed. I also felt like I was generally much slower than before my injury. I knew I could finish the distance, but I felt discouraged about how my performance would go.

Luckily, my race ended up going better much better than I expected!

Michael had originally signed up to run as well, but after his training got derailed, he decided not to. Which meant that he was my chauffeur and cheerleader for the day! He dropped me off as close to the starting line as he could get, which was nice. I didn't have to walk far at all and immediately made my way to Corral 5. The weather had been warm in the days leading up to the race, but the temperature had dropped a little bit. I think the high for the day was predicted to be in the low 50's and it was in the 40's when we started, plus there was a chance of rain in the forecast. I wore shorts, a short-sleeved tech shirt and a long-sleeve half-zip tech shirt. I also wore a hat (in case of rain) and decided to wear my IT band compression wrap. I bought the compression band a couple of months ago (before physical therapy), hoping it would help with the IT band pain and while I don't think it's a cure, I do think it has helped keep the IT band from becoming more inflamed. In any case, I figured it wouldn't hurt to wear it.

My corral started only about 5 minutes after the gun time and off we went! Immediately, I was feeling good but tried to keep myself from going out too fast. I settled into what felt like an easy pace. I was surprised when my watch beeped at the first mile and saw that I had run that mile at a 9:32 pace. I didn't feel like I was going that fast and certainly didn't think I was running faster than about a 10:00/mile. So I made a mental note to keep it easy, but each mile ticked off a little faster.

We ran through downtown, then uptown and into Highland Park. The first several miles were a gradual uphill. I stopped at most of the water stations to get fluid. I didn't feel thirsty (especially since the temperatures were cooler) but wanted to make sure I was staying hydrated. I mostly just drank water, but I did get Gatorade at a couple of the stations. I also took a couple of Honey Stinger chews every 3-4 miles (with water).

I knew that my parents and Michael's mom would be around the 6.5 mile marker, so I looked forward to seeing them. I kept telling myself that once I saw them, I would slow back down. Around the 6-mile mark, the 2:00 pace group caught up to me and I realized that the DRC training director (Vishal) was the pacer! I asked him what corral they had started in (they started in 7, I had started in 5) and chatted with him for a minute. I debated trying to stay with the pace group, but knew that trying to run a sub-2:00 half marathon would be really pushing it! Instead I let them pass me after a while and looked forward to seeing my family.

Sure enough, they were in the same spot they have been for the last 2 years! Although this year they didn't get good pictures, my dad only managed to get one after I had passed them.

(I have a GPS app on my phone that allowed Michael to track me, he was showing his mom that I should be coming soon.)

After the halfway point, I kept expecting my IT band to start hurting, which would slow me down. Surprisingly, I continued to feel good! We crossed 75 Central Expressway and passed the Run On! store on Mockingbird, which had a huge crowd out to cheer! Right after I passed Run On! (about mile 8), I stopped to stretch. My IT band was feeling tight, but not painful, and a good stretch helped loosen it up. Once we turned onto Skillman, the rest of the race was a gradual downhill. I continued to feel good and even managed to pick up my pace slightly after the 10 mile mark. I stopped once more in mile 12 to stretch again, then we were in the home stretch!

I had planned on really pushing my pace once we got into Fair Park, however my stomach suddenly started to feel upset. It wasn't bad enough that I thought I needed to stop, but I was a little afraid to try to run any faster. We made several turns coming into Fair Park and this time I knew that there was a photo op before the real finish line. (Last year, I thought the photo op was the finish line at first!) I also saw Michael, he had managed to make it to the finish line just in time to see me! I crossed the finish line still feeling a little queasy but luckily as soon as I stopped running I felt better. I looked at my watch and saw 2:05 and some change, which I was very happy about!

I grabbed some water, Gatorade, a bag of pretzels and a couple of Power Bar protein bars on my way through the finisher's chute. I found Michael pretty quickly and we headed out!

One more medal in my Rock 'n' Roll collection! This was the fifth year that Rock 'n' Roll has put on a race in Dallas, hence the big 5. I noticed several runners that had special "Veteran" bibs indicating they had run the race all 5 years. Pretty cool! (I didn't run the race in 2010, the first year it was in Dallas.)

Another great Rock 'n' Roll race in the books! My official time was 2:05:15, which is not my best time but far from my worst! It was a big confidence-booster for me after my injury recovery, so I call that a win.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chunky Lentil and Vegetable Soup

So I am currently sidelined with an unhappy IT band. While I'm waiting for it to heal, I've been biking to keep up my cardio. Last night a cold front came in and also brought strong wind gusts, up to 25 miles an hour. I decided to set out on a long-ish bike ride on the White Rock Creek Trail this morning. Heading south on the trail was cold and windy, I realized that my gloves weren't keeping my fingers very warm. After 30 minutes heading south, I turned around to head back north and realized I'd had a tailwind the entire way! I tried for a few minutes to struggle against the wind, but my hands were painfully cold and I realized it would take me about twice the amount of time to get back to my starting point. After less than 10 minutes, I took shelter in the nearby tennis center and called Michael to pick me up. The cold and wind was just too much for me!

After I took a hot shower to thaw out, I made myself some hearty soup. This soup was really easy, delicious and inexpensive!

I didn't have any paprika, so I subbed some chili powder which I knew had smoked paprika in it. This definitely cranked up the heat, so I ended up adding a little sugar to cut the spiciness. It was still delicious, but I think the smoked paprika would definitely add some depth so I will use that next time.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
½ lb. (3-4) carrots
3 ribs celery (I left this out)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans
1 cup brown lentils
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
½ tsp salt
Mince the garlic and dice the onion. Cook both in a large pot with olive oil over medium heat until tender. Meanwhile, slice the celery and peel and slice the carrots. Add the celery and carrots to the pot and continue to sauté for about 5 more minutes.
Drain the can of black beans and add it to the pot along with the dry lentils, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and some freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a pepper mill). Finally, add the diced tomatoes (with juices) and vegetable broth, and stir to combine.
Increase the heat to medium high and allow the pot to come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low, place a lid on top, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, test the lentils to make sure they are tender. If not, continue to simmer until they are tender.**
Taste the soup and add salt as needed (I added ½ tsp). Serve hot.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Everything White Bean Hummus

I came across this recipe online a couple of weeks ago and just knew I had to make it! I love all things hummus and I also love everything bagels. So the thought of combining the two sounded just perfect! I decided to make it for my mother-in-law's annual Christmas Day brunch. I usually don't bring a new recipe to a potluck, but luckily this was a huge hit! We brought bagel chips for dipping because, well, you know.

I didn't have any sesame oil and didn't feel like buying a whole bottle to only use two tablespoons, so I left that out and the flavors were still really good. I am certain I will be making this again, so I might get a bottle to see if it makes a big difference.

Everything Hummus

3 cups cooked cannellini/great northern beans (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
6 tablespoons olive oil + more for drizzling
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 whole head of roasted garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
crackers for serving

In a small bowl, combine dried onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, sea salt and black pepper. Toss to mix.

Add beans and roasted garlic to a food processor and pulse and blend until combined the beans begin to puree, about 2-3 minutes. With the processor still going, stream in olive oil and sesame oil, blending continuously for a few minutes (and scraping down the sides if needed) until as smooth as desired. Add salt and taste, adding more if desired but remember - all of the seasoning will go on top.

Add hummus to a bowl and drizzle with extra olive oil. Pour everything seasoning overtop and serve immediately.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Whine Not Another Marathon

After the Dallas Marathon was canceled, I immediately started looking for another marathon to take its place. I had trained all season, I didn't want that to go to waste!

I ended up deciding on the Texas Whiners series, which consists of a marathon on Saturday (12/14, Whine Not A Marathon) and a marathon on Sunday (12/15, Whine Not Another Marathon). Participants can sign up for one race or both and each race is capped at 50 participants. The course is simple: 8 loops around Bachman Lake (about 3 miles around) with a short out-and-back at the end. I discussed this race with Brandon and another running buddy, Jessica, and we decided to sign up for the Sunday marathon and run it together! Brandon was determined to run his first marathon, Jessica was trying to make it into the Marathon Maniacs club (3 marathons within 90 days) and I just wanted to run a race like I had planned on.

The race is usually very small (the race director told us usually 25-30 runners at each event) but both days filled up to their 50-runner capacity due to the Dallas Marathon cancellation. I'm sure their resources were stretched to the max with all of the last-minute additions, but all of the volunteers were so nice and seemed really happy that more people signed up! I picked up my packet at the Embassy Suites near Bachman Lake on Friday evening. I got a shirt (way too big, but I know they had scrambled to get enough shirts as it was), a keychain flashlight and a rubber bracelet.

Saturday evening, Michael said he wasn't feeling well and ended up being sick all night. He was still sick on Sunday morning so I drove myself to the race site. There was plenty of on-site parking, the small lot was full when I got there at 6:40-ish (for a 7:00am start) but I parked on the street directly across from the start line/finish line/aid tent. The aid tent was stocked with water, Gatorade, candy, bagels, pretzels and I think some other "real" food as well. I did not plan on trying out real food for the first time during a race, instead I carried a couple of packages of my usual Honey Stinger Chews. Brandon had brought a whole box of supplies, pretty much anything he thought he might need during the race! His friend Serena and his parents were going to stay in that spot, so I added a couple of things to his box just in case I needed them. It was nice to know we could just drop our layers or pick something up every three miles!

Because there were no timing chips, there were volunteers set up as timers. They recorded our bib number each time we passed them and would record our final finish time. The race director (Angela) welcomed us made a few general announcements while we pinned on our bibs and tried to stay warm. (I think the temperature at 7:00 was about 28 degrees, brr!) She also had people raise their hands who were running their first marathons (Brandon was one of only a few), people trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon (again, only a couple), trying to qualify for Marathon Maniacs (Jessica and a few others), running their second marathon of the weekend (quite a few). Then she started rattling off numbers of marathons people had run. There were quite a few people with a few *hundred* marathons under their belts, the most was 549! Insane! Then we had a prayer, the national anthem and without much fanfare, we were off!

The first lap around the lake was mostly just trying to warm up, our fingers and toes were freezing! There were also a few icy patches on the trail, we made sure to avoid these. We stopped after the first loop so Jessica could use the port-a-potty and checked in with our crew. There was some confusion when Brandon and I thought Jessica was still in the restroom but she was actually just a few feet away talking to her husband and thought we just weren't in a hurry to get started again! Haha, we finally realized our mistake, but it cost us a couple of minutes. No big deal, we started on our second loop.

On the exact opposite side of the lake, my friend Stacey had set up camp! She brought a camping chair and a big white board to make a different motivating sign for every lap! She was awesome, she saw us pass by 8 times and also made friends with all of the other runners! One guy (who did both marathons over the weekend) insisted on a picture with her afterwards!

She is an awesome spectator and an awesome friend to come all the way from Ft. Worth to cheer!

What ended up being nice about the multi-loop course is that we could kind of break it up in our heads. We could focus on getting to Stacey, then getting back to the aid station. Brandon had some GI problems after the second lap and really worried about the rest of the race. He ended up not taking any more nutrition for the remainder, other than water and his own low-calorie Gatorade. A couple of laps later, Jessica started having some serious stomach issues and took some Zofran to try to combat the nausea. Unfortunately, this did not help her and she continued to feel lousy for the rest of the run. She was able to keep running, though, and we kept encouraging her!

I was feeling really good during the race and probably could have even gone a little faster. But having my friends there for company really made a huge difference, so I did not want to leave them! We had some pretty funny conversations and at one point sang what we could remember of "What Does The Fox Say" to entertain ourselves.

During the 7th loop, we saw my parents! They had also parked on the farther side of the lake, not too far from Stacey. It was good to see them, I was so glad they had made it. After the 7th lap, we realized we were in the home stretch! Jessica and Brandon were capable of doing math in their heads (I'll be honest, I'm not good at this even when I'm not 22 miles into a run) and calculated that even if we did a run/walk for the last lap we would finish in under 5 hours. I was very happy with this projected finish time, as it would be a huge PR for me! We didn't slow down that much, but we did take it a little easier on the last loop. After they saw us on the 8th loop, Stacey and my parents headed to the start/finish line.

Once we got to about the 24-mile point, Jessica said, "I hope you guys are ready for a sub-5 marathon because it's happening!" I was so excited for my own PR as well as the others' personal goals!

We passed the start/finish line and started our out-and-back. We had passed this turnaround 8 times already and we knew it was coming! We had to run past the finish line, out 9/10 mi and then back to cross the finish line again. I'm not going to lie, this part of the race was tough, especially for Brandon! I took it upon myself to push the other two for the last 1.8 miles. It seemed like it took forever to get to the turnaround point, at one point I said, "Where the fuck is the turnaround?!" We had passed it so many times, it felt like it would be coming up soon but that last part we just kept waiting for it! I encouraged the other two to not stop, I reminded them that stopping to walk or stretch would make things hurt worse. I was ahead of them, trying to be their bunny.

After we (finally) turned around, it seemed like we were back at the finish line in no time! We decided we wanted to cross the finish line together because this was the end of a journey we had started together and we wanted to end it together!

I love these pictures, you can really see how relieved we are to finish! And as much fun as a big race like the Dallas Marathon is, there is something to be said for your biggest supporters being right there at the finish line.

I somehow missed the guy waiting with our medals and made a bee-line for the water! Once I had chugged some fluids, I noticed the other two had medals and got mine, haha! I also hadn't looked at the clock when we crossed the finish (you can see Brandon immediately turned his head to see), so I asked Brandon and then got confirmation from one of the timing volunteers. We crossed in exactly 4:52:00! It was a 48 minute PR for me! The volunteer was so sweet, she said, "Do you want me to write it down for you?" Haha, no, I'll remember it!

I walked around for a minute to get my heart rate down, grabbed some pretzels and a piece of bagel with peanut butter from the food table. I also called Michael, I couldn't wait to tell him how I had done! (I had started my GPS app and sent it to Michael so he could track me from home, so he at least knew what pace I was keeping during the race.) It was great to talk to him, he hated to miss the race and was happy with how well I had done. After we relaxed for a while, we decided to hit El Fenix for some post-race grub!

I was exhausted all through lunch, I kept thinking I might fall asleep at the table! I had my mom drive me home since my legs felt like Jell-O, I didn't trust myself to drive well. Once I was home and showered, I got in bed to take a nap but then I couldn't sleep! I think I was still all hyped up on the adrenaline. I didn't sleep well that night, either, I woke up with a headache (probably from being underhydrated) and then just couldn't get comfortable to fall back asleep.

Monday morning, I took an easy walk (about a mile in 20 minutes) to get the blood flowing and then visited my favorite masseuse for a recovery massage. By the afternoon, my legs were feeling much better. I am still sore but already feeling much better. This week I am planning on taking it easy, just yoga and walking to let my legs rest.

Looking ahead, I don't plan on training for a spring full. I am going to focus on some shorter distances and trail runs. So far, I am signed up for the DRC's Frigid 10k on January 4, the Cowtown Half Marathon on February 23 (I'm going to pace Stacey through her first half!) and the Dallas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. I also have a few trail races in mind but haven't signed up for any yet.

I definitely plan on registering for the Dallas Marathon again in 2014. They promised us that those who were registered to run in 2013 would get both medals if they finished in 2014. I don't think I can turn that down!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dallas Marathon: Canceled

Dallas has been hit by a major ice storm. As a result, the Dallas Marathon sent out this statement on Friday afternoon:


Safety of our participants, as well as our volunteers and spectators, is our primary concern on MetroPCS Dallas Marathon race weekend.

We met this morning with officials from the City of Dallas, Dallas Police Department and the Office of Special Events to assess the situation. Due to current weather conditions, and forecasted conditions for Saturday and Sunday, as of today at 12:40 p.m., the decision has been collaboratively made to cancel the 2013 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.

We regret that the race will not go on as planned, but are confident this decision is in the best interest of our runners, volunteers, spectators and the general public.

Additionally, the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon Health & Fitness Expo for Friday and Saturday has been canceled."

It was such a disappointment for those of us who worked really hard training. In addition to the runners, I can't imagine the frustration of the marathon's board who have worked all year to put the event on. But they made the right choice, the conditions are too dangerous and would require diverting resources away from people still without power or highways that are still shut down.

I tried to venture out on Saturday and slipped and fell on the ice on the driveway! I landed pretty hard on my left hip (thankfully not on my tailbone) and am still store today, but I think it's just a bruise, nothing serious.

So after a weekend to weigh my options, I decided to sign up for a marathon next weekend! I will be running the Whine Not Another Marathon here in Dallas. It is a small race (capped at 50 runners) and consists of 8 (!) loops around Bachman Lake. This should be interesting after my extended taper and hopefully I'll be feeling better after my graceful fall.

This week's plans:
Sun 12/8: Rest (I've done lots of stretching and foam rolling today)
Mon 12/9: Yoga (and a short run if the streets in my neighborhood are thawed)
Tues 12/10: 9 mi lake loop
Wed 12/11: Rest or yoga
Thurs 12/12: 30 min recovery run
Fri 12/13: Rest
Sat 12/14: 2 mi
Sun 12/15: 26.2 mi!