Friday, July 20, 2012

Food Friday: Lunch lately (+giveaway of sorts)

To say July has been busy might be the understatement of this summer.

We went to Boulder to visit baby Zoe.

We celebrated Miles' first birthday.

There was a little trip to New York.

The fabulous Kelly Benton took Miles' 1-year photos the same weekend that we went to the zoo, the Three Rivers Festival and hung out with my brother, who was in town for a convention.

This weekend, I will head to Cincinnati to see my best girlfriend and next weekend Mark and I are hoping to squeeze in a date night.

While I would like to think I can do it all - be a jet-setter, runner, mom and healthy eater - it's just not possible. Something has got to give, and this month what gave was my meal prep for lunch.

In my ideal world, I plan my lunches a week out and buy any ingredients I need during my weekly grocery trip. I prefer to make one big dish that I can portion out but sandwiches and wraps are a nice change of pace, as well.

I have been stressed trying to find dinner ideas and so I forwent planning, much less prepping, lunch in favor of meals at the hospital, leftovers and whatever else came my way.

Thankfully, the folks at Quorn came to my rescue.

The company that makes all-natural, meat-free frozen foods recently launched a line of frozen entrees and offered me the chance to try them.

About the new entrees:
Perfect for the on-the-go family, a working lunch, or a quick snack, Quorn’s entrées are the meatless alternative we’ve been waiting for. The all-natural, mycoprotein-based entrées satisfy vegetarians and meat-lovers alike as they are an excellent source of protein and fiber but have less fat and fewer calories than their meat-based rivals. The ready to serve meatless Entrées: Kung Pao Chik’n, Spaghetti & Meatless Meatballs and Chilli, will be available nationally in natural food stores and in the natural food section of selected mass retailers. The burritos, Chik’n & Tomato Roasted Corn Salsa and Chipotle Lime Chik’n & Bean, will be available nationally in natural food stores and in the natural food section of selected mass retailers  
I was sent one of each new entree and happily gobbled them up when going out wasn't in the budget and Mark ate the leftovers.

What I thought:

Anytime I try something new, especially something with faux meat, my first bite is always with a bit of trepidation. How fake is it going to taste? Is it going to taste too healthy?

The answer to those questions was not fake and not healthy - in a good way, of course. I really enjoyed just how much flavor the entrees had. The Kung Pao Chik’n, Chilli and the burritos had a lot of kick, and the Spaghetti & Meatless Meatballs was filled with herbs. My favorite was probably the chili, especially topped with a bit of cheese and plain Greek yogurt.

The portion sizes are what you would expect with a frozen meal, especially those with less than 300 calories. While they are protein-packed (a good thing!), I had to supplement them with a little extra. A corn VitaTop with the chili, salad with the spaghetti and soup with the burritos. It does sort of take away from the ease of a grab-and-go meal but I always take a BAG of food to work so it was no biggie to me.

My one complaint about the entrees lies with the burritos. The burritos are hefty in calories, to me at least, coming in close to 400. I try to keep my entire lunch to 400 calories and supplementing it with soup and a small treat, I went well over my daily budget. The products are full of natural ingredients and the spaghetti featured wheat noodles but I think the burritos may have been white flour. I like white flour tortillas but part of me expected wheat.

Final thoughts:

I would definitely eat these again, especially if they were on sale as the entrees have a suggested retail price of $4.99. I sometimes feel guilty eating processed frozen meals but I felt good about the Quorn products. The company touts using all natural ingredients, and I could see chunks of vegetable in the burritos and liked the wheat spaghetti noodles. They were high in fiber and protein, low in fat and reasonable in calories.

Of course, you don't have to believe me.

The folks at Quorn were kind enough to share the love with y'all and sent me some coupons. OK, not just some - a lot. I have 25 envelopes sealed, stamped and return addresses on them, each with two coupons for a free Quorn product and four $1 off any Quorn product coupons.

Want me to send you one? I'll make it easy on you ... sort of. Email me at hlthystrides at gmail dot com, sharing with me which entree you'd most like to try and your address. The first 25 to send an email get an envelope.

A splishin' and a splashin

Today was going to be a rest day but somehow I ended up at the pool.

Wearing a swimsuit.

If any of you are from readers from my early blog days, you might remember some feeble, ill-fated attempts at swimming laps. I didn't know proper swim technique and lacked the motivation to put in the effort required to better myself. The cross-training activity was quickly replaced with strength training DVDs and yoga, and I haven't been back since.

Until today.

Before you get excited about the prospect of a triathlon and all the training updates that would go with it, I am no way ready for a three-event race. I am barely getting through each week of marathon training without adding the stress of a new sport. Today's visit to the pool and my lovely outfit came by request of someone very special.


For the past six weeks, Mark and Miles have been attending "Mommy & Me" swim sessions at the nearby high school natatorium. I have been anxious to go, and I was able to go into work early today so that I could join them for the 11 a.m. class.

It was my intention to sit on the bench and take pictures but Mark encouraged me to be the Mommy and hop in the water. At first, I thought he was being nice but by the end of the 45 minutes, I had different feelings on the subject.

The instructor prepped me for the class I entered the water, warning me that the class was more of a workout for the "Mommy" than it was the baby.

Yeah. She was right.

We started by jogging circles in the shallow end, all the while holding our children or kids we picked up off the street. We alternated which shoulder/hip that we had the baby on as we turned corners and were encouraged to bring up our knees as high as possible.

"Break the water, ladies," the instructor encouraged.

Mmm, hmm. Easy for you to say, lady, when you are holding a dummy baby that weighs a couple pounds on the edge of the pool. You are asking me to lift my 22-pound 1-year-old over my head as I do jumping jacks, skiers and lunges. To give me a break, I am supposed to push him and his soaking wet diaper in and out. The paddling with a baby, one who can't control legs on command, is a cinch, too.

I can't fault the instructor, though. She warned me: This was a workout for the parent. I'm just not sure how many parents did BODYPUMP last night.

Thankfully, the class went by relatively quickly and Miles seems to be amused, albeit mildly, by his time in the water. I think he enjoyed seeing what other people were doing and holding a rubber turtle while I worked. It's important for him to have fun with the water and have a positive association with swimming, in my opinion, so no matter how much I struggle taping tomorrow, it will be worth it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pumped up

It was just like any other BODYPUMP class over the past three months.


I got there 15 minutes early to help set up, passing out plates, bars and clips. I talked to my co-instructor Corey and said hi to C. I went to the bathroom, got a drink of water and took a deep breath. When the clock struck 6:15, Corey went through set stance and I hit play.

It was time to work.

And like the other classes, Corey led the warm-up and taught the back, bicep, shoulders and lunge tracks while I took on squats, chest, triceps, abs and cool down. My BIC Band still acted as a makeshift way to keep the microphone in place. I still dreaded the twisting mountain climbers. My old jokes abounded: I reminded participants that the third time's the charm for round three of tricep extensions, and I called super slow squats a gentle way to wake-up the legs as I always do.

But somethings were different.

♦ I lifted more weight. Three months of at least twice-weekly PUMP classes has left me stronger and more toned than ever. I still have to be mindful that a class is not my workout and my the bicep track is challenging but I can lift like the guys ... who are new to class.

♦ I didn't get lost in the choreography. You might think this is a given but it's been almost two weeks since I taught in front of people, and it's easy to forget things if you don't listen to the music regularly. I missed a couple of coaching cues but nothing that anyone would have noticed. The real gain is that I didn't let it flummox me.

♦ I had no fear. I used to have scripting sheets and my guide, which I would obsessively read before a class. I would listen to the music non-stop all day and talk myself through the class on the drive to the gym. I could feel the anxiety fill my body as I went through the preparation each day. Call it familiarity with the class or adaptation but I wasn't scared. Not even the slightest. I've taught by myself twice now (in addition to numerous team teachings), and those experiences really showed me that if I am confident and have fun, participants will have fun. They certainly aren't going to obsess over the fact that I missed a coaching cue or told a bad joke the way I did. Why should I?

♦ Perhaps the most important way this class differed from others is that it is, more than likely, the last one I have someone up there with me. This day could be the very last time I was teaching a class as a trainee.

On Saturday, I will attempt a second taping of a class and, assuming it goes well, the DVD will be shipped off to Les Mills for assessment. It takes up to eight weeks to find out whether I passed officially but beginning July 28, I will be taking over the Saturday class at the gym. At 8:45 a.m. each weekend, I will be in front of the studio guiding participants through all 10 tracks. I can tell corny jokes for an entire hour. I will be paid to work out.

And that, ladies and gents, is awesome.

Three Things Thursday: Wet, wild and wonderful

"I picked the wrong summer to train for a marathon," I told someone on the phone yesterday.

It's been hot. It's been humid. It's been all around gut-wrenching. The one thing it hasn't been is wet  -- unless you count my back, which I often describe as a slip-n-slide.

Until today.

Isolated thunderstorms were predicted throughout the night into this morning, and Mark and I woke up to a ferocious lightning show. My lovely husband rolled over and said, "I guess you'll be hitting the treadmill this morning."

I almost clocked him.

1. So, yeah, I ran on the treadmill. Six effing miles that were supposed to be easy but since running on the treadmill for me is about as easy as making Indian food, it was work. I have yet to get my iTunes collection from my old hard drive so I found myself listening to old podcasts from Another Mother Runner. Sweet grilled cheesus, they helped. They kept me engaged and entertained and while unable to make me run faster than a 10-minute mile, I did get in a groove.

2. I tweeted about this morning's saving grace, and I got a reply from Dimity. I always feel super cool when like uber cool, like for real famous (to me) people, reply to tweets. I think it's why I love Nike so much. Their social media team is kick ass, and the folks behind @NikeRunning always respond to tweets and even remember that your training for stuff.

3. You love my skirt that I wore in yesterday's post. And why wouldn't you? It's pretty dern cute. I got it Old Navy - same for the top. I love that it has just a hint of orange and fuchsia in it, making it easy and fun to style. I wear it to work with the orange shirt and on the weekends with a fuchsia tank. The skirt comes in two other colors, which aren't as cute, and it's on sale (online at least) for 15 smackaroos.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dinner tonight: Dude, it's ranch

Before I tell you this, I will admit that I am probably the last person on the planet besides my grandma who was ignorant to its wonders.

My friends, I have discovered Instagram. OK, not so much as discovered Instagram as much as now have the capability to use Instagram.

Up until last week, I had a Sony Ericson Xperia. It was a decent enough phone, and I liked that I didn't have to pay any money for it (with a new contract). However, it always felt like I had got it only because I didn't want to spend money on an iPhone. It didn't have some of the functionality that I had seen with Mark's iPhone, and the photos were definitely lacking. It took forever to load emails or any data for that matter, and I used it basically to call, text and play Angry Birds.

I had to replace my laptop last week so Mark and I figured that we should bite the proverbial bullet and empty a sizable chunk of my paycheck at Best Buy. Asus computer and an iPhone it would be for me. The computer is lovely but the phone is beautiful. It is my friend and I shall name her Penny.

Penny has made my life so much easier. OK, not really, but it has encouraged me to take more photos including some in the kitchen - like the Southwest Ranch Chicken Stuffed Potatoes I made for dinner tonight. They might not have made it on the blog before (find camera, take photos, upload photos, blog) but with the wonders of Instagram and its filters making lighting less of an issue, I had to snap a photo when I was prepping them.

This dinner is wonderful in that you can prep every thing in the morning, time permitting, and merely bake the potatoes when you get home from work. I served the dish with boiled then grilled local corn that I got in my Green B.E.A.N. delivery and zucchini from my garden.

I had gone out merely to check on things only to discover that I had one giant zucchini and a very cute baby one. I was so excited! So much so that I almost forgot about the potatoes in the oven.

Mark and I really enjoyed this dish. The flavors were subtle but identifiable, and it was a nice change from the regular grilled chicken + potato/starch + vegetable.

Southwest Ranch Chicken Stuffed Potatoes

Four potatoes
3 wedges Laughing Cow Queso Fresco & Chipotle
2 teaspoons dry ranch dressing mix
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup milk
1 to 1.5 cups cooked chicken, cubed (I grilled mine with additional ranch dressing mix as seasoning)
1/2 cup 2% shredded cheddar cheese
2 scallions, sliced
Toppings, as desired: Sour cream, Greek yogurt, salsa, chopped bacon

Scrub potatoes and slit to vent. Bake in a 400-degree oven for an hour or until cooked. Allow to cool to the touch.

Once potatoes are cool, cut in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving a quarter- to half-inch border around the skin. Put the scooped potato in a bowl. Add Laughing Cow wedges and ranch mix, mashing with a fork. Pour milk over potatoes, starting with 1/4 cup, adding more as necessary. Be mindful not to overwork as potatoes can become gummy. Fold in the chicken. Divide mashed mixture evenly among the potato shells. At this point, you can place potatoes on cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap, refrigerating until ready to bake.

Lower oven to 350 degrees. Top potatoes with cheese and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are slightly golden. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and serve.

Tried and True: A product review

There are three things that people say to me when they tell me they saw me on the "Today Show."

1. How nice of Joy Bauer to say you looked like a model.

2. I wished they would have talked to you more.

3. Kathie Lee and Hoda sure didn't give your drink a try.

Sing it, sistas.

When I go back and watch the video, the reaction of the fourth-hour hosts to the True Lemon-spiked water is the one thing that mars the experience. Sure, it looked slightly discolored and it was warm but they had decided it would be off and it was.

To them.

For me? Well, I have come to not only enjoy but rely on True Citrus products.

About True Citrus:
At True Citrus, our goal is to meet the needs of today's consumer by creating innovative, high quality food products that offer taste and convenience while complimenting a healthy diet and providing value for consumer's money.

Add a burst of citrus taste to your recipes and beverages with 100% all-natural True Lemon®, and True Lime™ and True Orange™. Deliver authentic, fresh-squeezed taste in an easy, consistent and shelf-stable format with no labor, waste, or mess! Each serving contains: 0 calories, 0 carbohydrates,  0 grams sugar, 0 grams fat, no preservatives, no artificial colors, no sodium, gluten-free and 25 percent of RDA of Vitamin C. 
How I use True Citrus:

We all know that I love Diet Coke. More than love Diet Coke. I'd probably drink it with breakfast, during  a run and before I went to bed if I didn't let common sense and nutrition prevail.

However, common sense and knowing that I should drink water doesn't make it easier. I've become quite fond of the True Lime and True Grapefruit packets, which are crystallized fruit that is just like squeezing a wedge of fruit in your water. The grapefruit is fresh and the lime reminds me of margaritas. I don't really like margaritas so it's odd that I like it but I'm a complex woman. Deal.

Some of you may always have citrus fruits (or strawberry - do try this in water) in your refrigerator to add flavor to your water and thus negating the need for True Citrus. But I don't. Why? I forget about it, for one; two, I don't want to run up the grocery bill that won't get used entirely; and three ... who carries a grapefruit in their purse for office use?

I usually have a box with a variety of flavors in my desk drawer so that if I know I need water but the vending machine is calling that I can fight off the urge for at least 10 minutes while I chug my water. Chugging water = good, especially in this heat and marathon training.

I also like the more Crystal Light-like packets that are Raspberry Lemonade flavored. I get the sugary sweet taste I want under the delusion that I'm being healthful and without the caffeine. The lemonade also has Stevia as opposed to artificial sweeteners - a fact that I appreciate.

True Citrus also has products that are more cooking specific, and I've used True Lemon and True Orange in my dishes. I used True Lemon in my Healthier Chicken Parmesan on Sunday to brighten the flavor, and I used True Orange in the carrot zucchini muffins that I made for Miles. I think you could easily sub True products when a recipe calls for citrus zest and your lemon is shriveled in the back of the crisper.

In sum:

I like True Citrus. It makes me drink water. Eff you Kathie Lee and Hoda - not all of us can drink wine for a living.

Want to try it?

The 500-count boxes of True Lemon, True Lime and True Grapefruit are 50 percent off this month. Originally $32.99, you can now snag 'em for $16.50 each. (What a deal!) Ten-count, 32-count, 2-quart, and 2.85-ounce shaker products are also 50 percent off + $2.95 shipping too! Just use promo TRUEJULY at checkout on

Disclaimer: I received True Citrus products for free in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own and y'all know I have no problem sharing things I don't like.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

When in doubt, go shopping

There are things I wish I could do.

I wish I could run in the morning and have time to properly style hair. I wish I could wear high heels without wanting to throw them across the room after 30 minutes. And I wish I could trust adults to, well, act like adults.

My tweet says it all. Or all that I can really say.

I don't really do well with bad work days or stress in general, and it's my first instinct to think about food. I just dealt with this horrible situation so I think I earned Peanut M&Ms. I'm having a terrible day; I think Mark should bring me an iced coffee. I want to physically maim someone - I wonder if German chocolate funnel cake would take the edge off.

By the way, there is such a thing as German chocolate funnel cake and it is less than a mile from my office right now. And it's $2 Tuesday. But I resist ... and digress.

While food can be comforting, shopping can be just as therapeutic. I often used to wander the mall in Sandusky, Ohio, on my bad days. I didn't necessarily buy anything but there was comfort in feeling the clothes between my fingers and the accent lights never failed to shift the mood. Heading out to the mall at 11 a.m. on a workday when I should have been working is bad practice so I did what any cubicle dweller would do:

I web browsed. Quite literally.

I looked at gear and shoes and though I had the urge to max out my credit card, I emptied my shopping cart before heading onto a new "store." Here are some of the things I found and am loving.

Nike printed Tempo shorts
Nike Dri-FIT Glam-It Indy tank
Nike Pro Core Subliminated Workout Bra
Nike Free 3.0 Women's Running Shoes

lululemon run for your money tank - I think I tried this on in Boulder but I let Mark dissuade me from getting it.

Columbus Marathon in training shirt. I think it might help guilt me into some runs when I think dropping down to the half seems like a good idea.

I love pretty much anything at Banana Republic but this outfit spoke to me. I love the crop pants and need a pair in black to go with this shirt I got at Kohl's over the weekend. I also like the other pieces and the overall versatility of them.

Shampure from Aveda. This is my go-to shampoo and though a bit pricey, it goes a long way and is worth the splurge. I'm out right now and have been forced to use trial-size bottles I've picked up at hotels. We have a new Aveda Experience store set to open this summer, and I'm trying to hold out in the event they have some kick ass deals. And samples. I like samples.

What are you loving?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Marathon Monday: Week 5

I am training for the Columbus Marathon and following the "Train Like A Mother" finish it plan. These posts document my training.

This week, in running:

Monday: 6.65 miles, easy (in Central Park!)
Wednesday: 3 miles, easy
Thursday: 5.07 miles, tempo
Sunday: 12.1 miles, long (was supposed to be 13 but stomach made it difficult)

I only ran four times this week. Only four.

I never thought I would be someone to type a sentence like that. I felt like four times a week running was my sweet spot, and I didn't dare do more for fear of injuring myself. However, the "Train Like a Mother" plan alternates between four days a week and five days a week running. And I try to do what the plan says.

Emphasis on try.

While I've failed to nail workouts, a combo of fueling, heat and hydration issues, I've felt no stress with the five-day weeks. The extra day of running is usually a lighter day, an easy 3 miler per se, and I find the short, no expectation runs to be good for the soul. I've actually began to so look forward to those runs that I actually felt myself kind of lost this past week when I didn't have a run to fill in a canceled BODYPUMP class (local festival/parade closed the gym).

I ran through all of my options - do nothing, do Pump in the basement, do something else in the basement - when I remembered I still had a punch card for Piloxing and there's a Friday morning class that I can sort of work into my schedule.

To say I was excited about the prospect would be to put it mildly. I was going to get to wake up, eat a full breakfast, relax and then work out with one of my favorite instructors. While she kicked my butt, I would also get to take some mental notes on ways I could improve my classes.

Just one thing - there was a sub. A sub in the form of Abel, who had previously kicked my butt two ways from Sunday with his crazy cardio-intensive kickboxing class.

And did I mention that I was the only one who showed up?

It could have been a bit awkward to say the least but I decided to embrace the opportunity to have a one-on-one class. Abel is all about cardio conditioning, and we lapped the room, did footwork and burpees to spike the heart rate. We also did squat-like dips as we punched and elbowed potential attackers.

The session finished up with abs. Abel guided me through three exercises that I can do at home. He said to focus on doing 10 or so reps and building up from there. I've actually been looking for ways (in addition to BODYPUMP) to strengthen my core, and I am excited to have something in my arsenal that I can do in 10 minutes while I watch TV.

Not so exciting? The sweat stain I left on the gym floor after completing said exercises.

The first time I took a class from Abel, it would be safe to say that I didn't embrace it. It was hard and much different than what I was anticipating. This time, though, I could only think about how such conditioning could make me a better runner - especially some of the footwork that focused on light, quick steps. In a perfect world, I might even do the class once a week.

Well, the weeks with only four runs.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday night dinner

It's Sunday night. Six o'clock to be precise. Mark and Miles are seated at the dining room table, and I am carrying a serving platter with a beautiful pot roast. My boys smile at me as I slice the meat and pile their plates high with root vegetables. We have a nice, healthful family meal as soft music plays in the background. We talk and laugh at each other's wit.

Wit is making us laugh. Wit and charm. We are not amused because one of us decides to take video of Miles pooping in his high chair. I did mention that this scenario was a fantasy, right?

Our normal Sunday night dinner is far from the big family meal I would like to be. I tend to cook a more involved meal on Saturday, leaving Sunday to be something quick and simple. Our weekends have been go, go, go this summer and whatever meal I have prepared, we can barely get ourselves to TV trays in front of the couch much less a table.

Tonight, though, was different. Tonight was a Sunday dinner. We enjoyed a healthful meal and each other's company though one of us may or may not have taken a video of Miles doing, well ...

We'll save that for another time. We're at the table.

Healthy family dinner

Lighter Chicken Parmesan

16 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 1.5-2 breasts)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning*
1 teaspoon True Lemon*
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt*
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese*
8 ounces whole wheat rotini or pasta of choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices mozzarella cheese
4 ounces baby spinach
1 jar marinara sauce or 3 cups homemade

*I just sprinkled and dumped these herbs and seasonings. Exact measurements not required.

Place chicken in glass baking dish and cover with buttermilk. Allow to marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, turning every hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack on top of the baking sheet.

In a large, shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, True Lemon, salt and cheese. Mix well with a fork. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and coat evenly with bread crumbs; place on wire rack. The wire rack allows heat to circulate around the chicken for even baking and no soggy bottom. Bake for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium high heat.

Remove chicken from oven. Using tongs, move the breasts to the saute pan, cooking about 2 minutes. Flip. Add mozzarella cheese to top of breast and cook 2 minutes more. Place chicken on plate and set aside. Add spinach to saute pan and cook until just beginning to wilt. Pour in marinara, stirring in spinach, and cooking until sauce is hot. Add pasta to the pan, tossing to coat, and re-warm the pasta.

Serve 1 cup of pasta mixture with 3 ounces of chicken. Makes 4 servings.

Enjoy heartily. At the table, of course.