Sense of Sensibility, My new blog

I’ve transferred all of my content to senseofsensibility.wordpress.com, and I’ve added an “about” page and a “my story” page.  I’d be honored if you continued to follow me at that site.  I’ve been working on defining what I want to say with my blog and creating an overall theme that is more authentic and meaningful.  Although I love my cat, my life and my message is slightly more complex.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday Test-Kitchen: West African Peanut Stew & Chicken Tetrazzini

The last two nights’ dinners in our house have been very satisfying, so I’d like to pass them along to you.  Last night I made Chicken Tetrazzini.  It was a comfort food casserole that was perfect for a casual weeknight meal.  I substituted frozen peas for the celery and used whole wheat angel hair pasta.

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The serving size was generous and it was very filling, just what I’m looking for in a “light” food.   I will definitely be making this again.  The recipe makes two casseroles, so we have one ready for us in the freezer when we need it.

This morning I had French Toast Oatmeal with strawberries and homemade granola on top.

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I wore my favorite new vest to school

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and jazzed it up with a pretty pink collared shirt and earrings.

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After school I successfully completed a strength routine and found that I have a lot more energy in the afternoon.

Tonight we had West African Peanut Stew over Bulgar.  This is one of our favorite go-to recipes as it is very flexible and uses surprisingly ordinary ingredients.  We have made it many different ways.  We have used chicken, tofu, chickpeas, and white beans for the protein and we add vegetables as we see fit.

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Here is a loose recipe, but feel free to play around.

West African Peanut Stew (serve over your preferred grain)

  • 1-2 Tbsp. Sesame Oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 c. cooked, diced chicken OR one can beans of choice, drained OR 14 oz. pressed/baked tofu
  • 1 1/2-2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. chunky peanut butter
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 c. broth of choice
  • optional 1 tbsp. of ground flax to thicken

Saute onion in garlic in oil over medium heat until translucent.  Add protein, salt, black pepper, curry powder, and red pepper flakes and stir for one minute.  Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and peanut butter and bring to a simmer, allowing peanut butter to melt into the soup.  Stir in optional flax, if using.  Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro if desired.

I have a 5 a.m. work shift tomorrow morning, so I’m getting in bed granny-style.

Do you have any easy favorite recipes?

When do you like to workout?

Monday Menu and Weekend Recap

Mondays can be stressful (insert duh here).

Sometimes thinking about all the work you have to do in the coming week can be overwhelming, and it can be hard to imagine how you’re going to fit everything in.  Juggling schoolwork, nutritious meal-planning, marathon training, and work can be challenging, and that is why it is so helpful for me to organize my plans for the coming week ahead of time.

I’ve long been in the habit of drawing up a weekly menu and corresponding shopping list, so that I’m not forced to make last-minute decisions or costly and time-consuming extra trips to the grocery store.  I like to plan my workouts, even weeks in advance, and I treat them like appointments that I will not miss.  I write down all of my assignments and work shifts.  The less things I leave simply floating around in my head the less likely they are to fly off my radar and be forgotten.  This technique has been so effective that I have not missed a single workout all year.  Thanks to careful planning, I start my weeks with purpose and certainty that I can accomplish all of my short-term goals.

This Week’s Menu*:

*We always serve dinner with a fresh green salad and fresh fruit for dessert.

You might have noticed that almost all of the recipes I’m using are from Cooking Light, but  I promise I don’t work for them.  I appreciate their recipes because they are light but not “diet food”, and their nutritional info is really straight-forward.  When you use a Cooking Light recipe you don’t have to guess how much one serving is, they tell you in measure.  For example, tonight I will have 1 and 1/3 c. of Tetrazzini and that will be one serving.  Simple!  This makes tracking calories a breeze.

Workout Plan:

  • Monday: 3 miles
  • Tuesday: Afternoon Strength 45 minutes
  • Wednesday: 4.5 miles
  • Thursday: Morning Strength 30 minutes
  • Friday: 3 miles
  • Saturday: yoga
  • Sunday: 6 miles

One of my goals is to be more flexible about the time of day I work out.  I tend to have a hard time working out in the afternoon, especially after work or a full day of classes.  I think I would benefit from trying to change this, so I’ll be integrating more afternoon workouts.

Highlights from the weekend:

I was on my own for Saturday night, so after a long day at work I treated myself to pan-seared filet mignon with roasted butternut squash and asparagus.  I listened to Johnny Cash while I ate, and if I had a mustache and some bourbon I think I would have been the spitting image of Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec.

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Sunday morning, Dave and I had a special weekend breakfast, which is a tradition in our house.  As much as I love oatmeal and scrambles it’s nice to break routine for a day and have some fun.

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We made waffles from scratch and served them with strawberries, banana, maple syrup, and Applegate Hickory Smoked Turkey Bacon on the side.  After breakfast I took a long run (5.5 miles) and listened to some classic mysteries in audiobook format on my ipod.  It was really fun, and I felt great!

After work Sunday night I came home feeling hungry and made a really nice dessert.

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I cut up a ripe mango and topped it with Greek Icing (two Tbsp. greek yogurt mixed with 1 tsp. maple syrup) and some unsweetened shredded coconut.  An excellent healthy choice when you’re craving something sweet.

Today has been productive so far.  I had a really soupy porridge for breakfast.

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I went on a three mile run, which is actually starting to feel “easy”!  I’ve been feeling real progress in my running and it’s very encouraging.

When I got home I had tuna salad over toast and a green salad.

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After lunch I went grocery shopping, and now I’m going to start preparing dinner.

This week I’ll be working on (finally) setting up an “about me” page, which has been the hardest thing for me to write!

What is the hardest part about writing your blog?

Do you plan meals, workouts, etc.? 

Pink Running Socks

You might have guessed why I titled this post, “pink running socks.”  I got a pair for Valentine’s Day!

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Along with way too many a lot of other goodies.

I got to wear my socks on my Wednesday run because Dave and I always give each other presents early!  Seriously, we never wait!  Someday we’ll actually make it to a birthday or holiday.

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The “Pink Bubbly” chocolate bar in the picture was filled with raspberry truffle cream and bits of pop rocks which gave it a champagne bubble-like fizz.  It was so good!  Funnily, but not surprisingly, Dave and I really stuck to the pink cat theme without consulting each other beforehand.

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I made these heart-shaped “healthy” sugar cookies, which turned out OK but I would never use the recipe again.  They actually ended up looking much better than they tasted.  The texture was just… off.

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David said he liked them, but he’s really nice.  I even made a special Finny cookie for him.

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Finny approved my attempt to recreate his cuteness.

I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal, as usually, and made this pink version yesterday.

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It is pink I promise!  I added frozen raspberries to my Chia White Oatmeal recipe and topped it with Greek Icing and Shredded Coconut.

In other news, I ate way too much chocolate yesterday and continue to support menswear for women.

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I watched this youtube video this morning before my run and it really helped me improve my form!  It turns out I was allowing my arms to cross too far across my center, twisting my upper body, and basically expending a lot of unnecessary energy.  So, on my run I practiced keeping my arms on their respective sides of my jacket zipper.  I felt much more fluid.  I felt like I wasn’t getting as fatigued as usual and I felt a little more graceful.  So that was, of course, awesome.

Tonight I cooked this Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chicken Soup, which was SO GOOD.  I don’t know why I didn’t take pictures.  I would highly recommend the recipe, and I plan to make it for a dinner party sometime in the near future.

Now I’m off to watch some Law and Order with my Valentine, have a good weekend!

How was your Valentine’s Day?

What is the best running tip you’ve ever received?

On to my first Half-Marathon!

I don’t think I’ve announced it here yet, but on January 1st I signed up for the Eugene Half-Marathon which will take place on April 28th.  This is perhaps one of the most ambitious and scariest things I’ve ever done.  I was inspired by all the fitness blogs I read and I really wanted to challenge myself to accomplish something I never thought I would be capable of doing.

I’ve mentioned it before – I am not a natural runner, and I am rather inexperienced.  I started running in 2008 purely for weight loss and never ran more than 3 miles at a time.  I would hop on the treadmill or do “the loop” at my parents’ house blasting music and basically just trying to get through it as quickly as possible.  I always loved what running did for my body and the way I felt after I was done, but I never loved running WHILE I was running.  I forced myself to run to lose and eventually maintain weight and turned it into an awful and emotionally draining experience.  Not surprisingly, I ended up burning out on running and took a whole year off, promising myself during that time that I would never have to run again.

Fortunately, I didn’t commit to that promise and I started running after Thanksgiving last year, slowly but surely.  In the interim I had used walking as a form of exercise, but I was missing out on the fitness-high and I missed challenging myself physically.  Additionally, my body was getting soft and I found that I was getting winded on easy hikes.  I never thought it would happen, but I actually missed running!

I decided I would take it slow and really appreciate my time running, no pressure.  I’ve recorded how I felt during and after each run I’ve taken since then, making sure not to push myself into disillusionment.  The notes from my first run read “run/walk on treadmill 29 minutes: felt jiggly and out of practice.”  Then the next week, after a few runs, “Treadmill run 27 minutes.  How I felt: Slow, but accomplished for running the whole time!”  Here is my journal entry from last Sunday, “I can’t believe it!  My first race, 4 mi., 8:53 pace!”  I used to push myself until I was hurt, failing to listen to my body, which led to injury and disappointment.  This time around I am kinder to myself, and make sure not to overdo it too soon.  Although I am making slow progress, I can see that I am still making progress!  Writing down my thoughts about fitness really helps me keep track of my goals and accomplishments.

It is amazing to watch my progress and to feel how my body is changing.  I have not changed much in terms of weight, but I can feel the difference in my self-confidence and in the way my clothes fit.  My jeans are actually a little tight around my legs now because I’ve put on so much muscle, but I can feel that there is a lot less fat on my hips and waist, and that’s obviously an accomplishment.  I have successfully completed a 6 mile run, without stopping, something I never dreamed possible!  Basically running has given me a lot to be proud of, and it makes every other challenge in my life seem so much easier.

Another aspect of my running journey involves my psychological health.  I struggle with a mood disorder (something I’m going to talk about in more detail at another time) and I have found that running, or any form of vigorous exercise, is the best way for me to control my mood swings.  I have found no better way to build patience, confidence, and self-respect than committing to a challenging and demanding running routine.  I feel much more balanced and generally happier since I started running again.

Finally, to help myself commit to my goal, I’m running for a cause.  My older sister lost her battle with cancer in 2003, which makes 2013 the 10 year anniversary of her death.  During Christmas break I visited her grave and was moved to do something to remember her better and to help other people struggling with the same terrible disease.  If you’ve ever experienced the death of a family member, you know that after a while your life acquires “a new normal” and you can be flooded with guilt for not remembering your family member properly or doing enough to keep their memory alive.

Instead of languishing in remorse, I’m taking this negative feeling and using it to create something meaningful and positive.  I have set a fund-raising goal of $1,000.00 to go to the American Cancer Society.  Thanks to the generous support of family and friends, I am almost halfway there.

Here is the link to my fund-raising site.  I don’t expect donations, but if you have even $5 to spare I would greatly appreciate it.

How did your running journey begin?

Have you or someone you know been affected by cancer?

Do you have any training tips or advice?

Planning Ahead

The first thing I did today, food-wise, was pop a “stray” wheat thin into my mouth.  I’ve heard that the first thing we eat in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, and today I proved that theory holds water.  I had a serious case of the snacks.  Yes I went on my scheduled run (which felt terrible) and made a healthy dinner, but I don’t feel great about the way I chose to live my day.

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(For dinner I made Spiced Peas and “Paneer” from Vegan Indian Cooking by Anupy Singla-Dave’s favorite! I served it with whole wheat pita)

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Rather than get into detail about my misdeeds, I’d like to emphasize the importance of getting back on track as soon as possible.

At one point this evening I thought, “Maybe I’ll just skip my workout tomorrow morning, then I’ll really go for it, starting on Wednesday.”  Those kinds of thoughts can dig graves for fitness goals and seriously injure self-commitment.

So instead, I’ve decided to get up tomorrow as planned, and set a healthy tone for the rest of the week.  I’m going to push through my scheduled a.m. strength routine and have a healthy breakfast, without any “stray” snacks.

Here are some things I did to help myself stay on track this coming week:

  • Stocked up on groceries.  I think I felt lost this morning because I hadn’t prepared and we didn’t have any of my regular breakfast foods in the house.
  • Set out my workout clothes, shoes, and ipod and planned my strength routine.  Doing this the night before removes any guess-work I would have to do the following morning.
  • Packed a healthy lunch.  Stress+being pressed for time=bad nutrition choices.
  • Wrote my workouts in my planner, so I can check them off as my week goes along.  This really helps me feel accomplished and remember the goals I’ve set for myself.
  • Made a dinner menu for the week.

Now I feel much more confident that I will make choices in the coming days that I can be proud of.  I hope everyone has a healthy, happy, productive week!

What are your goals this week?

When you start going astray of your fitness/life plans, what do you do to help yourself get back on track?

Truffle Shuffle, Our Valentine’s Day

The Truffle Shuffle was so much fun.  Now I totally get why people love races!  I ended up finishing 8th in my age group and running a sub-9 minute mile pace, which is seriously unheard of for me.  Being around all the other runners was very motivating.  Add to that the promise of a delicious gourmet truffle and you’ve got yourself a PR!

The whole process was really low key which made it a perfect way to dip my toes into running events.

The run was at 2:15, so at noon Dave and I had peanut butter sandwiches,

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and I threw in some granola for good measure.

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I think I took carb-loading a little too seriously?

Before we left I pinned on my first runner’s bib.

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On Dave’s bib there was a mistake that we found pretty funny, check out his age.

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It raises some pretty creepy questions about me, but at least he finished 3rd in his “age group”!

When we got to the park, we were greeted by a terrifying gaggle of giant geese.

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After the threat of getting pinched by a goose cleared, we took some pictures,

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and sat in the car until about 5 minutes before the race started.  It was cold and windy!

Before we knew it, we were lining up at the start line, and we were off!  There were some pretty funny costumes and a lot of participants.  The adrenaline of all the other runners must have had an effect on me, because I felt great.  I was really happy that Dave decided to run slower and enjoy the race with me.  The weather was really great once we warmed up.

Around mile 3 we really picked up the pace and decided to finish strong.  I was really pushing myself more than I usually do on my runs, and I felt pretty jelly-like by the time the finish line came into view.  When we got close enough to see the digital clock, I couldn’t believe my eyes!  We ran 4 miles in 35:28, which averages out to about 8:53 per mile!

We collected our truffles and headed home in high spirits.

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Oh and I got my first race shirt!

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Later in the evening, after we did some homework, Dave and I celebrated Valentine’s day early by going out to a casual dinner.

We dressed up,

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but not really, and headed out.

First we had a glass of King Estate Pinot Noir at 16 tons, a local beer wine and coffee place.

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Then we went to Izakaya Meiji, a Japanese Whiskey bar.  I had a light dinner of seared scallops in miso-butter with a side of kinpira-style vegetables (saving up for dessert).

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Dave had a beer, shot of whiskey, and burger special.

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Everything was so good!  For the grand finale of our evening, we went to Sweet Life Patisserie, where they make the best desserts in Oregon.

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Dave had traditional chocolate pie, and I had a piece of Cloud-9 cake.

We boxed up our leftover treats, came home, and settled in on the couch to watch some Storage Wars.

Romantic, no?

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Hate it or love it?

What is your favorite dessert?