Thirsty Thursday: Christmas Cocktail

If you read Behind the Blogger pt.2, you know that I’m a wine lover. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), when I decided to get serious about becoming a runner and getting healthy, I decided to abstain from all alcohol for a while except special occasions and even then, one glass only. It was a great decision for me and I plan to continue throughout this training cycle. But another special occasion is coming up soon and I have plans to make a special Christmas Cocktail at my Aunt Cheryl’s house for dinner.

As much as I’m starting to love red wines, my heart still belongs to my sweet Moscato and I found the perfect cocktail recipe for our one-glass reunion: Martha Stewart’s Sparkling Pear and Cranberry Cocktail.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons dry cranberries

1/2 cup organic pear nectar

32 ounces Moscato D’Asti

8 small sprigs fresh rosemary

Directions:

1. Put cranberries in a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons warm water and soak until cool (about 15 minutes). Drain, pat dry and refrigerate until serving.

2. Divide pear nectar evenly among 8 tall champagne glasses. (I’ll need to triple this for my family!) Add cranberries and then gently pour Moscato D’Asti into the glasses. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.

Cheers!

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Thirsty Thursday: Homemade

I’ve warned my entire family that everyone will be receiving homemade gifts for Christmas because I’m a poor law student who can’t afford anything else. Plus, my last final is 5 days before Christmas and I can’t put myself through the stress of last-minute shopping this year. I just can’t do it.

I found some great DIY project ideas that I’ll share soon, but I was reading Cupcakes and Cashmere yesterday and got some great ideas for edible gifts as well. For example, homemade Peppermint Marshmallows! These would make such a great gift for anyone with children. I’d pair it with a Hot Chocolate mix and put it in a cute box or basket.

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For a more grown-up gift, try making jalapeño and pineapple infused tequila. If your gift recipient isn’t a fan of tequila, play around with different flavors/liquors (there are other flavor/liquor combinations at that link). Strain the infused liquor into a pretty jar or bottle. And don’t forget the jingle bell!

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I’ve always found that I’m amazed by even the simplest homemade gifts. Tell someone you made it yourself and it becomes an instant hit. Which brings me to my next idea…

Since I won’t be wowing anyone with my designer gifts this year, I should probably try to wow them with a looks-really-impressive-but-is-actually-super-easy dessert. Enter The Barefoot Contessa.

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When I first started cooking, I downloaded a bunch of old Food Network episodes and my absolute favorite one featured a Holiday menu by Ina Garten. She made a simple stuffed chicken breast, roasted carrots and parsnips, pasta with truffle butter and finished it off with a gorgeous red berry trifle.

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I’ve been waiting for the day when I could attempt this recipe. I will definitely be making this for Christmas dinner. You can find the recipe here and a short video recipe here. The video doesn’t include the pound cake recipe, but it’s included in the full recipe. I also recommend downloading the full episode on iTunes and making the entire meal as a pre-holiday dinner for your family, friends or boyfriend. It’s called Perfect Holiday Dinner from Season 2 of Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics.

Let me know if you have any other homemade gift ideas and/or recipes and stay tuned for a DIY:Christmas post coming soon!

Thirsty Thursday: “My” Famous Shrimp Tacos

I’ve shared this recipe on Posh’s Black Book before, but I’d be a horrible blogger if I didn’t share it with my readers. I first found it last year when I was getting familiar in the kitchen and since then I’ve made it my own. I call them “my” famous shrimp tacos because my family has started requesting that I make it, especially the guacamole, and most of them thought I came up with it on my own. It is THE best. I love Mexican food, but it’s normally loaded with unhealthy ingredients and served in huge portions. This recipe allows me to eat my favorite food without feeling guilty. You can find the full recipe on Gwyneth Paltrow’s website here or by watching the video. See my personal adaptations below.

* “my” way:

– I use a red onion instead of white in the salsa and guacamole. I think it gives it a little more flavor and I like the color it adds.

– I also use Cholula hot sauce in the pico de gallo to give it an extra kick. I use Cholula Lime sometimes (in the salsa and as a topping in the tacos) since I use fresh lime juice in pretty much every other part of the recipe.

– I season the shrimp with Adobo seasoning and lime juice. It’s spicy and amazing. Also, if you live near a Wegmans, try buying their fully cooked, frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp. They’re a little expensive, but they make the process a lot faster and they’re really great.

– If I’m making the tacos for a large group of people, I cook the shrimp in a skillet instead of on the grill for time-saving purposes. It’s also a good idea if you tend to overcook the shrimp on the grill.

– I make rice (sometimes white, sometimes brown) with it as well. We use a rice cooker and before I turn it on I add a little salt, lime juice and cilantro. Just like Chipotle!

Let me know how you like it and if you make any of your own changes!

Thirsty Thursday: Hungry Tweet.

Last week, 2 crazy things happened. First, I realized that I’ve lost 10 pounds since I made a serious commitment to get healthy (7 weeks ago). Second, I realized that my metabolism has gone from slower than beltway traffic to faster than I can handle. I am hungry all. day. long. And you don’t even know hungry until you start doing long runs. I could eat the entire inventory of a bakery after my long runs. This second realization led me to tweet this:

Two of my guy friends assured me that it’s normal and a good thing. My metabolism is finally speeding up. I’ve read more diet/weight-loss books than I would care to admit, yet I still struggle with this simple phenomenon: eat more, weigh less. As a runner who burns no less than 300 calories every time I run, it’s not possible for me to make it through my runs without feeding my body enough. It’s also not possible for me to run well if I feed my body junk. I’ve learned both of these things the hard way, and I’m still learning.

After I posted my hungry tweet, I got a question from a friend who is toying with the idea of becoming a runner (yayy!) asking whether she has to do a complete overhaul of her diet in order to be a successful runner. And in short, my answer is no. Unless you’re looking to be the next Paula Radcliffe, or you survive off of a diet of Big Macs, I don’t believe you have to change everything. I do, however, believe that there are a few key diet rules every runner should follow.

*disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m a law student. These are just my opinions and recommendations based on my own experiences. I’m a beginner so a year from now, these might change. But this is where I’m at today, and so far, it’s working.

1. Feed your body constantly.

The thing I struggle with the most is that I don’t eat often enough. I’ve been working on never letting my blood sugar get too low, but with my school schedule it can be difficult. Sometimes I feel like a baby because I have a distinct schedule. Every 3 hours, like clockwork, my stomach is growling. I notice a huge difference in my energy levels when I follow the schedule perfectly. Next semester I’m going to have to bite the bullet and start carrying a lunchbox with me. Oh well, being healthy and looking good > being the cool kid.

2. Complex carbohydrates are your friends.

New runners get really excited about carbo-loading, but it’s important to remember that all carbs are not created equal. While I’ve been known to use the “I’m a runner now so I can eat this” excuse more than once, I stick pretty closely to the list of good carbs: whole grains (whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc.), fruits, vegetables (especially green leafy veggies) and beans (I prefer black or kidney beans). I still eat all of the things I love, I just substitute the good stuff in when I can. For example, when I go to Chipotle I get brown rice, black beans, chicken, pico de gallo, medium salsa and lettuce. No avocado (which is good for you in moderation but not in the heaping amounts Chipotle gives), no sour cream and no cheese.

3. Eliminate junk, excess sugar and grease.

This is the most difficult aspect of my diet because I have a serious sweet tooth. I love candy and bubble gum more than anyone you know. One time, my best friend sent me a huge box of bubble gum (and cute socks) for my birthday. She mailed me 5 pounds of bubble gum. I screamed with glee when I opened it. But I digress…for the past 7 weeks, I have tried extremely hard to cut junk food out of my diet. Fast food was easy. Sometimes I miss french fries, but I’ve noticed that the more healthy food I eat, the less my body can handle greasy/fatty foods. For example, I had chinese food with my family for my cousin’s birthday a few weeks ago and got sick within 15 minutes of finishing it. I still get cravings and I give in sometimes, but each time my body only allows me to eat so much before it reminds me that things have changed. I eat candy after every long run during my ice baths though. It’s my thing. I’m human.

4. HYDRATE!

I’m always great about water. I carry it with me at all times and I drink at least 2 cups of tea daily. Water is imperative to weight loss and health. There is simply no way to be healthy without it. (If you don’t like the taste of water, try adding fruit or mint leaves to it. I love water with lemon.) I’ve cut out all soda and juice except for Naked Juice (the Green Machine is the BEST!) and replaced them with coconut water or revive vitamin water (I try to limit revive to after workouts though since it has a lot of sugar in it). I’ve also mostly cut out wine. When I do indulge, I force myself to have a Pinot Noir instead of the sweet white wine I really want. It’s all about substitutions people!

5. Don’t let one bad decision ruin your progress.

I used to throw in the towel completely every time I messed up on my diet. I think the first problem was that I was classifying it as a diet. It’s not. It’s a new way of eating and taking care of my body. Of course I’ll have days where I’m PMSing and all I can think about doing is laying in bed and eating an entire box of Le Petit Écolier cookies. What’s important is that I eat a healthy dinner that night. Or wake up the next morning and have a bowl of oatmeal before I go for a run. A bad day is a bad day. Don’t let it turn into a bad week. Don’t tell yourself you’ll start again on Monday. This isn’t a diet. It’s your life. Throw away that empty cookie box and keep it moving.

What do YOU eat to keep your body in top running shape?

Thirsty Thursday: Delicious and Nutritious.

I’m counting down the days until this semester is over for many reasons including having time to cook again. When I moved to New Orleans for my first year of law school in August 2010, I couldn’t cook at all. Nothing I made ever tasted good and I only did it if I absolutely had to. After a couple of months of complete isolation (from a combination of nonstop reading and being 17 hours away from everyone I loved), I started to focus my attention on running and cooking. I needed something to distract me from my misery and it worked like a charm. I’ve been creating (or adapting) my own recipes and look forward to posting them here, but for now I want to introduce you to a few of my favorite recipes by others.

I learned very quickly that watching cooking shows like Giada at Home and The Barefoot Contessa made cooking seem more accessible. There is a world of difference between reading the words “carefully fold egg whites into the mixture” and watching it happen. That’s when I discovered Jessica Seinfeld. If you read my weekly blog on Posh’s Black Book, you already know that she’s my kitchen hero. Between her two cookbooks and her website, doitdelicious.com, she singlehandedly taught me how to cook.

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I’ve made almost every recipe on her website and have only had one unfortunate outcome involving Stewy Shrimp. (I got a little heavy-handed with the wine on that one. Sorry Dad!) I chose to post her Succulent Lemon-Thyme Salmon recipe today because it’s super easy and looks great on a plate. It’s guaranteed to make you feel like a chef. Make it for a date this weekend or do what I did and challenge your date to a cook-off with it. I won by a unanimous vote of 3 very tough judges. (He’s still mad about it.) Pair your salmon with a green veggie (I prefer sauteed spinach or asparagus) and brown rice for a delicious and nutritious meal!

Thirsty Thursday: Winter Running

Apparently that year in New Orleans turned me into a cold weather wimp because I am freeeezing today! It’s 50 degrees and wet and this genius right here is wearing running crops. What can I say? I’ve found that dressing for a run ahead of time gives me that extra push to get it done. The plan was to use today as my first rainy run, but I think I’m chickening out. If only I had a Lululemon water-resistant jacket to run in. That’s the one thing I forgot to buy when I went shopping for Fall/Winter running clothes. Nevertheless, here’s what I do have to keep me warm…

1. Lululemon Run: Inspire Crop II

I have this crop in 2 colors: black/rocksteady/clear sky (above) and all black. I wear them both at least once a week. They’re the perfect length for winter running because they hit mid-calf and the waist comes up high enough that you don’t have to worry about your back being exposed when you run.  They’re thick and keep you warm, but they’re also moisture wicking so they’ll keep you dry. And I don’t know how Lulu does it, but they are so flattering. These crops were worth every penny.

*Note: for all Lululemon items, please please please go to a store and have a Lulu Educator help you find your size. I didn’t do that the first time and ended up with a few items that are too big.

2. Run: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve

I have this top in 3 colors: Black (above), Muted Mauve and Turquoise (no longer available on the website). I love love love it! It has a slim fit without being tight and somehow it’s really flattering. In fact, I was wearing it the other day when my dad noticed that I’ve lost weight. (8 pounds down!!!) It’s also warm without being bulky. I’ve worn it on every long run since the temperatures dropped and I haven’t been cold once. When it gets colder, I’ll probably wear a light jacket over it, but I know I won’t need much more. I also love that I’m able to wear this top (and pretty much every other Lulu piece I own) to class without looking like Sporty Spice. That’s never a good look.

3. C9 by Champion Women’s Long Sleeve Athletic Top

I’ve noticed during my long runs that even after I warm all the way up, the back of my neck still stays cold. Every time I think about it, I can hear my Grandma scolding me for not having something on my neck and warning me about catching a cold. I bought this pullover at Target a few weeks ago and I’m really happy with it. It has a mock turtleneck but I can control how tight it is with the zipper. It’s also lightweight and great for layering. At just $24.99, this was a great, inexpensive addition to my winter running collection.

4. The North Face Women’s ETip Glove

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A few weekends ago, when I was trying to decide whether I would run the Ghost, Ghouls, and Goblins Spooktacular 5k in the sleet, I went to Eastern Mountain Sports to find anything that would make the race somewhat bearable. (They offer a great student discount for those of you who live near one!) I picked up these gloves and almost immediately put them back down once I saw that they were $40. But then I saw that I could use my iPhone when I wear them without spending 5 minutes trying to get them off. SOLD. I read a few reviews that said that they’re not warm enough, but I kept them anyway because I’m not using them to shovel snow. Their only purpose is to allow me to run without losing a hand to frostbite.

5. C9 by Champion Women’s Long Sleeve Fleece Hoodie

I wasn’t sure if I would like running in a hoodie, so I decided to start with an inexpensive one first. I found this one at Target for $27.99 (mine is black). The best part about this hoodie is that it’s fleece. It is so warm, but it’s not heavy or bulky. It’s also fitted so it looks really great on. Lately, I’ve been using it to stay warm after my runs, when I’m sweaty and need to stretch out but don’t want to catch a cold. It’s a really great value and I would highly recommend it.

Since it’s only the beginning of the cold weather season, I’m sure I’ll be adding more items to this list soon. Until then, I’d love to hear from you. What are you wearing (or coveting) this season?

Thirsty Thursday: Running Gear*

*Obviously the title Thirsty Thursday isn’t really appropriate for this post, but it’s catchy and I’m going with it.

Last week, I introduced you to some of my favorite running fuel products. This week, I’m going to introduce you to my favorite running gear. This list is definitely an ever-growing one so you can expect a sequel to this post in the future. I’ll also do a separate one for running/workout clothes.

1. iFitness belt 

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This is my 2011 version of that awful neon fanny pack I used to wear in the 90s. I’m all about safety when I run so I always carry my iPhone, ID and a little cash on me. On longer runs, I also bring a pack of Shot Bloks. I can fit all of that in this pouch and I promise you it doesn’t ride up. I have a big butt and a smaller waist so everything rides up on me. I can literally jump up and down in this thing and it says in place. I bought it at the RnR San Diego expo last year and it was definitely worth the $25.

2. The Grid

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First of all, if you’re a runner, or any type of athlete, and you don’t own a foam roller, you are missing out. Foam rolling is SO good for your muscles and can get you through those muscle aches/tension when you can’t afford regular massages. Foam rolling is also good for building core strength. I try to foam roll after every long run and also on days when my muscles are feeling tired and/or tight. The Grid is so amazing because it’s designed to mimic massage and the different surfaces apply varying amounts of pressure. The first time I used it, I kept yelling out in pain, but immediately after, my legs felt so much better. I’m addicted to it now.

3. The Stick

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I wish I could carry this thing around and use it all day long. It looks so weird, especially when you’re actually using it, but it’s so great. According to the company, the Stick is like “a toothbrush for your muscles.” While foam rolling targets large muscle groups, the Stick can hit those little tight knots that you just can’t get rid of. I use the Grid first and then I spend extra time rolling each part of my calves, hamstrings, quads, IT band, etc with the Stick. I have perpetually tight calf muscles and this is the only thing that really helps. Beware: your arms will get tired if you have a weak upper body like me.

4. Lululemon Sigg 1L Sport Top Bottle

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So this item is obviously not necessary to run well, but I still recommend it. I love what it says (“I run because I can…but really I jog”) because that’s definitely how I feel these days. I also love the color and the size. It stays cold and the water doesn’t end up tasting more like the bottle than water (you know that happens sometimes). But mostly, it’s cute. So buy it.

5. Garmin Forerunner 305

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I know this looks more like a computer than a watch, but it seems a lot bigger than it actually feels. This GPS watch tracks your time, distance, pace, heart rate (optional), and running route. You can also set intervals (for example: if you are doing a walk/run program, you can set it so that it beeps when it’s time to start and stop running) or pace parameters (it beeps if you run too fast or too slow). It also comes with a USB cord so that you can upload your run data to Garmin Connect, an online running log, or sync to another website like Daily Mile. There are debates about whether or not this type of running technology makes runners focus too much on the numbers, but I think it’s the best piece of running gear I’ve purchased. It’s really motivating to see how many miles I’ve done and how my pace continues to improve every time. For beginners, I would also recommend the Garmin Forerunner 110. It’s a little less expensive and is a lot simpler. I used that to train for my first half and I still wear it on easy runs when I don’t care about all of the extra numbers. It’s also smaller and wears more like a regular watch.

This is just a starting list of my running essentials and I encourage you to start your own. Read different reviews and take the time to decide what’s best for you. Some people can run with just a pair of running shoes and a tech shirt. I’m one of those people who wants all of the latest gear and the hottest running clothes. You may fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever works for you is what you should go with. And as always, if you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know! I specifically want to know what people think of the Nike+ Sportwatch. Ever since I watched that Ellie Goulding video, I’ve been dying to get it. Is 3 GPS watches too excessive? You can never have too many back-ups right?

Thirsty Thursday.

Most of my friends are stumbling home from happy hour right about now. Not me. I’m home in my pajamas watching old episodes of Glee and planning my training meal/fuel plan for the next few weeks. It’s no secret that I’m trying to lose weight, but if running has taught me anything it’s that you can’t cut way back on your calories and still expect to run well. You also can’t run more than 45 minutes without re-fueling.

So, friends, I present to you the first installment of my healthy & athletic version of Thirsty Thursday: Running Fuel.

1. Clif Shot Bloks

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These chewy cubes of goodness are my favorite! They taste great without that nasty sports food aftertaste and they are seriously effective. If I’m feeling a little hungry before a run I’ll eat 2-3 for a pre-workout boost. Otherwise, I’ll stop mid-run and have a few with water. For example, last weekend on my first (!) 5-miler, I stopped at 2.67 miles and had 3 with water. ALWAYS follow any type of sports food with water NOT Gatorade or any other type of sports drink. Just trust me on this one. Your stomach will thank you.

2. Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews

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These little gummies remind me of fruit snacks. They’re small and easy to chew while running and they taste really great. I’ve tried the Fruit Smoothie and Cherry Blossom flavors and liked them both. These didn’t give me any stomach troubles, but they also didn’t give me as strong of an energy boost as the Shot Bloks do. I’m going to start eating more than just a few from now on and see if that makes a difference.

3. Honey Stinger Organic Stinger Waffle

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I may or may not be guilty of eating these at all hours of the day instead of before/after running. I can’t help it. They’re so so so good! The waffle is crispy and filled with gooey vanilla sweetness. I have absolutely no idea if these gave me any type of energy (I’ve only eaten them after a run), but I don’t care. I mostly just use them as a small sugary treat after a long run.

4. Zico Coconut Water

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Thirsty Thursday wouldn’t be complete without a little  hydration right? If you haven’t heard already, coconut water is the best hydration drink there is. It’s all natural, it’s packed with electrolytes, has loads of potassium (which anyone who’s prone to muscle cramps will appreciate) and tastes really good. I hate coconut, but I loooove this stuff. Since I know I’m not a coconut fan, I’ve stuck to the flavored varieties. Lima Citron, Mango and Pomberry are my faves. And according to the Tone it Up! Girls, the Lima Citron works extremely well in alcoholic beverages.

5. smartwater / vitaminwater

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People may think that I’m a bit of a water snob, but I don’t care. I can seriously taste the difference. smartwater is hands down the best bottled water out there. It tastes cleaner and it has electrolytes in it, so it’s the best kind of water to drink after a workout. I also love vitaminwater, particularly revive because it tastes the best and it has potassium in it. It also has sugar in it though so I try not to drink more than half of the bottle. I can’t get down with the sugar-free kind. Yuck.

So…there you have it! My top 5 fuel options. I’m always looking for others so if you know of any let me know!