Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Frozen Chia Parfait

I tried chia seeds for the first time a few weeks ago when I bought a bag down in Charlottesville. Since then I've eaten them in chia gel, oatmeal, smoothies, salads and yogurt. They are high in fiber, protein and omega-3s and provide a nice crunch (when not soaked in liquid). Yesterday I came across a chia parfait on Alex' blog and couldn't wait to try it. This morning after the gym I made my parfait and I was surprised at how delicious it was - a lot better than I'd even imagined.

Its easy to make - stir 2 tablespoons of chia seeds into 1/2 cup liquid (I used Silk Pure Coconut coconut milk) and let gel in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes (I checked on it after 15 minutes and gave it another stir to distribute the seeds again). The chia seeds and liquid will create a pudding consistency that's perfect for parfaits (did you know that "parfait" means perfect in French?). Just layer it with your fruit and you have a refreshing parfait that's full of nutrients to fuel you for the day.

In my parfait I used:
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • sliced frozen bananas, frozen mango, frozen cherries and frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
  • garnished with unsweetened organic shredded coconut

Start off with your fruit:

Then add a layer of chia "pudding" and more fruit:

Keep layering until complete and garnish with some coconut flakes.

Chia seeds are tasteless so they take on the taste of whatever they're mixed with (similar to tofu). This really tasted like coconut pudding! The frozen fruit made the pudding start to freeze, so it took on a frozen yogurt quality. Not only did this taste great and was refreshing, but it was satisfying and kept me full a lot longer than many other breakfast foods. 

Just 4 days until the Wallis Sands Half Marathon! Workouts this week have been:

-10 minute elliptical warm up
-Misc weights (biceps, shoulders, triceps, abs)
-45 minutes on stationary bike

-3.5 mile run

-10 minute treadmill warm up
-Chest and triceps weights, with some abs thrown in
-Quick treadmill cardio (5 minutes walking briskly followed by 10 minutes of 2 minute run/walk intervals)
-1 mile run
-1 mile run
*Today I only had short windows of time to work out, so I did weights and a little bit on the treadmill before work, then ran a quick mile during my lunch break, and ran another quick mile after work. On days when I don't have a chunk of time I like doing a few short workouts because then I feel like I still accomplished something, and there's the added bonus of speeding up my metabolism several times throughout the day.

Do you eat chia seeds? Have any other fun recipes to try?

What's your favorite workout when pressed for time?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Easter this year was really wonderful. Instead of rushing from house to house and fitting in as many relatives as possible, I relaxed. Don't get me wrong - I love to see my family and don't think its a holiday without them, but sometimes having a low key celebration is just perfect. This year it was. On Saturday night my brother, his girlfriend and I went to my dad's house for an Easter dinner and then went to the Easter Vigil. At our church, the Easter Vigil always begins outside and we gather around a fire as the priest says prayers and we all light our candles. Does every church do this? It just occurred to me that I've never been to an Easter Vigil anywhere else. My dad has been in charge of building a fire in the large basin every year since I can remember, and this year my brother helped him, too. Its really nice that they worked on something that is such a special part of the ceremony. 

On Sunday morning I slept in, finally dragging myself out of bed when I heard my mom blow drying her hair. It was really nice to get a full eight hours of sleep - that doesn't happen often! We had some tea and toast together as we prepared brunch. I made strawberry peach scones and my mom made bacon and her famous scrambled eggs (she holds the title for best scrambled-egg maker). 

I based these scones on Jenna's recipe for whole grain strawberry pop tart scones (but added peaches and made a few other minor adjustments). For my second time making scones, these came out really well - I think they tasted great - and Pat loved them, which is a big deal coming from a former scone-hater. The batter was very wet and a little bit hard to work with (I had to bake a large circle for 15 minutes before I could cut them into pieces and then bake more) so I'm going to make another attempt at them this week and see if I can get the recipe to work a little bit better. I will certainly post about them if I'm successful!

A little while later Jim and Kristi joined us, and we all enjoyed our Easter brunch.

I was conservative with the bacon and didn't finish my eggs because after brunch I needed to go for a long run. My next half marathon is this Sunday, so I needed to get in one long run before then - the last long run I did was the C-Ville Half Marathon

After letting breakfast settle for a bit I headed out into the beautiful sunshine. The day before had been very cold and rainy, but Easter was gorgeous - sunny and in the mid-70s! Just being outside felt wonderful. I didn't have any GU or other running supplements with me so I brought a small bag of jelly beans to keep my sugar levels up. I think the Easter Bunny would have approved.

Its been years since I did a long run in my hometown and really explored on foot, and as the miles passed, I realized that I was having a great time. I've been bogged down by sore muscles and heavy legs in the past few weeks, so I'd almost forgotten what it was like to run and not be counting the minutes until I could stop. I can honestly say that I loved every minute of my run! 

Some highlights of my run (roughly in order of appearance):
  • Spring flowers in bloom everywhere I looked (I especially love crocuses, daffodils and tulips).
  • Running by my old middle school.
  • Katie's old house that is so full of memories. From 5th grade through senior year of high school, I probably spent half of my time at her house.
  • South Bridge Boat House - my dad loves coming here to rent canoes and boat down the river.
  • Running through the center of town, past all of the familiar (and new) shops and restaurants.
  • Seeing the Sunday morning bike crew gathered in the town square, refueling and chatting together.
  • The Old North Bridge - which now has bathrooms and water fountains (very exciting when you don't pack water on a long run in the heat!)
  • An SUV full of guys hanging out the windows yelling "HEY-O!! Happy Easter!" (I think they may have had a few mimosas at their Easter brunch).
  • Hutchin's Farm - the organic farm I worked at in high school and one summer of college. The fields are even more beautiful than I remember and I immediately wished I could run through them and look at all of the baby produce being planted (but decided to restrain myself - running into your old boss after 8 miles of running isn't the best way to reacquaint yourself). I mostly worked in the farm stand, but one summer I planted and picked berries - that was a long, hot summer.
  • Church-goers in their Sunday best, leaving church and enjoying the sunny day.
  • Running past my old elementary school, which was recently rebuilt and is the first green building in Concord (the high school is being worked on next).
  • On my cool-down walk I ran into some neighbors that live a few doors down from my mom and had a chance to catch up with them.
I'd planned a ten mile run but ended up doing eleven miles. I felt great throughout the whole run, and didn't feel tired at all when I finished, I felt refreshed! Why can't every run be like this?

I ran at a comfortable pace the entire time and only pushed myself to go faster at the end. My finishing time was 1:42:54, which is a pace of 9:19.

After my run my mom and I sat down to have a snack and chat. I started with another scone and some hard boiled Easter eggs.

Over the course of the afternoon we talked and munched on other treats - fresh fruits and veggies and Easter candy. The day was wonderful - it was so nice to sit and talk with my mom and just relax.

Now I hope we can get some more of that warm weather to carry us until summer! I'm done with cold and rainy days!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Early Anniversary

April 24th is the anniversary of when Pat and I started years ago. We met in college and made things official at a "picnic" his fraternity was hosting (by picnic I mean a big open field with lots of people and about 40 kegs of beer - it was terribly romantic). Its funny to look back to our younger selves - I was 19 and he was 20, just babies! The years have gone by very quickly, but its hard to remember a time when we weren't a "we." He's my best friend and I'm even more obsessed with him now that I was way back then. 

I'm especially obsessed when Pat grows a beard! Love it!

This year, April 24th was Easter. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make all of our family plans work together, and we spent Saturday and Sunday apart. So we started our celebration on Friday night, and it will be resumed here and there until I feel that we've fully celebrated (prepare yourself Pat!). Every year we go away for a weekend to celebrate, but due to holidays, weddings, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, our weekend will be postponed for at least a month (we have one free weekend in the next six weeks and I'm not telling anyone when it is so hopefully no other plans come up!). 

Some of our past anniversary excursions:

3 years - Ft. Myers Beach, FL for beach and Red Sox Spring Training
4 years - Bed and Breakfast on the Cape
6 years - Castle Hill Resort in Vermont
On Friday night we went to one of our favorite restaurants in Nashua for some amazing sushi, and then went to the pathetic little excuse for a carnival at the mall (i.e. Emily is in heaven). Great way to start our celebrating!

Dinner was at Takumi. They have the best sushi around, and we've come to know the head sushi chef and his two sidekicks. We always sit at the sushi bar and watch them make our food, and always end up ordering more and more. I didn't take pictures of everything we had, but here are a couple of the dishes:

Two pieces of blue fin tuna, two pieces of salmon, a spicy salmon roll, and a crazy roll (shrimp tempura with avocado, spicy mayonnaise, and some other yummy stuff). I used to think that any sushi with spicy mayonnaise or tempura was cheater sushi and that people who ate it weren't true sushi eaters. After trying it, I've changed my mind, because its so delicious! We do limit ourselves to just a little bit of it though, since adding fried food and mayonnaise goes against everything healthy about sushi.

This is a few types of tuna that was mashed up with scallions and served sashimi  style (without rice). The sauces are made there by the head sushi chef.

We also got bowls of miso soup, two additional orders of blue fin tuna, and an order of white snapper. Everything was so delicious. The problem with sushi is that its not very filling, so you feel like you can keep eating it forever (which we would have done if I hadn't been anxious to get to the carnival).

Here's the little carnival - there were about a dozen rides and a handful of stands selling fried dough and other irresistible carnival treats. Pat laughed when he saw how tiny the set up was, but I love carnivals and fairs of any size, and if there's one close by I have to go. We're both reading Water For Elephants right now, so I told Pat to just pretend that we're Jacob and Marlena and to get excited about the carnival. He pointed out that Water For Elephants is based on a circus, not a carnival, and that this barely qualified as that.

Naturally we headed right over to get some fried dough. Half the fun of going to fairs is the food!

Fried goodness! But, as you can see, it was getting really cold out. Even with two shirts, a hoodie sweatshirt, a scarf and a jacket, I was way too cold to stay at the carnival.

Leaving the carnival, Pat with a mouthful of candy.

We decided to stop for a night cap of ice cream (I wasn't too cold to eat ice cream in the warmth of my apartment) and rent a movie. I topped my ice cream with fresh strawberries and peanut butter cups. Perfection!

I think its okay to have about twelve desserts when celebrating an anniversary, what do you think?

Friday, April 22, 2011

To Sweat or Not To Sweat?

Well, I'm afraid that for me, I'll always be sweating. I don't know why, but I'm a big sweater. And its not due to poor hygiene - I shower at least once a day, use my clinical strength deodorant, and wear fresh clean clothes straight out of the wash. But I still sweat. Pat enjoys calling me "sweatheart" instead of "sweetheart" - hardy har har. I'm not laughing. (Well I kind of am).

Anyway, I'm not talking about typical I'm talking about Bikram. As you know, I tried it for the first time a few weeks ago. I was immediately hooked. I love the long sessions in the intense heat and always leave feeling so refreshed and energized. I would seriously go to a class every day, but two things are standing in my way:
  1. Cost. The first class you attend is only $10 and you can go for free as many times as you want for the next ten days - great deal. After that, though, it gets more expensive. You can pay $15 for one class (way too much) or you can buy a ten class card for $120 (still a lot), or pay $35 for one week unlimited, or $110 for one month unlimited. If you're going every day, you do get your moneys worth with the unlimited packages, but that's still an extra $100+ per month, and I'd only be happy to pay that much if I really was going every day. Which leads my to my second issue...
  2. Running. I've heard that yoga is really great for runners, but my experience so far is that Bikram classes leave me sore the following day and my legs feel like lead. Running feels like much more of an effort and I'm not running as fast as I was pre-Bikram. I really do love Bikram, but I've loved running longer, and in my mind that makes it more important (not to mention more affordable and something you can literally do anytime/anywhere/with anyone).
After the Charlottesville Half Marathon I was feeling sore (which is normal) and I did a few Bikram classes in the week that followed. On Monday I realized that I had less than two weeks until my next half marathon. For some reason I thought I had three weeks! So this week I haven't gone to Bikram at all and have been focusing on getting back to running.

Monday - 3 mile run. Slow and painful.
Tuesday - Very sore. Took a rest day and got martinis and beet flat bread pizza with Gina instead!
Wednesday - 5 mile run. Legs felt lighter and seemed like much less of an effort to run.
Thursday - Hills. Its been a while since I did a hill workout, so I took this easy.
1 mile warm-up run
4 hill repeats (0.25 mile very steep incline)
0.25 mile cool-down run
0.60 mile cool-down walk
*I actually felt pretty good and definitely could have kept going but didn't want to push myself too much. Baby steps!

I'm going to try to fit in a short (2-3) mile run today, and tomorrow I'm going to bike. Sunday (in between all of the delicious meals) I'm going to shoot for a 10 mile run to make sure I'm prepared for next weekend's race.

Any runners out there who are able to successfully incorporate yoga into their training? I want to find a good balance, but for right now I might hold off until my longer races are over and I'm just doing 5ks this summer.

Fun Easter plans?
I'm having dinner with my dad and brother tomorrow night before the Easter Vigil, and then on Sunday I'm cooking up a delicious brunch with my mom!

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Its been a while since I've made chicken. Not sure why, I just haven't made it in a while. I came across this recipe in the April issue of Cooking Light and it looked like the perfect meal that could be prepared quickly but would satisfy my craving for a hearty, home-cooked dinner.

Instead of using mint and parsley like the recipe calls for, I used spinach, since there's always a surplus of spinach in my fridge. I served the chicken with a side of sauteed asparagus and some quinoa from Trader Joe's (this was actually my first experience with quinoa, I'm a little late on the quinoa train, and I loved it!).

This is a favorite summer recipe for the grill (but works just as well when sauteed). Wash and trim asparagus (its actually easier to just snap off the ends of the stalks with your fingers instead of trimming with a knife) and place in a large Ziploc bag or a bowl. Add the following for your marinade:
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • red pepper flakes
  • garlic powder (or minced garlic)
  • salt and pepper
The amounts you use are up to you - I like this with a kick, so I added a lot of red pepper flakes.

Put the asparagus in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or up to a few hours) to absorb the flavors. When ready to cook, heat a skillet over medium heat and add asparagus (no need to use extra oil in the skillet since there's already some in the marinade). Saute for 5-10 minutes, until it reaches the tenderness you prefer.


This is the Trader Joe's quinoa I bought - comes frozen in a bag and has sweet potatoes and zucchini in it. You can heat on stove or in microwave. I was going to doctor it up a bit by adding some dried cranberries and spices, but decided not to. This was really good just as is, and would also be good if you added extra vegetables or spices.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Preheat your broiler to 450 degrees.

Mix panko, spinach, and pepper in a bowl, mashing with fork to combine.

Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each breast to form a pocket.

Stuff as much filling as you can into each pocket, then close with a toothpick. Sprinkle chicken with salt.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil to pan. Add chicken to pan and cook for about two minutes (on one side) until browned.  

Move chicken to an oven pan or cookie sheet, brown side down. Broil for 10-15 minutes or until done.

Serves 3-4.
Adapted from Cooking Light.

  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 handfuls baby spinach, chopped into small pieces
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 4 (6 ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts (I only made 3, but the stuffing makes enough for about 5-6 pieces of chicken)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon wedges (optional)
  1. Preheat your broiler to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix panko, spinach, and pepper in a bowl, mashing with fork to combine.
  3. Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each breast to form a pocket.
  4. Stuff as much filling as you can into each pocket, then close with a toothpick. Sprinkle chicken with salt.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil to pan. Add chicken to pan and cook for about two minutes (on one side) until browned.
  6. Move chicken to an oven pan or cookie sheet, brown side down. Broil for 10-15 minutes or until done. Squeeze fresh lemon on top to serve (if desired).

This whole meal was really delicious. I have a new found love for quinoa, and guess who else does as well? Pat! I didn't tell him how good it was for him until after he tasted it, I didn't want that to taint his judgment (I think in his mind he assumes healthy grains=cardboard taste). The chicken was really good - very moist. I love goat cheese and the combination of goat cheese and spinach (with  a squeeze of lemon) was great, although the flavor didn't really jump out at you. I had considered adding other spices to the filling but didn't because of the marinade I used for the asparagus (I didn't want it to be flavor overload). If I made this chicken again with subtler vegetables, I'd trying adding some/all of the following to the chicken stuffing: roasted garlic, red pepper flakes, artichoke hearts, rosemary and thyme, caramelized onions. I'm sure there's lots of great things that could go in these! Pat was very happy for a home cooked meal (that didn't involve tofu) and I really enjoyed it, too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jelly Bean Cookies

Jelly Bean Cookies? What, you mean you haven't heard of these gems? Ha neither had I, before I spotted them on Flour Dusted and In Katrina's Kitchen. Then I had to make them, because Easter is just a few days away. And, well, because I love jelly beans. 

I'd planned to make these with Starburst jelly beans (those are some of my favorite) but then I came across these at Trader Joe's:

I decided to give these a shot, and I'm glad I did. There are 18 flavors in one box, a far greater selection than most jelly beans, and I can say that 17 of them are delicious (I'm not a black licorice fan, so those I did not like). Even better is that the colors in these candies come from fruit and vegetable sources and there aren't any additives or preservatives used. How many candies can say that?

I halved the recipe for these cookies because one box contained just over 1/2 cup of jelly beans - enough for half of a recipe and some extras for taste-testing.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, blend together butter, applesauce, and sugars until well combined. (I measured the applesauce and butter by using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, adding 1 tbsp butter to the cup, and then filling it the rest of the way with applesauce - I didn't want to remove all of the butter, but I wanted these to be lighter than the original cookies.)

Mix in egg white and vanilla. 
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. 

Add flour mixture to medium bowl and mix well.
Fold in jelly beans. For those of you who don't like black licorice, be sure to pick these out before making your cookies. I ate a cookie with 1 licorice jelly bean and it totally overpowered all of the other flavors.

Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray (as you can see, I used parchment paper, but some of the jelly beans stuck a bit when I was removing the cookies, so I think using spray would prevent that from happening).
Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool completely. I never let things cool completely when I'm told to, but you really should for these cookies. Biting into a burning hot jelly bean is painful, and these taste much better when cooled.

Jelly Bean Cookies
Makes 12 cookies.
Adapted from Flour Dusted and In Katrina's Kitchen.

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/6 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Smart Balance Light Spread
  • 1/4 cup (minus 1 tbsp) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/16 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup jelly beans

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, blend together butter, applesauce, and sugars until well combined. Mix in egg white and vanilla.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add flour mixture to medium bowl and mix well. Fold in jelly beans. Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  5. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Nutrition Facts

  12 Servings

Amount Per Serving
  Calories 92.5
  Total Fat 0.4 g
      Saturated Fat 0.1 g
      Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
      Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
  Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  Sodium 56.7 mg
  Potassium 4.6 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 18.5 g
      Dietary Fiber 0.3 g
      Sugars 14.7 g
  Protein 0.8 g

Very low in fat and pretty low in calories. High in sugar, but I guess that's to be expected when baking with jelly beans!

I really liked these! I wasn't sure what to expect, but these are chewy and delicious. Its a fun alternative to cookies with chocolate in them and the jelly beans give the cookies a light and fruity taste. 

What's your favorite Easter candy? 
I think mine is a tie between Peeps and jelly beans.