Soup-er Sunday: Corn Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chowder

Soup-er Sunday is back. Today’s gorgeous fall weather was the perfect day to try a new recipe that was shared with me from Karen at Fancy Little Feet. Per Karen’s recommendation, I modified tonight’s recipe from The Pretty Bee.

Corn Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chowder

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 very large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 32 ounce container of vegetable broth
⅔ cup quinoa
1 cup water 1 cup coconut milk
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 cup frozen corn
cilantro for garnish
Directions:
  1. In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil and chopped onion over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and broth, bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the quinoa, cup of water cup of coconut milk, and spices and continue cooking until quinoa is tender (you will see the little ring around the edge of the quinoa loosen), about 15 more minutes. If too much of the water has evaporated, add a bit more. It should be a thick soup, but you should still see broth.
  4. Add the corn and cook until corn is heated through, about five minutes.
  5. Serve topped with cilantro if desired.

(I doubled this recipe to have enough for lunch left overs this week.)

Served with a side of corn bread, tonight’s dinner was delicious! I stuffed in as much as I could, and I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow.

soup

The Magic of Retrospection

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~Lao Tzu

As a spectator at this years Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, I was in awe of every runner who lined up at the start line. The race lived up to its reputation with brutal heat and humidity. This race is never an easy race.

How did I do? How did I run this race three years in a row?

The summer of 2010 was a typical summer for me. I never ran more than five miles. I only ran when I felt like it. I never trained. I had decided to ignore my race entry. I was going to let the race go because my body wasn’t ready. A few days before race day, I got a call from my aunt. She had breast cancer. I had to run. I lined up with runners not know what to expected. I’d do my best. I had to. I cried through many of those miles, and yet I finished in a respectable time. Somehow I ran that race. I felt weak. I felt unprepared. It felt hard.

I returned to this race in 2011. I was six months pregnant with Chet. As I trudged along on the race course, I struggled. It felt hard. I felt weak.

In 2012, when Chet was a newborn, I trained hard. I ran every Saturday morning. Some nights I only had two hours of sleep, but I always showed up to run. Race day came, and I ran through all the same feelings. It was hard. I felt slow. I struggled.

rnr

The common thread between all these races was my perception: I always felt like I was struggling to make it work. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life and running. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life, motherhood and marriage. I’ve always felt like I’m struggling to stay afloat.

But something magical happens when I cross the finish line. It was all worth it. Today when I look back, I am in awe of myself. I’m in awe of what I was able to juggle. I’m in awe of the balance I maintained. Looking back, I feel like I was a superwoman.

How did I do all of that? How did I balance it all? How did I make it work? Because right now I feel like I’m fighting for that balance. Right now I feel like I’m fighting for that strength. How did I do it then?

While I watched the Rock n Roll half marathon from the sidelines this year, I saw something in those runners. I saw love. I saw passion. I saw sacrifice. I saw so many people who were doing it, and I realized I’ve been doing it all along. It’s the fight for balance and it’s the fight for strength that fuel that love and passion in my life. How I feel today is no different from how I felt two years ago.

I’m doing it today just like I was doing it then. I don’t need to wait two years to be in awe of what I’m accomplishing today. I can appreciate myself now. I can be grateful for what I have right now. I don’t want to find my happiness through retrospection. It’s waiting for me right now. The only difference between today and two years ago is that I’ve already crossed the finish line for the events in my past. I haven’t crossed today’s finish line yet. I haven’t felt the magic of today’s finish line.

When I look back, nothing in my life was lacking. This message applies to today too. The magic isn’t really at the finish line. The magic is in the process of getting there. I doubt the finish line would feel like such an accomplishment if it was easy to get there.

Sunrise on Race Day

Sunrise on Race Day

 

 

 

Breathing Room, August Edition

“Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating an emotional clearing to allow ourselves to feel, think, dream and question.” ~Brene Brown

August is ending on a high note, on a simple note. As I’ve stripped away layers of clutter, I’m sitting in the messy, real, simple core of life. Love. Yes, it is still messy. Yes, it is still hard. The difference between this mess and the clutter of life is that this matters. Love matters. It’s not filler. It’s not a bandaid. It’s not numbing. This is life, and I feel like I’m learning how to live my own version.

august

ECSC 5k – Race Recap

“Light tomorrow with today.” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This morning I lined up for a 5k knowing I’m not in racing condition, knowing that I’ve struggled all summer to find space in my runs, and knowing that 3 miles now feels like a long run. I know all of this, yet I was excited. The timing of this race just felt right. I was ready to test my new running philosophy: accept where I am at today.

But old habits die hard. I did my best not to speculate about finish times, to analyze the few runs I have worn my garmin on this summer to predict my outcome, or to stress that a PR wasn’t a possibility (24:50 for those of you who are curious, 7:59 pace). I only let my brain wander as far as setting a few loose goals for the race outside of enjoying myself and pushing myself on the course.

A perfect day – 27:xx, 8:59 pace (I am well aware that I ran this pace for 10 miles in April. Another true test of my new running philosophy. Could my ego let go?)

A solid run – Low 9s

Crap that sucked – anything over 9:20

I lined up next to a few friends and told them that who ever was having a solid day running was required to run.

Laura and I stuck together for Mile 1. I had previously told her my plan was to hit a 9 minute mile. At some point she kindly told me that if a 9 minute mile was my pace, I was running way too fast. We slowed down, chatted, and had some fun.

Mile 1 – 8:28

In mile 2 I encouraged Laura to go ahead. My stomach was telling me to slow down, but I knew I was in a good spot if I could just hang on. Panicking mid-race has been my weakness this year. When I saw 8:28 on my watch and my stomach started to rumble, I felt panic taking over. My focus quickly become to sit in a pocket that felt comfortable. Don’t panic. Relax. Don’t panic. Relax.

Mile 2 – 9:35 (I may have got a little too comfortable this mile)

Mile 3 was about hanging on. My hip flexors are tight lately. I like to lead with my pelvis when I run. Instead of focusing on the miles or the finish line, I focused on my body. I did my best to keep my hips under me. I did my best to keep my upper body relax.

Mile 3 – 9:16

In the final stretch I found a familiar face. Teresa, the overall female winner today, came back to run me in. She helped squeeze out the last bit of energy I had left in my legs. She reminded me to lift my knees and to use my arms. She took over my thinking since my brain had shut off.

Final stretch – 6:58 pace

Official Finish time: 28:00, 9:02 pace

Finish line fun with some great friends

Finish line fun with some great friends

Am I happy with this run? You bet!

It’s no secret my ego has been attached to my running ability for some time. It’s so easy to get caught up in the race to run further or to run faster. I got stuck in a place that let the pace on a race clock determine my level of success. Today that ego didn’t show up. I hope it’s squashed for good. I ran each mile as best I could. I have happily accepted exactly where I am at right now, not last year, not last month, but today! Coming to terms with this has been hard. My ego put up a good fight. But man, it feels good to kick that ego to the curb. It feels good to enjoy the run!

Today’s run was perfect! It makes me really excited about the fall races I have coming up!

Cheers to a very happy start!

Cheers to a very happy start!

You can’t Fake the Core

“If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~ Cheryl Strayed

All year I’ve been peeling away the layers. I’ve been seeking out breathing room in nearly every aspect of my life. After a period of my life that felt nearly suffocating, I needed to breathe again. I changed jobs. Our house is being decluttered. I simplified our family life. I took a step back in nearly every aspect of my life. This is what I need. I know it deep inside my core.

I’m meant to live a simple life. I’m meant to live a life full of love. It’s impossible to accomplish this when your life is full of clutter – both physical and emotional.

And yet my running has struggled. I’ve struggled with my relationship with running all year. Injury. Emotional baggage. Mental weakness. I just can’t get over the hump. With my fall race season approaching, I started to panic. I need a training plan. I need to get faster. I need support. My running continued to spiral downward. I don’t want to give up on running. I love running. Should I even be racing at all? I can’t function without running. I’m working on redefining my relationship with my running shoes. Isn’t that enough? Spiraling spiraling downward. And then I bounced back up.

What I need is breathing room!

I already know exactly what I need. My body has been telling me for months (years?).

I need to trust myself. I know how to run. I know how train. Creating my own plan, trusting myself to get me to the finish line, is exactly what I need. I need to empower myself. I need to put my faith back in my own ability. I don’t need a time goal. I just want to do my best.  And I need to listen to my body.

While I was so busy trying to control the outcome of every race, I was ignoring the screams that were coming from my body. I’ve run my body into the ground based on it’s current fitness level. My hips have been rebelling. I feel weaker every time I put on my running shoes.  My body was screaming at me that something needed to change. It was reminding me what I always forget: my running legs aren’t like everyone else’s running legs. They were broken at one point. My femur, my tibia, and my foot broke. They are pieced back together by titanium rods and screws. My hip and knees have been dislocated. I have scar tissue. I have to take care of them. I have to support them. I need to get stronger if I’m going to keep running.

So my training plan is blank minus the few races I’m running this fall. I’ve left space each week for two easy runs, one speed work out, and a long run. I’ve left space for strength workouts. I’ve left space for yoga. How I fill in the space each week will be based on my life – family and work. The blank spaces make me feel alive. The blank space feels like a vote of confidence in myself. I’m smart enough to know how to build mileage. I have run enough speed workouts to select ones that challenge me. I am now smart enough to recognize that my focus has to be on strength and yoga. The running will fall into place.

I’m excited about this new plan. I’m excited to find a balance that works for me. I’m excited to listen to my body in a truly authentic way. It feels amazing to let go of trying to control the outcome. Instead I’m focusing on today, right now, and exactly what my body needs. I have a feeling I’m building the foundation for a very happy running relationship.

I hear you body! I am finally listening!

I finally feel like I am breathing!

 

IMG_3108.JPG

Running and life: always a reflection of each other

Heartbeat

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where our dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” ~Lisa Bu

After I wrote these words on a post a month ago, they have followed me. I have shared so many of my dreams in this space – to run Boston, to work for Operation Smile, to practice yoga with Blissology in Bali, to raise boys that feel connected to the world, to love and live with a whole heart. Some of the dreams are concrete. Some of them are abstract. There isn’t a scale to measure if I’m loving with my whole heart, but Boston has a very specific number attached to it. There isn’t a report card to validate my parenting, but producing at work proves my worth in the organization.

During lunch this week I sat in a room with my coworkers. We watched Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk.

The conversation that existed after we watched this talk hasn’t left me either.

“What you do simply proves what you believe.” ~Simon Sinek

This Ted talk, working in environment that allows me to lead with my heart, has brought clarity to dreams.

Why do I want to run Boston? It’s not because I want to be fast. It is because I want to run the streets of Boston with individuals that have poured their heart and soul into their training. I want to stand at the starting line with individuals as our dreams come true. I want to feel the energy of the town at the finish line. I want to be part of the heartbeat of the marathon.

Why have I always dreamed of working at Operation Smile? Because it’s an organization that believes in healing. It believes that our planet is small, and its our responsibility to care for our neighbors. It’s an organization that cares about individuals and sees beyond appearance, religion, and politics. It is an organization that leads from the heart. You feel it when you walk in the front doors. There is a heartbeat in our building.

Why do I want to practice yoga in Bali on a Blissology retreat? So many of my beliefs have been defined from my time on my yoga mat. There is a heartbeat in the Blissology community that echoes in my own heart. I want to be inspired. I want to absorb the energy it has to offer. I want my heart to beat louder.

Will I ever run Boston? I hope so. Will Operation Smile always be part of my life? I plan on it. Will I ever board a plane to Bali with my yoga mat as my carry on? My heart says yes.

“To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have 4 legs instead of 2. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead.”  ~Elizabeth Gilbert

While these dreams are all tangible, my real dream, the real passion behind why I want to live my life this way, is a heart beat. To run Boston, to work at Operation Smile, and to practice yoga in Bali are all a result of what I believe. They are all a reflection of my real dreams – to raise boys who grow up grateful and aware of their world and to live my life from my heart.  I want to be surrounded by people whose hearts beat as loudly as my own. I want a community of people who love as much as I love.

My family and the things that I do root me. My heart keeps me dreaming. As long as I’m listening to my heartbeat, I’m going to end up where I belong.

IMG_3018.JPG

Sunday Salad: Southwestern Chicken and Spaghetti Squash Salad

Every now and then I get a glimpse of what life looks like without a crazy toddler begging for every second of my attention. Cole is in Florida on a mini vacation with my parents, and Christian was working a beer festival all day, so Chet was my shadow all day. Normally he can be demanding and my day is spent according to his schedule. Today I felt like he become a partner in my schedule. It’s amazing how different that can feel.

Today started off with a run with Heidi while Chet navigated from his stroller. The afternoon was filled with lazy play, and then I got to spend some time in the kitchen with my little sous chef.  We made peach baked oatmeal for an easy breakfast option this week. Dinner was our next task. Tonight we enjoyed Southwestern Chicken and Spaghetti Squash Salad by Eat Live Run. Such a wonderful combinations of foods that I already had in our house thanks to our CSA box from Cullipher Farm. Dinner was delish, and there is plenty for lunch this week!

Ingredients:

for salad —

1 small spaghetti squash

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 orange or red bell pepper, sliced thin

1 bunch cilantro, minced

2 cups shredded green cabbage

2 cups thinly sliced cooked chicken breast (I cooked the chicken in the slow cooker with a jar of salsa and then shredded)

1 cup chopped jicama {optional}

avocado for serving

for zesty buttermilk dressing—

1/2 cup well shaken buttermilk

1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used plain yogurt)

juice of 1 lime

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp cumin

pinch of cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice your spaghetti squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a greased sheet pan and bake for 40 minutes, until very tender. Let squash cool before using a fork to scoop out “spaghetti” and place in a bowl. You can do this step up to three days before you prepare the salad.

Next, make the dressing. Whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

To prepare the salad, place the cooled spaghetti squash in a large serving bowl. Top with black beans, chicken, bell pepper, shredded green cabbage, cilantro and jicama, if using. Toss all ingredients together well. Drizzle dressing over salad {you may not want/need to use all the dressing}.

Serve salad on plates topped with sliced avocado.

**Assembled salad will stay fresh, without dressing and avocado, for up to four days covered in the fridge. Dressing will stay fresh for up to a week and is also great served as a dip with raw veggies

squash

Find my entire collection of salads here.