Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Seven at Sunset

Today I ran seven miles after work along the lake shore!

There were lots of people on boats and sailboats taking in the beautiful sunset. You can barely see them they are so tiny!

I felt totally awesome during the entire run. I'm pumped to keep training and run the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in August and continue to train to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Long Run Sunday

As I mentioned before, half and full marathon training is under way!! Unfortunately, I miscalculated the weeks and discovered that I'm behind on my training! Oops.

Regardless, I needed to do a long run today and I've decided to alter my training just a bit so that I can "catch up" which means I'll just have to get into shape a little faster to start with. Today I ran 10 miles along the Lake Front Trail in Chicago and the weather was beautiful!

Yesterday I ran 5 miles at race pace and felt great, but my legs were feeling it this morning. I started out the first 2 miles really slow on purpose so that I didn't overextend myself too early in the run. I think I was trucking along at about 11-12 minute miles. No joke. But it felt good to loosen up my legs - and not think about how far I had yet to go! I really surprised myself on my overall time though, about 1 hour and 50 minutes that included a 8-10 minute break at mile 5 (the turn around point) where I ate some Gu Chomps, got a rock out of my shoe and snapped some photos. I felt like a champ and ran on back home and actually increased my pace on the way back!

The view from Diversey, the turn around point for today

The thing about running along the Lake Front Path is that you can see how far you need to go, and it just doesn't seem to get closer! I just had to stop thinking about how far I had to go, and just enjoy the run. It was fun people watching with all the beach-goers and volley ball players. There was a big accident on Lake Shore Drive, with a taxi of course. And because of the Pride Parade, traffic was all around horrible. I flew by those cars!

 View from Fullerton

The Hancock

There we go, a little closer now!

Overall, this was a good run for me today. I'm feeling confident that I'll be able to keep up with the training as it should have been scheduled!

PS - Did anyone else hear about The Hungry Runner Girl's workout clothes giveaway? Check it out :)

Ravinia Festival - A Prairie Home Companion

Bryan and I were able to cross something big off our Chicago to-do list yesterday - we went to Ravinia for the first time! We've been meaning to do this for a long time, and when we realized that this was Bryan's last weekend in Chicago, we gave the Ravinia Festival calandar a looksie. It turned out that Garrison Keillor was doing a taping of A Prairie Home Companion, which Bryan had been wanting to see forever. We were able to do both at the same time! For those of you don't know about this Minnesotan obsession, it's an old time radio show about all things Minnesotan as well as a little light comedy, story telling and guest artists.

The experience of going to Ravinia is similar to a free concert at Millennium Park. Although we had to buy our lawn tickets for this. We brought our all weather blanket and super awesome picnic backpack (one of the best gifts ever!), along with sausage, cheese, crackers, a couple of Whole Foods salads and some beer and wine. The weather was beautiful and it was a very relaxing evening!! We even saw some fellow Lutherans while we were there! Another great date night :)

De Cero

Bryan and I had an awesome date on Friday night! Since it's his last weekend in Chicago this summer (he'll be gone for 2 month-long consecutive rotations), we decided that we should probably have a couple of dates!!

We decided that it was time we checked out De Cero, a Mexican place near us. We thought there would be a long wait considering it was Friday night, but we were seated right away and had our drinks ordered in minutes. He had a Malbec and I enjoyed the guava margarita. We also split an order of guacamole, which was so good we downed it before we knew it!! Bryan ordered the grilled steak torta sandwich and I ordered the carne asada. Both were insanely delicious! My dish even had bacon pinto beans!! MMM! Bacon makes everything better! I was surprised that the prices were pretty reasonable as well! I think we both agreed that we'll have to eat here again very soon!

Creamy Avocado Pasta

I've been loving avocados this summer! I've enjoyed trying them in more ways than ever, and they have really surprised me with how good they make a dish taste! This pasta dish is no exception!! I saw it and knew I had to make it right away. Bryan also loves avocados, so I knew he'd be up for it.

This avocado pasta was a completely new spin on the normal pasta dishes we tend to make. The creaminess of the avocado was an excellent base for the sauce and the basil flavor really complimented well. Even though the recipe is simple, leave it as it is. You won't be disappointed! I also topped our pasta with parmesan cheese and a fresh chopped tomato!

Creamy Avocado Pasta
Adapted from Oh She Glows


  • 1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, to taste (I used 3 and it was quite garlicky, but if you are not a big fan of garlic use 1 clove)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • ~1/4 cup Fresh Basil, (probably optional)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 servings/6 oz of your choice of pasta (I used 3oz of spelt and 3 oz of Kamut spaghetti)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

1. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until Al Dente.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado, basil, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.

3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

You should also note that this dish does not reheat well due to the avocado in the sauce.

Strawberry Rhubarb Mini Pies

I grew up with a large garden full of produce, including rhubarb, and I cannot wait to one day have my own. Until then, farmers markets will suffice because they are also super fun.

We bought some rhubarb at a farmers market with the sole purpose to make these mini pies! This is the same mini pie maker that I got for my birthday, and we absolutely love making new creations with it! I used my friend Adrie's recipe for rhubarb pie and added the strawberries. They were so hot when they came out of the pie maker, and we wanted to eat them right away so I had to take super fast photos... my apologies for having sloppy looking pictures! OMG, these little babies were so delicious I couldn't even speak, not even with my mouth full!

Strawberry Rhubarb Mini Pies
(we halved the recipe to make 4 mini pies)

The filling:
2 cups chopped strawberries and rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
A dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
Enough heavy cream to moisten

I made the filling ahead of time so that it had time to soak for a few hours. Then, we followed the instructions for our mini pie maker to complete the pies! They were insanely delicious!

Mixed Greens and Berry Salad

Bryan and I eat salads practically daily with dinner and we usually throw in whatever we have on hand and sounds good together. Bryan made this salad up this week and it turned out to be amazing! It's like many salads I've had at restaurants, but I've never made it at home. We ate this salad at practically every meal this week... well not for breakfast!

Let's get a close up on those healthy ingredients! My favorite part about this salad is that it's super healthy. We try to make our salads loaded with veggies, but it was fun to give fruits a try!

It's so easy: toss mixed greens in a balsamic vinaigrette (our homemade version includes olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, honey dijon mustard, salt and pepper) and top with berries (we used raspberries and blueberries but you can use whatever you have on hand), feta cheese and pecans. A perfect summer salad!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Half and Full Marathon Training Has Begun!!!

I spent this past week in Ann Arbor, Michigan training for a new position through my job. The training went well, I met a lot of people in person that I had only spoken to on the phone up until this point, and I got to spend some time bumming around downtown Ann Arbor which is a very cute little town!

Bryan and I were incredibly lucky to BOTH land 3 day weekends starting on Friday. I had worked my full workweek Monday - Thursday and he didn't have to go in to clinic, so we had a great relaxing and lazy Friday. We did actually get a lot of things done too so that we could have the weekend to relax even more. It turns out that we had no idea how tired we were until we unexpectedly slept 12 hours Friday night. I guess we needed the rest from the busy week!

Saturday, we spent the morning at the Lincoln Park Farmers Market!! We loaded up on some great produce (including rhubarb which I'm going to use this evening to make mini rhubarb pies! I'll post the recipe this week) and really enjoyed ourselves, even though the weather was not the greatest.

We spent the afternoon with our friend Jen at the Wells Street Art Festival, which was awesome!! We've really been wanting some cool Chicago themed art since we've moved here, and if only we had hundreds and hundreds of dollars to spend on it! Oh well, maybe someday we'll get one piece. There were some great artists there who had their work displayed and it was just fun to walk around and see so much variety and talent. We also got to try some great food! There's no way you can walk around any festival in Chicago and not try some food. It's a must do!

This week also marked the official start of my half AND full marathon training! I've been running somewhat regularly lately, so this week didn't really feel any different to me. I did do a longer run of 5 miles today. I felt great the whole time and my finishing time was decent too. I'm hoping I can really stay on top of my training so I can rock each race!!

We're gearing up for the rest of this week: Bryan's last week of 3rd year and going back to Minnesota for one of my best friend's wedding next weekend! Exciting!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kale Salad

I don't know how many times I've mentioned it so far, but if you don't know yet, I LOVE KALE!! As you can see with these recipes: Spaghetti with Braised Kale, and Island Kale and Sweet Potato Soup, I love using it in new recipes. It's a very hearty and versatile leafy green that is incredibly delicious!!

I recently came across a new kale recipe and I made sure I got it to have in my bag of tricks. This salad is so incredibly delicious, it'll keep you going back for seconds or even thirds. Which is actually okay with this dish. Kale is loaded with vitamins and nutrients. The pine nuts and dried cranberries add protein and antioxidants while the light dressing offers a little zing. It's so delicious and quite easy!

Kale Salad
adapted from a friend

Combine in a bowl1 bunch washed (uncooked) kale, finely chopped, toasted pine nuts and dried cranberries to taste. Garnish with grated parmesan. Mix the dressing in a separate bowl:

For the dressing:
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp honey
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp mayo

Top the salad with the dressing and toss well before serving.

Key Lime Pie

With summer finally here, I had a craving for key lime pie! Luckily, it's very easy and definitely satisfied my craving! I was glad to have it around when we had all of our friends over and visiting! The only downside is that it was eaten faster than I could snag a picture. Don't worry, I'll be making it again this summer!! It's a great light and tart dessert for any summer night!

Key Lime Pie
from Epicurious

For crust (I actually used a store bought crust)
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (if using bottled, preferably Manhattan brand)

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.
Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie: Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).
Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Make topping: Just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream.

Shrimp Lunguini

Lately, I have had a craving for shrimp, and I pretty much always want to eat pasta, so I combined the two for an incredible and easy weeknight dinner. This shrimp linguini was a combination of recipe searches and my own tweaking and it turned out really really well. I’ve already made it a second time because it was SO good. The only thing I did differently the second time was to add some mushrooms and it was super savory!

Get a large pot of salted water boiling. Melt one stick of butter and add one cup of white wine. Once the sauce has simmered for a few minutes, add 4-5 cloves of garlic (minced), some diced onion, some diced green onion, and mushrooms. Add noodles to boiling water at the same time you add the shrimp to the sauce mixture. Season with black pepper, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, basil, parsley and garlic powder as needed. Once the noodles are done, strain them and plate them. Remove the shrimp and sauce mixture from heat and add some half and half or cream to thicken. Top the pasta with the shrimp and sauce mixture and enjoy!

Major Catch Up

Wow! These past couple of weeks have literally flown by! Despite my lack of blogging, our lives have been incredibly busy, in a really good way!

We've had multiple gatherings of friends for dinner and drinks, gone out to a couple of great restaurants and even fit in a couple of quick trips. A couple weekends ago, we began a fun weekend in Milwaukee for one of Bryan's great friends' birthday. It was a really fun evening filled with delicious Cajun food and awesome Kopp's frozen custard, a local Milwaukee favorite. It was super yummy and the helpings were massive!

The following day, Saturday, I flew to Minneapolis for one of my best friend's bachelorette party. We started out at her place for wine and appetizers and played some games and opened her gifts. It was so much fun and it was really nice to meet new girl friends! We then went out to the restaurant Zelo in downtown Minneapolis, which was very delicious. If any of my Minneapolis readers have the urge to try a new restaurant, I would definitely recommend Zelo! After dinner, we went out on the town for more drinks and dancing until the morning hours! It was a great time and I think we sufficiently embarrassed the bride-to-be!

I had a midday flight back to Chicago on Sunday, just in time to drive up to Northwestern's Evanston campus to see my best friend (and maid of honor!) Lucy play a violin recital as a part of her Masters in Performance degree. She played an amazing recital - she literally rocked my socks off! I love you Lucy! We even got to have Lucy and her sister Rosie over for dinner this past week and I re-made a recent favorite, mozzarella stuffed brushetta turkey burgers with balsamic glaze, which was definitely a crowd pleaser! On the side was a kale salad (post to come shortly!) and sweet potato fries which are always a favorite!

We had the beginning of the week to rest up and relax, I guess as much as we could with full time jobs and full time medical school going on. Then, on Thursday we had some incredible friends come to stay with us for the weekend. Thomas and Abigail came to visit from Pennsylvania and were here for a non-mutual friend's wedding in the area. It was just amazing to get to spend time with them. Thomas is a college friend of Bryan's and his group of guy friends is incredibly close. It's been such a great joy to have them in my life too. Lifelong friends are just priceless! We began their first night here with brews and appetizers from the Haymarket Pub and Brewery and came back to our place for grilled steak, salmon and asparagus with sides of orzo salad and kale salad (stay tuned). The next couple of nights they were busy with wedding related activities, but we were able to have an absolutely amazing Saturday brunch complete with mini egg pies (which were incredible), french toast, fruit, sausage and mimosas! It was so fun to get some quality time in with them. The last time we saw them was over New Years, when all of Bryan's friends got together at a cabin in northern Minnesota. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see them again before the holidays roll around again! While they were busy at the wedding yesterday, Bryan and I had a nice little date night and went to Sushi Wabi, a West Loop favorite!

This week looks to be quite busy as well. I'm going to be traveling to Michigan tomorrow morning for training for a new position at work and when I come back on Thursday, we hope to have a fun filled weekend. Bryan and I only have June to enjoy summer together in Chicago. He will be doing 2 month-long away rotations for medical school in July and August, so we must embrace every opportunity that we get to have fun this summer while we can!

Stay tuned for a couple of great recipes coming up next!