Mission Accomplished

In June 2011 I set a goal to run a 5K within the following few months. Weeeellllll, I started medical school and just didn’t really feel like I had the time or ability to do it. This past spring, my medical school class announced it was going to host a 5K as a fundraiser, a night glow run entitled “Ready, Set, Glow!.” I decided that I would make it my goal to complete this 5K. I started thinking about how I would train myself to run those long 3.1 miles, a seemingly difficult feat considering I had never run a full mile without walking at some point. I pushed myself to run the full distance (no walking allowed) about a month ago and decided I should start doing runs of at least 2.5 miles every other day until the race. I’m happy to say I never missed a run, and I actually really enjoyed the longer runs. In the days before the race, I started to get a little nervous that I might not be able to make it. I had made such a big deal about running my first 5K to my family and friends that I was scared I may have jinxed myself. I was fortunate that my parents happened to be in town and they got to join in on my excitement (thanks Mom and Dad!). Arriving at the race was a bit overwhelming. My classmate, Kelly, who planned the race did an AWESOME job at organizing and advertising the race. We had over 600 participants, which is basically unheard of for a first time race. Props to Kelly and my other classmates that planned everything, they did a great job!! I got even more nervous before the race when a torrential downpour was unleashed only 30 minutes before race time. What if I had done all this work and the race got cancelled?! Thank goodness it didn’t, we waited a little while for the rain to lighten up and were able to run even though a light rain continued.
If you’ve never run a race before, it’s an interesting thing to try. In the beginning, everyone is crammed into one place, some try to edge their way to the front to position themselves to win, while others hang around in a more nonchalant fashion. I think I was somewhere in between; I knew I wasn’t going to win, but I still wanted to do well on a personal level. The few times that I had run the full 3.1 miles, I averaged around 37 minutes so, that was my goal. As soon as a race begins it’s like a stamped of people trying to get the best position possible, you almost have to sprint to avoid getting trampled. Needless to say, I started out with a faster pace than I’m used to. I tried to slow it down some so that I wouldn’t wear out, but I think there is something about running with a ton of people that makes you go faster. I didn’t want to get passed by everyone (especially not any of the walkers) so I kept a slightly faster pace than my usual. I struggled a little during the race because I was unfamiliar with the route and didn’t know how much further I had to go. I ended up making it to the finish line in 33 minutes, which was 4 minutes faster than the goal I had set for myself! That was a great feeling.
Now that I’ve accomplished my goal, what do I do? I think I’ve decided that I’ll cycle back through my running and walking routine and then try to do a 5K at least once a year from now on. The key to setting goals, is to make sure you can accomplish them, I think I can handle one 5K a year for now. Hopefully my theory that changing up your exercise routine is beneficial holds to be true. Now for a couple recipes.

Cod Cakes
Most of you know that I keep cod in my freezer to pull out if I’m in need of a quick meal. Normally I make it the same way every time, but I was anxious to try something new last week. I’m pretty sure I followed all of the directions on this one and didn’t make any adjustments. I did cut the recipe in half since I was only cooking for myself, which made it a little difficult when it came to measuring out the egg. My measurement for that may have been slightly off because I did have a little trouble making everything stick together properly. The method for cooking the cod was interesting and something I had never heard of. You bring milk to a boil in a sauce pan, add the fish, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes. I tasted one piece before adding the other ingredients and it was delicious! I guess the sweetness of the milk helped out with that, but I may try it again in the future. Everything was pretty simple after cooking the cod; you just break it up and mix it in with the other ingredients to form a cake/patty. Then you brown it in a skillet for about five more minutes. I’m adding this one to my list of favorites! Click here for the recipe.

Southwestern Scallop Salad
I guess I’ve been on a little bit of a fish kick lately. This is the second week in a row that I’ve blogged about scallops. They are so good though! Plus, I bought a bag of frozen ones and want to use them before they sit in the freezer for six months. This is another one of those “toss everything together and eat” recipes. You pan sear the scallops after marinating them for a few minutes, cook some rice, and add some veggies and spices. I ended up using a leftover veggie mix from a recipe earlier in the week. It had all of the same ingredients plus zucchini, you could pretty much add whatever your favorites are. Everything went well together for this one, and it was pretty filling due to the rice and veggies. There’s not much else to that one. Click here for the recipe.

Herbed Ice Cubes
My friend John made a request that I blog about how to make ice cubes last week. I don’t want to let my fans down, but I felt like regular ice cubes might be a bit boring (sorry John). Instead, I decided to try something that I had been wanting to try for a while. I’ve talked several times about how much I like to use the fresh herbs that I grow, they make everything so much more delicious! But, what am I supposed to do in the winter when my herb plants die? I’ll have to pay $3 for a package of herbs that I’ll only use once. Unless….. I freeze them. My mom has mentioned trying this and then I saw some easy directions for doing so on Pinterest. Since I had a special request I figured I’d give it a try. They seem like they’ve worked out great so far, but I won’t use them until it’s too cold for my herbs to grow on their own. I’ll have to keep you posted on that. All you do is place fresh herbs with olive oil, canola oil, chicken broth or vegetable broth into an ice tray and place in the freezer for 24 hours. You can leave them in the tray or pop them out into ziploc bags. I put mine in separate ziploc bags because I did some of basil and some of rosemary. Be careful when you’re making the transfer from ice tray to ziploc, they can start to melt fast! Click here to see the directions. Here are the before and after shots.

 


 

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Struggling

I mentioned a couple months ago that I felt like I was slipping back into the routine of letting myself cheat on my healthy diet. I worked on getting back on track, which was difficult with the different trips that I took throughout the summer. I felt like I did pretty well though. However, over the past couple of weeks, it’s been more difficult for me to stay on track. I’ve been having a few extra bites at dinner every now and then, eating out more than usual, and getting ice cream on the reg (it’s my weakness). It’s almost as if I can feel every slightly unhealthy choice that I’ve made over the past few weeks; I feel just a little heavier and lazier. I find myself wanting to cave on my gluttonous cravings, and sometimes I do.
It’s been quite a while since I first noticed the results of all my hard work, and it’s getting harder to remember what that felt like. Realizing that all my exercise and dieting paid off and being able to feel the healthy differences in my body was an awesome feeling, but, unfortunately, it’s a feeling that doesn’t last. Once you’ve achieved your goal, you have to keep working just as hard, if not harder to maintain what you’ve worked so hard for. While that feeling of achievement is a great thing, I’d rather not have to feel it again. That would mean I’d have to gain 15-20 pounds, realize that I needed to lose it, and start all over in the quest to regain my health. So, I think I’ll try to stick with what I’ve got. Even though I’ve been struggling to stay on track lately, I know that I don’t want to go back to the place I was last year and I’m hoping that will be enough motivation to keep me going. If not, I’ll just have to post motivational signs all over my house telling me to get it together and work out and stop eating ice cream. If you’re working on getting or staying healthy, just remember that you can do it. It’s not an easy task at times, but it can be made easier if you remind yourself of your goal. Here are some really great recipes for you to try!!

Grilled Scallop Salad
I know a lot of people don’t like scallops; I thought I didn’t for a while, but then I tried them and I think they’re great! If you’ve never had them, try them out, they have a light buttery flavor. Now, this recipe is meant for the grill, but I just wasn’t in the mood to set the grill up, so I pan sauteed the scallops and cucumber. I would not recommend sautéing the cucumber if you decide to skip the grill, it ends up having a bitter flavor. It might be good on the grill though. The only things I replaced in the recipe were the watermelon and mint. I used strawberries and basil instead because I already had them both at home. The dressing was really simple, just olive oil and lime juice. I absolutely loved this salad! There were so many different flavors that work so well together. The lime gives a nice tartness, the strawberries are sweet, and the avocados are just delicious. You must try this out!! Click here for the recipe.

Lemon Basil Chicken
If any of you actually make these recipes, you’re probably ready for my basil plant to die. I’ve started using it in almost everything I make, it’s just so yummy. Anyway, Michael, Caroline and I had this for dinner last week and it was really great. We ended up putting the chicken in the oven for about 20 minutes because it got a little too browned on the outside before it was quite done on the inside. I followed all the directions for this one and everything turned out really well. The sauce was good too, I forgot to put it on my plate before I took the picture though. The sauce would actually also make a really good vegetable dip. Click here for the recipe.

 

Back to the Real World

After a nice and relaxing summer, it’s finally time for me to return to school. I thought I was ready to go back so that I could get back into a steady routine, but we started classes this past Monday and it’s been more difficult than I anticipated. The last few weeks of my precious summer break were pretty unoccupied. I got used to getting up and going for a run, then lounging around the house for a while and then, filling my day with whatever I felt like doing. Sometimes that included running errands, which turned into unnecessary shopping sprees a few times (one good reason I’m back in school, too busy for those outings!). Having essentially nothing to do was especially nice when the Olympics were in session, I was basically glued to the TV; it was fun to see events I had never seen before, like synchronized swimming and trampoline. Making the transition from the couch to the classroom has been more work than I thought. It’s been difficult to sit still, pay attention, and keep myself from surfing the internet (something I never used to do in class). I’ve also had a hard time making myself study outside of class. I finally got some things done last night and this morning and I’m going to attempt to study this afternoon, but I’m still not totally back in the swing of things. Hopefully I’ll get it together soon and get back into the routine of studying pretty much all day every day. On the brighter side, I’m pretty excited to say that I now own my first stethoscope, it’s purple and has my name engraved on it (Look out y’all, I’m getting more and more official every day!). Anyway, I’ve managed to cook up some pretty delicious recipes the past couple weeks and I’m eager to share them. I have three today and then I’ll post another set early next week in a short post since I was a little behind on posting this week.

 

Stuffed Cod
I posted a recipe a few weeks ago about stuffed flounder that I made with my family at the beach. I decided to give it a try again at home, but the grocery store didn’t have any fresh flounder. I decided to go with cod instead since I’m used to cooking it and I knew I liked it’s flavor. I was a little worried at first because it’s thicker and more firm than flounder, but everything turned out great. I now think that this stuffing will go great with just about anything– pork chops, chicken, or any kind of fish. If you’re using a thicker or firmer piece of meat like I did, you’ll need to either pound it out (if possible) or cut into it from the side (like you would a hoagie roll for a sandwich), which is what I chose for the cod. For the stuffing, all you need to do is cook one bag of instant brown, wild, or whole grain rice then sauté whatever veggies you’d like to add in about 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Mix the rice and veggies and add any cooked seafood or sausage that you like. I used celery, green pepper, and onion for my veggies and seasoned them with Tony Cachere’s and Rendezvous Seasonings to my liking. I then stuffed the fish like a sandwich and seasoned the fish the same way. Bake your choice of meat until done and enjoy. This will make four to five servings depending on how big your pieces of meat are. Mine was too big, but I ate it all anyway because it was so good (I’m working on getting that under control again). In my opinion making the stuffing with rice is a little healthier than using white bread crumbs, anything with whole grains gives you some good nutrients. This is a really simple recipe, that’s easy to make and fun to play around with. I hope you’ll try it out sometime!

Spicy Basil Chicken
Everyone knows I love basil. I’ve been using it a lot more frequently since I have it growing in a pot on my front porch. I received this recipe by email and was a little hesitant to try it because spicy and basil just don’t seem to go together and I’m not the hugest fan of spicy food. I decided I should take a step outside my comfort zone and give it a try, and I’m glad I did. The recipe came with instructions for a couple different side dishes, but I just went with plain snap beans. As you can see I added a little too much salt; I had to dust them off a little before I actually ate. You basically cook the chicken in a skillet and add the sauce just before its done so it can thicken up. I followed the recipe and used their suggested substitution of soy sauce for fish sauce since I already had soy sauce in the cabinet. The chili paste definitely gives the chicken a kick that will clear your sinuses. It wasn’t too spicy though, I thought it was just right for me. The basil kind of counter balanced it with a nice fresh flavor that worked well with the other spices. Once again this was quick and easy and would make a great appetizer dish for a party. Not only was it a great dinner, but it made good leftovers too! Click here for the recipe.

Avocado, Corn, Zucchini Wraps
Last week I had chosen Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas as one of my recipes to make, but somehow, I never got around to it. I was going out of town for the weekend, but I had already bought the ingredients and I didn’t want them to go to waste. Before leaving last Friday, I wasn’t really in the mood for my usual salad at lunch, so I just decided I would whip something up that was similar to the tostadas recipe. I sautéed the fresh corn, zucchini, and a shallot with some olive oil and added cumin and crushed red pepper as seasoning. I made some plain guacamole with one avocado (made enough for two wraps, I shared with Caroline).  Using a whole wheat tortilla, I spread the guacamole on the bottom, added the warm corn mixture, a little cheddar jack cheese, and topped it with some fresh cilantro. It was so yummy! I’ve probably said a million times how much I like Mexican food because of all the spices that make it so delicious. This one was no exception. The cumin, crushed red pepper and cilantro gave a good spicy flavor, but the avocado and cheese balanced it out perfectly. This was a perfect size lunch all by itself, the avocado really made it filling, so I didn’t need anything else to go along with it. This one took me about ten minutes to make, which is perfect if you’re running home for lunch one day. Give it a try!!

A Taste of the Mediterranean

Last week I mentioned that I finally made myself sign up for a 5K. I hadn’t run the full distance but I figured I could make it happen within the next three weeks. Well, on Sunday, it just so happened that I felt like going a little further on my run and I ended up going the full 5K distance; I did it again today. I set this goal for myself last year and it feels great to finally accomplish it. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep myself motivated after I complete the race. Over the past week, I ended up making a couple mediterranean recipes that were really great. I hadn’t planned on having two Mediterranean dishes, but conveniently, it turned out that way. I’ve always liked Greek and Mediterranean food, but other than making Greek salad, I’ve never really made it myself. I’ll definitely be adding these to my list of favorite recipes.

Mediterranean Orzo
This is a quick recipe that can really work for any meal or  even an afternoon snack. I think my sister and I had it warm, but it would be great chilled as well. If you’ve never tried it, orzo is a rice shaped pasta; I always use whole wheat. Be sure you measure out your serving sizes with orzo, it’s small, so it’s easy to overestimate the amount you need. The other main ingredients are sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, artichokes and feta cheese. I used the feta cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and spices to give a little extra flavor. My sister and I both liked it a lot. I think we were feeling like having a light dinner, so we didn’t have it with anything else. You could always serve it as a side though; it would go great with chicken or fish. You could even add shrimp to make it a more filling main dish on its own. Click here for the recipe.

Mediterranean Flounder with Tomato Sauce
I’m always looking for new fish recipes to try. I usually keep cod in the freezer and make it pretty frequently with lemon pepper and garlic seasonings. I came across this recipe a few days ago and really wanted to give it a try. I used flounder instead of snapper because it was the best fresh option at the grocery store. Plus, I know I like flounder, so that made it an easy decision. The Mediterranean tomato sauce is what really adds the flavor. I used cherry tomatoes instead of plum tomatoes, and Kalamata olives instead of capers. I’ve used these olives to replace capers in another dish; they’re both salty/briny and I like and use Kalamata olives more than capers, so it works better for me. The sauce also has a few fresh herbs that make it really flavorful. One is tarragon, which I don’t think I’ve ever used. To me, it tastes similar to licorice, it’s kind of bitter, but worked really well with everything. The dijon mustard added a bit of sweet but tangy flavor that I really enjoyed. The only “mistake” I think I made was using too much olive oil to cook my fish. It ended up being a little too oily, so next time I think I’ll use cooking spray, less olive oil, or possibly just bake the fish instead of pan roasting. Give this one a try, it’s really good! Click here for the recipe.

A Quick Smoothie
I don’t make smoothies often, but I was strangely in the mood for one the other day after a run. I had some yogurt that I needed to use, so I figured I’d just toss something together. I used 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, about 3/4-1 cup of mixed frozen berries, and a banana. I blended everything up and enjoyed a nice, sweet, cool, and healthy treat for breakfast. Smoothies are super easy to throw together and are usually pretty healthy. Using frozen fruit makes it easy because you don’t have to worry about ice, which I think can dilute the flavor of the fruit. I saw a similar idea for a slushy on Pinterest the other day that I might try next time I’m in the mood for a frozen treat. It used fresh strawberries, ice and diet seven up. If I make it, I think I’ll try the same thing but use my flavored sparkling water instead. I’ll let you know how that works out if I give it a try.