Trying New Foods!

In my 30 Before 30 post, I said that I wanted to try three new foods this year. If you’ve read some of my posts about eating, you know that I was quite the picky eater growing up and am now trying a lot harder to try new things and eat healthier foods. Earlier this year I tried cauliflower for the first time and have used it in several meals since then. This month I tried shrimp for the first time. Yes, it’s true, I’ve never eaten shrimp.

I’ve become a huge fan of the SkinnyTaste website and have found some awesome recipes. Ian really likes seafood but we don’t eat it often because I’m a little afraid of it, so when I found a simple recipe for angel hair with shrimp and tomato sauce I knew we had to try it. Neither of us like chunky tomato sauce so we substituted smooth tomato sauce for the diced tomatoes, but otherwise followed the recipe.

Recipe Prep

Recipe Prep

 

It turned out great! I even had shrimp again later that week in some jambalaya we made. I wouldn’t say I love it, but it’s not half bad and something I’ll definitely try and eat more of.

Shrimp with angel hair pasta and tomato sauce

Shrimp with angel hair pasta and tomato sauce

What foods did you try later in life that you found out you actually really like?

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Resolution Check-In

April is here and hopefully spring-like weather will be here to stay soon too. At the start of each month I like to look back at my New Year’s Resolutions and see how I’m doing. I also pick what I’m going to focus on for the next month.

Getting healthy and staying healthy was an important goal for me this year. So far things are going well with this and I’ve made smart decisions about when it might not be healthy to do a workout just because it’s on the schedule. I did miss a couple strength workouts and missed a few too many days of stretching in March, so I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen again in April.

Building up my core is another part of staying healthy and making me a stronger, faster athlete. This continues to go really well. My streak of consecutive days completing my version of the P90X ab ripper core workout that I began on December 29 is still going strong. I had to laugh on my 90th straight day as I found myself getting it in during TV timeouts of the Syracuse – Indiana game to calm my nerves, and remembered that this whole streak started during SU football’s appearance in the Pin Stripe Bowl. I’m probably going to have to come up with a way to make this workout harder in April so I don’t get too used to doing the same thing everyday.

Drinking less soda is going to be my key focus for April. I actually didn’t have a soda during all of Lent (mid-February through March 31), but not having something when I’ve made a commitment to give it up is easy for me. Not overdoing it as I reintroduce it to my diet will be more difficult.

March’s focus was on nutrition and I felt like I made some really good strides. Ian and I started eating salads with dinner a couple nights a week. I’m eating a ton of fruit every day, and thanks to my Mom for sharing the skinnytaste website with me, I’ve been finding more ways to eat veggies with my meals. We tried out several recipes from the site and all were great – you couldn’t even really taste the veggies in some of them, which is a good way to make sure I eat them. I kind of have the palate of a five-year-old sometimes. (Or most of the time.)

New recipes that we tried in March included a baked broccoli mac and cheese, baked spinach and sausage pasta and stuffed buffalo chicken breasts. I loved the mac and cheese. We actually used a mixed bag of broccoli and cauliflower – this may’ve been the first time in my life I’ve eaten cauliflower – and it tasted great. I’d make this again in a heartbeat. The stuffed buffalo chicken breasts were also very tasty and a great game-day meal. I was skeptical about the spinach and sausage because it called for what I deem a gross amount of spinach. I really liked  it the first night we ate it though and and even the first and second times I reheated it. By the last time it was kind of gross. I would suggest halving this recipe if just making it for two.

In addition to focusing on regular nutrition I tried some new things out to fuel along the way on my long runs. I found two flavors of Gu that I actually like and my stomach tolerates really well. I also tested out the Honey Stinger pomegranate flavored gummies and they were great.

Even though it won’t be my main focus going into April, I’m hoping to keep making strides with my nutrition and finding even more ways to get those veggies into my diet!

How are you doing on your resolutions this year? Anyone have any big goals they’re working on?

Broccoli Mac N Cheese Leftovers - forgot to snap a pic when we were eating

Broccoli Mac N Cheese Leftovers – forgot to snap a pic when we were eating

So much spinach!!

So much spinach!!

Baked sausage and spinach pasta

Baked sausage and spinach pasta

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Breasts w/ a side of rice

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Breasts w/ a side of rice

Fueling on the Run

Figuring out the right way to fuel along the way during your races can be tough. For my first few marathons, I honestly had no clue and no plan. I just drank the water and Gatorade along the course, and well, there was that Kit Kat Bar I basically stole from some guy at mile 18 of my first marathon!

Eventually, I smartened up and got a better understanding of how important it was to give yourself some fuel along the way. What a difference! My stomach is usually pretty strong, but I still had a tough time figuring out what to eat since I can be a bit picky. I remember just taste testing a Gu once that came in a bag of post-race goodies and thinking it was the grossest thing ever. That was probably in 2003, but I wasn’t about to give it a second chance so I started looking elsewhere.

I tried breaking a peanut butter Powerbar into pieces, but it could be really dry and tough to get down, especially later in the race. When various gummy type energy bites started to come out I got very excited. I used the Gu Chomps at first, but they could also be tough to chew through. PowerBar blasts were my savior. They were a lot easier to take since they are juicy in the center.

In my last two marathons though I haven’t taken my last set of planned bites around mile 21. The first time I felt sick to my stomach and the second time I just couldn’t stomach the idea of eating more of them. My plan this time is to have some variety so I’m not eating the same thing. That means trying something new though.

I’ve been practicing with things during my long runs and I noticed Gu has flavors like chocolate and peanut butter, so I thought it might be time to drop my decade long grudge against them. I’ve tested out the chocolate Gu twice now, and not only does it taste alright, but my stomach handles it well and it’s actually easier to down the Gu then fumble with 5 or so PowerBar blasts. I have some Honey Stinger gummies to try out soon too, and I’m going to keep experimenting till I’ve found just the right combinations.

How do you fuel your long runs and races?

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Just be sure to take your Gu with water, not Gatorade!

Birthday Fun

Yesterday I wrote about all the things I want to do over the next year before I turn 30, but for today I wanted to take a step back and share how awesome of a day my b-day was! I started celebrating early over the weekend since my parents came into town for the Syracuse game – more on that disappointment later – and despite having my actual birthday fall on a Monday I managed to have a really good day.

I started things off with my favorite food bar for breakfast and a P90X ab ripper session before 5:30 hit.

Discovered these in a prize pack I won at the 2011 MCM Expo

Discovered these in a prize pack I won at the 2011 MCM Expo

Then I got ready to head up to Revolve for my usual Monday morning spin class. For me this was the perfect way to start off my birthday. How about you? Do you give yourself the day off from working out on special days or seek it out?

Sleepy but ready to sweat!

Sleepy but ready to sweat!

Ian made the morning even better by cooking up some sausage and cheese omelets for us for breakfast. Delicious. Breakfast is my absolute favorite meal, but most mornings I’m in such a rush to get out I just have my usual Cheerios or piece of toast and a banana, which gets pretty boring day after day.

I was so excited to eat this I got halfway through before taking a pic!

I was so excited to eat this I got halfway through before taking a pic!

I still had to go to work since I’m already taking Thursday and Friday of this week off, but Ian made it a bit easier and gave me a ride in. Phone calls and Facebook birthday wishes throughout the day kept me smiling. While it beats a new car payment right now, I still get pretty sick of metro so it made my day that it was the first day since winter that it was warm enough and bright enough thanks to daylight savings to bike/walk home after work. Once it gets a touch warmer this becomes a daily activity for me even once the summer heat and humidity hits. It’s just a few miles and it’s a nice change of pace after sitting in an office all day.

BikeShare is the best for days I ride home on a whim

BikeShare is the best for days I ride home on a whim

And I get to take in awesome views the whole way like this…

Passing by the Lincoln before leaving D.C. behind to cross the bridge in NoVa

Passing by the Lincoln before leaving D.C. behind to cross the bridge in NoVa

Ian said he’d make anything for dinner that I wanted and I requested chocolate chip waffles. Like I said, breakfast is my favorite meal!

So good!

So good!

He even made dessert and sang happy birthday to me. Knowing me as well as he does, he cut out the middle brownie from the batch since I don’t like the end pieces and added a candle.

Birthday Treat

Birthday Treat

To top things off Ian surprised me with my gift – a wind and rain-resistant Nike running jacket. I was so excited. It looks great and is also the one piece of running gear I don’t have. I usually just wear the big outer shell of my Columbia winter jacket on rainy/windy days which is a bit cumbersome and also too warm for early spring or late fall days.

New Jacket!

New Jacket!

Such a great day! Thanks to everyone who made me feel so special on my birthday this year! I have a feeling 29 is going to be pretty good to me.

 

 

 

 

A Pizza Kind of Weekend

As one of my favorite foods, pizza has fueled more of my long runs than I’d like to admit. My go-to night before a race meal is usually pasta with grilled chicken, and while I know you should practice what you eat sometimes that just doesn’t happen. I think pizza gets a bad rap for being unhealthy. Sure fast food style pizza isn’t great for you, but I do a lot of homemade pizzas too – some more healthier than others, but when it comes down to it I really just think moderation is key.

Last weekend Ian and I made a couple pizzas. Friday night we did one of my favorites to make at home – a buffalo chicken pizza. This combines two of my favorite things to eat making it a shoe-in for the favorites list. We used a whole wheat crust made in a bread machine with a recipe from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. We pan cooked the chicken before adding it in with the sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

The sauce recipe is adapted from a Rachel Ray FoodNetwork.com wingless buffalo chicken pizza recipe. I honestly can’t stand Rachel Ray’s show, but for the sake of this delicious pizza have decided to bury the hatchet. We topped it with mozzarella cheese and  a sprinkling of parmesan after it came out of the oven. We baked it on a pizza stone for 21 minutes at 425, and served it with some ranch on the side for dipping. It had a relatively thin crust with a good crunch to it and the sauce had a great kick. It was delicious!

Sunday’s pizza didn’t take a lot of effort, but it did take a lot of time. We wanted to try out a pan pizza recipe highlighted on Serious Eats last week and decided the weekend was a good time to test it out. The dough recipe was a no knead easy recipe, but needed to be started a day ahead of time. We got that ready on Saturday and let it sit over night in a large mixing bowl tightly covered in plastic wrap.

Sunday we had to get things going a couple hours before we were ready to eat. We floured the dough and dumped it onto the counter also covered in flour. After rolling into a ball, we placed it into a 9 inch pie pan with a couple tablespoons of oil. After rolling it around in the oil, I flattened it with my palm and made sure the oil covered the entire pan before covering the pan with plastic wrap and leaving it along for two hours. At the one hour mark we preheated the oven to it’s max temp – 500 degrees and also got our toppings ready. Ian cooked up some meatballs and grated a mix of mozzarella and colby cheeses.

At the two hour mark I realized we really should have started earlier – I was starving! I used my fingers to spread the dough to the edges and made sure to get all the air bubbles out before adding the sauce. Ian followed up with a layer of cheese, the meatballs and a final layer of cheese plus some italian seasoning. Being a pan pizza, we spread the sauce and cheese right to the edges. Making it in the pie tin reminds me of the Pizza Hut style pan pizzas I used to get when I was little for every five books I read as part of the Book It program – only this tasted way better!

We put the pie tin into the piping hot oven for about 13 minutes. A downside to such a small place – taking the steaming pizza out of the 500 degree oven that had been on for more than an hour now set the smoke alarm off twice. Fortunately we were able to get it under control before it set the alarms off for the entire building. It was totally worth it. The pizza was amazing. The bottom of the crust was crunchy yet the middle filled with air pockets making it spongy and delicious. The meatballs and the combination of cheeses (we added a sprinkling of parmesan to the top as soon as it came out of the oven) added the perfect flavoring. We’d make this again any day!

Recipes

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Whole Wheat Dough:
1 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast or 2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

Makes 2 thin 12- to 14-inch pizzas. Run through dough cycle of bread machine, remove, divide into 2, and let sit covered for 30 minutes. Dough can be frozen or refrigerated, but should sit out for 20 minutes before rolling out.

Sauce:
2 chicken breast cutlets
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot – Hot Buffalo
8 oz. tomato sauce
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese

In medium skillet melt butter over medium heat, stir in tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Add cooked and sliced chicken. Add sauce to pizza dough, cover with cheese and bake for 19-23 minutes on pizza stone at 425.

Fool Proof Pan Pizza
We didn’t make any changes to this one other than choosing our toppings and cheese, so find out everything you need to know from the Serious Eats blog post.

My Favorite D.C. Restaurants

Last week I wrote about my favorite Arlington restaurants, so I figured I’d share my favorites in the District today. It’s hard to pick just a few, but the ones I find myself going back to again and again are RFD, Buffalo Billiards and Match Box.

RFD has a beer list that numbers in the hundreds so it’s a great spot for happy hour that turns into several hours plus dinner! They usually have a few ciders on the drinks menu that I like to try, but more often than not, I find myself ordering the “get real Miller Lite” – yes, that’s actually how they list it on the menu. What can I say? I like my Miller Lites! They have decent pub food to complement all the drinks with good nachos, good burgers and good sandwiches/wraps.

Located in Chinatown right near the Verizon Center it’s a great spot to go to before or after games. It’s huge so even when it’s packed you can usually find room. They also have a nice back room for parties or watching games.

Buffalo Billiards is admittedly nothing special, but I love it. It’s the perfect spot for watching sports. You can grab a table and see a bunch of TVs all around from any angle. They’re great about putting the game I want on if I ask them to change the TVs (Syracuse games of course!), and they have really good specials.

I haven’t met many buffalo chicken wraps I don’t like, but theirs is great as are the french fries. If you’re bored with the games on TV, you can entertain yourself with shuffleboard, darts or pool as well. It’s always a good time here.

Last but not least is Matchbox. They have several locations, but the Capitol Hill one is my favorite. Given my love for pizza and burgers, a place that is known for it’s amazing sliders and pizzas had to make this list. You can order the sliders to share (or for just you!) in sets of 3, 6 or 9 with a choice of several cheeses – I usually go with gorgonzola. They’re also served with onion straws – the only way I like onion rings – making them the perfect app.

At most restaurants I have one go-to dish that I get everytime I go. At Matchbox I always have a tough decision. Even their sandwiches are great, but I almost always go with the pizza since that’s what they do best. My favorite pizzas I rotate between are the matchbox meat, spicy meatball or four cheese white. You really can’t go wrong!

Similar to my Arlington list, my favorites here fall in the pub food and pizza categories, but there really are a lot of other great places in D.C. to eat out at as well. Let me know your favorites in the comments!

My Favorite Arlington Restaurants

One of the great things about running and working out so much is that I get to enjoy all of the great restaurants (in moderation of course!) near me in the Arlington area without worrying about packing on the pounds! I’m by no means a foodie, so fancy or trendy restaurants aren’t my thing, but I do love to eat. There are so many great spots to eat out at here, but given my love for pizza and pub food, it should come as no surprise that my top three spots in Arlington in the Rosslyn to Ballston corridor are RiRa, Fire Works and Ray’s Hell Burger.

RiRa is an irish pub up in Clarendon. It’s part of a chain that tries to bring a bit of Ireland to the states by hiring bartenders and servers from Ireland and serving dishes like Guiness stew and fish and chips. For years my favorite Irish pub in the area was Four Courts, but since they have stopped serving Magners and have taken my favorite food options off the menu, RiRa is now number one.

RiRa has a great appetizer selection. My favorites are the soft pretzles and the spinach dip. If you’re not looking for a full meal, you can get a sampler to share with three full-size apps for under $25. They also serve good burgers and chicken sandwiches, which is about all it takes to please me! I love the setup and atmosphere of RiRa as well – you can catch a game in the eating areas downstairs, come for trivia night or head upstairs where another bar is located for some great people watching, especially on 80s cover band nights!

Fire Works near the Court House metro opened a couple years ago and won me over right away with their wood-fired oven pizzas. I also love their garlic knots and their spinach dip (are you sensing a theme here?) served with delicious pizza bread. I generally go with the plain old cheese and herb pizza, unless the special of the day is their buffalo chicken pizza, which is quite tasty. They have an extensive beer list and a few ciders too, so I usually end up ordering a Crispin or two.

The only downside to Fire Works is their service. I’ve never had anyone be unpleasant, but they are usually understaffed resulting in pretty slow service. The food and atmosphere make up for it though, especially when you can sit out on the patio on a nice summer evening or even on cooler evenings if you’re by the fire.

Ray’s Hell Burger might be the best burger I’ve ever had. If you’re looking for a great burger, then look no further than Ray’s. It’s cash only, so be sure to stop at the ATM first or you might miss out on your best burger ever. The meat is seasoned perfectly – you have several seasoning options to choose from – and cooked to juicy perfection. I always add a side of seven cheese mac and a coke. I’m no expert at restaurant reviews, so head on over to Croutons Stuck in Futons for a review that does Ray’s a bit more justice.

I finally made it to Ray’s: To The Third recently. It’s another one of the restaurants in the Ray’s family and is right across the street from the plaza that houses Ray’s Hellburger. I didn’t think it was fair to add to this list since I’ve only been there once, but it will quickly become one of my favs. It contains all the Ray’s wonderfulness from the steakhouse, Ray’s Hellburger and Ray’s Nice ‘N’ Greasy Steak ‘N’ Cheesy. The steak and cheese sandwich was out of this world, and the inside of the restaurant is a bit nicer than the more cafeteria-style version over at Hell Burger.

The best part about these places: all three are walking distance from my place. Some might argue with me on that when it comes to RiRa and Fireworks, but hey, it can never hurt to work up an appetite on the way there or walk off a delicious meal on the way home!