Rest Day Round-Up: Non Running Fun

It’s time for another installment of Rest Day Round-Up! This week, let’s take a look at some of the things that I’ve done this summer that don’t involve running:

My birthday!

On July 31st, I turned 34 and celebrated with some of the best people in the galaxy. I decided to go all out and had everyone over for dinner and drinks and dancing and other shenanigans and as you can tell by my droopy eyes in the pictures, a great time was had by all. We even had an appearance by Tiny Jedi Phasma!

Our Wedding Anniversary

On August 20th, Mike and I celebrated 6 years married by going into the city for an absolutely bonkers meal at Robert, the restaurant on the top floor of the Museum of Art & Design. It was a last minute decision but I couldn’t have been happier with the food, the breathtaking views, and the company. We ate so much that I’m STILL recovering.

A lot of wine, pool, and beach time

Knowing that winter isn’t too far off, this summer I am all about enjoying every moment of nice weather we get, and that means hanging out by any pool or body of water I can get access to. I know I’m super lucky to have access to the ocean and the pools of my friends and their family, and I’m not about to squander those opportunities!

The Solar Eclipse!

Unless you live under a rock (or not in the contiguous US), you probably know that we had a pretty rad solar eclipse last week. While we weren’t in the path of totality at my office in NJ, we still had a little Eclipse Party, and it was a blast. With all of the ridiculousness happening in our country the past few weeks, I did get a weird Melancholia vibe from the whole “there’s a crazy celestial occurrence happening while our world falls apart around us” thing, but it was still really cool to see with my own eyes.

How about you? What’s going on in your non-running world? Did you get to check out the eclipse? When was the last time you threw yourself a themed birthday party? What’s your favorite cake flavor? 

Friday Favorites: Fueling Edition

It’s been a while since I did a Friday Favorites, and while browsing through some of the recent pics in my phone, I noticed a trend: I take a lot of FOOD pictures. So for this edition of Friday Favorites I’m going to share my favorite (if not the most well-advised) running fuel!

Enduro Packs

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Now that the weather is creeping above 50 degrees, I sweat a LOT more. Like as soon as I start running I’m covered in a sheen. I never used to be a salty sweater, but in the past 2 years I’ve noticed a change in my body chemistry and find myself covered in dried salt even after shorter runs in warmer temps. Thankfully, EnduroPacks is there to help me replenish that salt and stay balanced. With no sugar or anything artificial, I spray this stuff right into my water when I’m done running and feel like a new person.

Pizza

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I never said I was perfect, OK? But hear me out: after a long run, I crave weird things depending on what my body is missing. And lately, those cravings all tend to focus on huge slices of veggie pizza loaded with every vegetable you can think of. Namely the veggie pizza from our local pizza joint, pictured above (along with a white broccoli slice, because I’m only human). I’m not saying that this is OK to eat every day, but sometimes you have to listen to your body and go for the stinkin pizza.

Avocados

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I. Love. Avocados. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here, but when I tell you that I could eat them at every meal, believe that. I’ve got an especially tasty recipe that involves fresh boiled shrimp, pico de gallo, avocado and chopped cilantro that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. My hubby and I have even considered moving to a warmer climate just so we could plant an avocado tree in our backyard and have them whenever we want. #obsessed.

How about you guys – do you have any favorite fuel? Share what you’ve been craving lately in the comments!

Fireworks, Ice Cream and Running

I’m not going to lie – I’ve got nothing left in the tank today. It’s the first day back to the grind after a 3 day weekend filled with gardening, walking, running, biking & swimming, and I am feeling it.

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Wednesday I woke up in a terrible mood – I don’t know if it’s the super sticky weather, the summertime blues, or what. So I hit the pavement after work around my office for a 2 mile run (avg. pace 10:56!) to stick with the schedule and felt OK. The air was thick with humidity and I had to deal with the honks of my coworkers as they passed me by on their way home. Maybe my ridiculous ombre-filled outfit had something to do with that?

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That night when I got home, though, things started to look up. Because I walked in the door and found myself face to face with this big ol’ box of happiness:

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The folks at Arctic Zero sent me a delicious care package filled with 5 of their new Chunky Pints for me to try, and I am 100% hooked. I tried their regular flavors last summer and found them to be pretty good – a nice substitute for when you need that ice cream fix but don’t want to undo all of the great work you’ve done by eating healthy and working out all week. And while I’m not usually an ice cream fiend, all that changed when I tried these babies.

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Where their standard flavors are 35 calories per serving (or 150 for the whole pint), these chunky flavors have add-ins that make them a little more decadent at 75 calories per serving (or 300 per pint), which is still peanuts compared to regular ice creams. But I’ll be the first to tell you: those extra calories are SO worth it. I immediately dove into the cookie dough chip and mint flavors, while Mike tried the butter pecan and key lime pie. Soon we were spoon-fighting over who got the last scoop in our bowls, and every night since then I’ve created little masterpieces mixing flavors and adding in things like melted organic peanut butter, reduced sugar chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and sprinkles. Just typing it is making my mouth water… is it dessert time yet?

Aaaaanyway! Thursday I woke up without all the guilt of a post-ice-cream-binge (because of the whole guilt-free, good-for-you thing they’ve got going on at Arctic Zero!) and headed to work for a half day. Before leaving I managed to get my biking in (5 miles in 16 minutes) and then we walked about 3 miles to and from our town’s fireworks show that night.

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Thankfully, Friday was nice and sunny and hot, so we took on our lawn all morning. it turns out that “weeding” is really short for “a bunch of squatting and bending over at odd angles to yank out stubborn roots while sweating in full sun for 2 hours”. As a reward, my friend invited me into his pool that afternoon where I went for a dip and did a lap or two, along with a lot of water treading while we chatted for a few hours. I know it wasn’t the standard pool workout, but I counted it – my poor body was tired!

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Saturday I woke up early for a pedicure and took a 100% rest day (and loved every minute of it, naptime included)! Because Sunday I hit the grind again pretty hard: in search of a triathlon tank and shorts, my cousin and I walked about 14 miles (slight exaggeration) around 6 different stores, all with no luck. I started to get discouraged (and Wednesday’s ucky anxious feeling started to return), so I dealt with it the best way I know how: with a run.

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I went out SUPER hard in the first half mile to burn off the restlessness and kind of set myself back for another 2.5 miles of pain in doing so, but it was OK. I lapped around the park and along the water for the full 3.1, eating bugs (ew) and dodging bats (double ew), but I finished sweaty and exhausted and feeling more like me. My pace was still pretty good considering how much I wanted to die after that first half mile, and given the fact that it was 88 degrees and 80% humidity at 8:30PM!

And that was my 4th of July weekend in a nutshell – how was yours? How are you handling this Monday?

Disclosure: Arctic Zero provided me free samples in exchange for my honest review. Receiving product did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

My New Favorite Go-To Snacks

As if you couldn’t tell by my Instagram pics, Tweets, and the variety of posts I’ve written on the subject: I freakin’ love food.

But now that the weather is getting warmer and I’m forced to shed my winter running layers to exercise outdoors comfortably, those extra few pounds wobbling around my middle have got to go. To get rid of them though, I’ve got to fight my number one problem: night-time snacking.

spI swear there’s like a magnet in my body that draws me into the kitchen every night. And no matter how healthfully I’ve eaten all day, I sabotage myself by binging on whatever junk food we have lying around the house. My mind tricks me into thinking I’m hungry, but I don’t crave things that would actually satisfy that hunger like a banana or roasted chickpeas. No, I’d rather go for the Pirate Booty or the Chewy Chips Ahoy.

Frankly, it’s a problem I’ve battled on and off for years, and I’m slowly getting better. But while I don’t always win the battle, I’ve learned a few things about my body that I’ve turned into ammunition against the nighttime snack attack:

1. Eating sugar makes me crave more sugar. Other people may be different but this is 100% the case for me. As soon as I finish a Hershey’s Kiss, I want another one. And another and another until I wake up from a chocolate-induced coma, covered in little foil wrappers with a sugar crash headache. Not pretty. To fight the sugar-begets-sugar Monster, I rely on some not-so-sugary treats that feel like real indulgences. Lately, this means stocking up on my newest favorite Chobani Flip flavor: Chocolate Haze Craze.

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The Greek yogurt has extra protein to fill me up, and the chocolate chips/hazelnuts that you stir into it tastes seriously so much like Nutella you may find yourself licking the container (not like that’s ever happened to me…) It’s the perfect “dinner is over, this is my dessert” signal to my brain, and not SO sweet that I find myself craving more chocolate after I’m done.

2. I need to snack a little more throughout the day to stay satisfied. This means bringing more healthy choices in to the office with me, which means I need to do some prep work ahead of time. To make it easier on myself, I’ve been digging Wasa crisps – delicious, crunchy little flatbreads – with some good old Laughing Cow cheese.

cheeseBesides the yummy crispy/creamy combo, I think the fact that I’m adding stuff together to make a snack kind of tricks my stomach into thinking it’s getting a meal, which helps!

3. My tastesbuds equate super-flavor = super-satisfying, so I’ve branched out and experimented with flavors that I’m not really used to. For years I’ve shunned spicy things because I felt like it dulled my tastebuds and burned too much, but my Naturebox delivery this month included a bag of Jalapeno Cashews that I chomped RIGHT through in a week or two. Who knew?! I also love me some Blue Diamond Salt & Vinegar Almonds.

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I make it a point to always have a jar of these bad boys around: in the office, at home, hell, even in the car! See that little “Intense Taste!” sign on the package? It’s not kidding! After savoring a small handful one at a time, my mouth is coated in that familiar boardwalk-fries flavor and the craving to eat all the things has subsided thanks to the extra protein in the almonds. That’s a win-win to me!

So now that I’ve shared my favorite snacks, it’s time to share yours! Tell me: what are you snacking on? How do you fight the hungry monster?

Jess Eats Happy: Crock Pot Turkey Chili Recipe

I’ve found that I get a lot of requests for recipes when I Instagram a picture of whatever I happen to be shoveling into my face at a frightening rate of speed (see also: eating). That prompted me to create a new “series”: Jess Eats Happy! (it’s a working title. bear with me.)

Every week or so, I’ll share a recipe that will be A) mostly healthy B) probably cheap to make and C) 100% delicious. Because that’s how we roll in the Jess Eats Happy kitchen.

Our inaugural recipe is one that blew up my IG feed a few days ago: Turkey Chili. It’s a super simple, protein and fiber-packed dish that is easy to personalize to suit your tastes and keeps you full for a while. Let’s take a look!

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Crock Pot Turkey Chili

Ingredients:

  • Chili
    • 1-2 lbs ground turkey (depending on how many you’re cooking for)
    • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
    • 1 small can tomato paste
    • 2 cans beans, rinsed (kidney, pinto, black – your choice!)
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 small green pepper, chopped
    • 1 small red pepper, chopped
    • 1 packet chili seasoning mix (i usually get the low-sodium version)
    • Optional: any other veggies you like: corn, kale, zucchini, chili peppers, etc. This is a perfect time to use whatever veggies you can find in the fridge/pantry and fit into the crock pot. Anything goes!
  • Toppings
    • avocado, sliced
    • plain greek yogurt (sub for sour cream, or go all out and use the sour cream if you’d like!)
    • shredded cheese
    • Optional: Baked tortilla chips for dipping

Directions:

Throw everything in the crock pot, wait, and eat.

LOL –  but seriously, it really is that easy! Throw the thawed meat, tomatoes, veggies, and beans all in the pot, cover with chili seasoning, mix it up just a bit to evenly distribute everything, and forget about it for a few hours: set the crock pot on High for 4 hours, Medium for 6, or Low for 8 (or 10 if your pot has that setting).

About halfway through cooking, I’ll stir once or twice just to admire the delicious yumminess that is simmering in my crock pot, and to entice my husband out from his man cave with calls of “Ooooh, it looks like chili!!”

Then once it’s ready, just scoop it out into bowls and top with whatever your little heart desires. Which, if you’re me, is ALL the avocado and greek yogurt in the house. I like to eat it like a dip with the tortilla chips too – it forces me eat a little slower and helps me realize when I’m actually full, as opposed to eating until I can’t move.

The nice thing about this stuff is that it freezes and reheats very well. Usually once we’re done with dinner, I’ll portion out the rest of the contents of the crock pot into individual containers so that we have easy grab-n-go meals for the rest of the week.

So there you have it! Give it a shot and let me know how you like it!

Rest & Recover? lol jk

Here I am, 3 days post-race, and I already miss training. Not being able to run after a race like that kills me! Especially since I had such a great experience; PR’ing with my new ACL has me convinced that I can – and should! – take on another race soon, to maintain my fitness and improve my time.

But alas, I’m forced to “take it easy”, at least for this week. OK, my knees can use the rest. Truth be told, they’re both still a little tender. This new ligament was just put through the wringer, and my good knee has taken on a lot in the last year, so they’ve earned a few rest days.

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But I want to GO! I went from talking about nothing but training to talking about wanting to get back into training. I think my coworkers may tie me to my chair and roll me into an empty office soon. How about you, does the post-race rest period drive you as insane as it’s driving me?

Also, can we talk for a moment about the whole post-race appetite thing? During training, I was like a vacuum. I required constant feedings, like a 165 lb. newborn kitten.

Image…and then eat some more!

But after my half on Saturday, my appetite has all but disappeared. I fantasized about pancakes for pretty much all of miles 11 & 12, but once I finished, the thought of food just turned me off. We only stopped at Baja Fresh after the race because I knew that poor Mike had to eat *something*. Sure the guacamole was good, and my shrimp taco was delicious, but I could only manage a few bites of each before calling it a day. That night I had a chicken salad and treated myself to some hash browns, but again could only take about half of each. I couldn’t even finish my celebratory brownie that night.

Guys, do you understand what I just said? Let me repeat myself: I couldn’t even finish a brownie. What the what??

3 days later, I’m still not as ravenous as I expected – which is certainly a good thing, especially if I have to take a few more days off running. But this goes against everything I am and desire in life. Have any of you ever experienced an appetite decrease after a race? Am I entirely alone here?

“80/20” or, “Liz Lemon is my Spirit Animal”

OK, so I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect. I try my best to eat healthy, clean, non-processed foods but sometimes (okay, most of the time) it’s a struggle. It takes a lot of time and effort to select and prepare healthy food to consistently stay on track. Also, let’s be honest: brownies, cupcakes, chocolates…? Yes, yum, and more please. I mean, come on:

Liz Lemon is my spirit animal

           Liz Lemon is my spirit animal.

Full disclosure: I totally understand the benefits of clean eating. I did the Whole Life Challenge back in September and it was a truly life-changing experience. You can check out their website for the details, but the short version is this: for 8 weeks you focus on your diet, exercise, and mindfulness habits to become a better you. The exercise and meditation parts are great, yes, but I found the most benefit from the eating part. You cut all processed foods, dairy, sugars, and starches out of your diet – no bread, sugar, cheese, potatoes, pasta, etc. Instead, the focus is on vegetables, fruits and pure protein. Sounds simple, but let me tell you: it was HARD! But to stay compliant, I found a ton of new (delicious and super-healthy) recipes that I never would have tried if it weren’t for the WLC: crab cakes made with almond flour, beef and spinach stir-fry, mashed cauliflower – days of tasty meals that have made it into the regular meal plan rotation and expanded our culinary horizons!

After the challenge, it was tough to stay compliant. As a compromise, I resolved to stick to the 80-20 rule when I eat now: 80% of the time, I eat clean, non-processed “good” food, while the other 20% is non-compliant “bad” food. I hate classifying it like that, but you get the idea. 

Which brings me to today. As I write this, New Jersey is smack in the center of a diet-ruining hat trick: a 2-day long blizzard, Valentine’s Day candy week, and Easter candy’s release week. Add to that the rungries I experience during half marathon training, and I’m in the eye of a perfect storm here. So to give myself a healthier option than eating every piece of chocolate in this house and that in all of the houses in the immediate area, I decided to bake my go-to 80/20 treat: black bean brownies.

I first discovered these little squares of magic (no, not that kind of magic) at a friend’s party a few years ago and fell in love. Yes, they’re made with a box of brownie mix, which is loaded with sugar and other processed things. BUT, instead of adding eggs, butter, and/or oil like you normally would, you simply mix it with a can of pureed black beans and voila: brownies! Delicious, dense, fudge-like brownies that are loaded with filling fiber. I usually make these for pot-luck parties or work functions – the trick is to not tell people what they’re made with before they try them. I’ve found that when I say they’re black bean brownies, people immediately wrinkle their nose and turn them down. “Hell no!” they say, “No way I’ll eat a brownie made with beans!” But then, they try it, and the clouds open up and angels sing and before I know it I’m holding an empty tupperware lined with bits of brownie. 

So trust me. You may need to make them a few times to perfect them, but I promise they’ll be a hit in your house. Bonus: no eggs in the mix means you can eat as much batter as you want. I may or may not have eaten half the batter tonight before baking my batch. No judgement here. Let me know how you like them, and feel free to share your favorite 80/20 recipes in the comments!

Black Bean Brownies

oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

          oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

Ingredients: 
1 box of brownie mix any flavor (13×9 pan size)
1 can black beans (15.5 oz)

Directions:
1. Strain and rinse beans, put beans back in can and re-fill can with water to top.
2. Pour can of beans and water into blender/food processor (I use the magic bullet) and purée til liquefied. 
3. Combine box of brownie mix and puréed beans in a bowl and mix with a spoon til lumps are gone. It’ll take a while. Consider this your arm workout for the day.
4. Bake according to box, checking towards the end. Might take a few minutes longer than it says on the box, but stick a toothpick in the center – when it comes out clean you’re ready for brownies.