Friday, May 31, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Feeling blessed

Last night Steve and I had a really great night. We got to run along a parkway in beautiful, summer-like weather, grilled out some Italian sausages and chicken, went shopping (JoAnn Fabrics had a grand opening sale) and then watched a storm roll through.

When the grill was going and the house was filled with wonderful smells, Steve came in the kitchen and said, "I really love our life." He recognized all the little things that added up to one big feeling of thankfulness for all that we have. I asked him, "Feeling blessed, huh?" He just smiled at me and went to check the grill.

Do you ever have those clear moments of feeling blessed? Last night was so nice just to get to spend time together and enjoy all the little things. However, I will be the first to admit that this does not happen all the time! Just this morning, I was telling a friend how I was so frustrated at all the people who walk down city streets instead of using the perfectly good (and safer!) sidewalks just a few feet away from them. Worrying over their safety (and my road rage) wasn't going to help anyone. Worrying about anything doesn't make it better or safer or happier. Worrying just makes you stressed out!

In the chapter 6 of Matthew, Jesus reminds us that worrying doesn't add an hour to your life or do anything beneficial (verse 27). Doesn't that just show that we aren't trusting God? He takes care of every living thing. He loves what he created! He blesses us every day. Countless times the Bible reminds us that God cares for us from Abraham to Noah to Esther to Ruth to David to Solomon to Daniel to Jonah to Mary to the disciples and apostles. He didn't promise it would be easy, but he did promise to care for you.

Did you ever see the movie "Anne of Green Gables"? In the movie, Anne Shirley's teacher reminds her that "each day is a new day with no mistakes in it yet". It kind of sounds like Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." It's true. 

I hope you all have a chance to feel blessed today and everyday. Let's let tomorrow worry about itself, and enjoy all the blessings God has for us!

How do you feel blessed? How do you deal with your worries? Have recommendations for other Crushers?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Another use for leftovers!

Good morning Crushers!

I have talked about using up leftovers in previous posts herehere and here. They can be such a handy thing on a night when you don't have a lot of time to make dinner. Last night was a bit hectic. I worked late, picked up Steve to drive home and then he cut the lawn (that SO needed it) while I did a little boot camp workout and made dinner.

Since we had so much food while up north, we decided to use leftovers from Tuesday night and make a big hearty salad for dinner. A hearty salad? Yes, such a thing is possible.

First, here's what we had on Tuesday night: sweet and sour chicken tenders, broccoli and rice. Then all of the above made it on fresh romaine lettuce with tomatoes, a little cheese (we only had Romano in the house), some olives, onions, and we tossed it all together. We had some leftover garlic bread from last week, that I thought we would chop up into squares to add to the salad too, but I guess Steve ate them when I wasn't paying attention. Anyway, the salad was so good, I really didn't miss the bread.

The best part? I have lunch for today because I made so much salad!

Boo-yah! Lunch time (with yogurt, other veggies and a handful of pretzels)!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 11: In the great Northwoods

Hello Crushers!

If we were on a running date, I would tell you how I was fortunate enough to spend Memorial Day weekend up north at my family's cabin in the great Northwoods of Wisconsin. We have a cabin on a small lake, but that just makes for an extra peaceful weekend (except when we were sawing down dead trees so they wouldn't fall on anyone/thing or yelling, "I caught one!").
My favorite place!
Not only were we celebrating a day that honors all of the men and women who serve and protect our country, but we also got to celebrate my grandpa's 97th birthday and my parents 34th wedding anniversary while we were there. So much delicious food and fun. And a few tears when we watched the Memorial Day special on TV (I love Gary Sinise!). It's an annual tradition, and I somehow always forget to have tissues!

If we were on a running date, here are a few things that we would probably see as we ran along the main road (HWY 51 and then the lake road to access the boat landing: deer, deer prints, more deer, birds of all sizes, deer, some footprints that I hope didn't belong to a bear, and probably more deer prints. We had beautiful weather so our runs had perfect temperatures for a 3-miler. Hear that? We only ran 3 miles! Ha!

If we were on a running date, I would tell you how I was kind of ashamed that the hills were killing me. I ran 13 miles the weekend before. Why was a 3-miler feeling like a 7-miler?! Probably because all of the fun celebratory food that we ate... Oy.

If we were running up north together, I would tell you about some of my favorite kitchen stores in town (Minocqua, WI). First is Anne Marie's store that is filled with gorgeous china from all over the world, serving wear, accessories and the best smelling coffee in the northwoods. How cute are these? And these? And these?! Second, is The 13th Colony, which I must admit that I know the owner's daughter, that has the prettiest tables I've ever wanted to set a Thanksgiving dinner on. Then there's the Ages Past Antique Mall which has gorgeous serving bowls from who knows when! Then, just because I like to stare at the gorgeous clothes and pretend I can afford the purses, I visit J. Christy's. So cute!

If we were running up north, I would tell you how my family devoured a pan of the lemon bars I made. I would also tell you how we had jambalaya (my quick version, not mom's from-scratch version not linked), and grilled burgers and brats. So good!

And because this is a food blog, I would love to tell you about these grill recipes that I want to try this summer after we finished running (yes, they're all from

  1. Grilled Pineapple
  2. Buffalo Turkey Burgers with Blue Cheese Broccoli Slaw
  3. Spicy Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayonnaise

I love grilling season!

How about you? What would we talk about? Do you have your own up north? What summer foods are you looking forward to?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In a lemon mood

Good morning Crushers!

If you knew me in real life, as opposed to blog life, you would know that I really like the color yellow. I wear it a lot. Yes, I realized that I wore it at the race and it made me look like a highlighter. Anyway, most yellow things make me happy: Post-it(R) notes, lemonade, sunshine, Julia Child roses, my first pair of running shoes, highlighters, my horseshoes, sunfish, and the sweater I'm wearing right now. One of my most favorite scents in the world is lemons.

We had a potluck lunch yesterday, and I must not be the only one who loves lemons. For the dessert section, there were lemonade brownies (need that recipe!), lemon cake slices, lemonade dip with graham cookies and I made lemon bars. Geesh! That's a lot of lemon! And it was soooooooo good...

Ever since we started having nice weather (which is GONE today - rain, rain and more rain), I have been hungry for lemon bars. They are the perfect blend of sweet and tart. They're a great addition to any cookout, too.

I have recently become a huge fan of Thistlewood Farms blog by KariAnne. I dream of a house like her gorgeous farm house. I'm also really excited to see what they do with the gate house. Have no idea what I'm talking about? Go read. I'll wait.

Back? Great! You love her mantle-scapes too?! I knew we were friends.

Anyway, just a little while ago, KariAnne posted about making Lemon Lime Bars. They looked so good that I knew this was what I needed to make for the potluck. There was only one problem. I failed to shop ahead and forgot to buy limes. It was also about 9:15 at night when I started making them and I just couldn't make myself run out to the store. Ugh!

Instead I just made lemon bars, and you know what? I left work yesterday with an empty pan! They were loved by all! No one knew they were supposed to be lemon and lime, so it was a hit just as lemon bars. Phew!

You can follow the link to KariAnne's Lemon Lime Bars (originally from if you want the full recipe. Or you can see below for how I made them.

Lemon Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened and cut up (that's a stick and a half)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup milk (don't use skim unless that's all you've got handy)
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
2/3 cup lemon juice
Gear you'll need: 13 x 9 inch pan, cooking spray (or use the butter wrappers), measuring spoons and cups, a big bowl, a whisk, and a hand grater or lemon zester.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat the pan with cooking spray or use the butter wrappers to grease the pan. In a big bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, salt and butter for the crust. Make sure you cut the butter in chunks for easier mixing. KariAnne used a pastry cutter to mix all of those ingredients. You could also use a butter knife to repeatedly "cut" through the batter until it resembles large crumbles. Or, if you're like me and don't have a pastry cutter or the patience to use a butter knife, make sure your hands are very clean and just dig in by taking large handfuls of the mix and squeezing it. Squeeze, and let go. Squeeze, and let go. Repeat that until you have the large crumbles.

Press the crust into the greased pan by hand until it is firmly pressed down. Pop that in the oven for about 15 minutes. It won't look browned when you take it out. Don't let that fool you, it'll be hot!

It's OK if it's a little lumpy looking. You'll pour lemon mix over it and it'll be smooth.
While the crust is in the oven, rinse out the bowl that you just used and dry it. Seriously? Why make one more dish dirty? Anyway, combine the lemon topping ingredients in the bowl in order. Eggs (whisk them), granulated sugar, milk, flour, lemon peel and lemon juice. Here is a tip about the lemon peel or zest: be sure that you are only getting the yellow part and not too much of the white of the peel. In order to do this, only make 2-3 passes with the lemon against the peeler in any spot. One, two, three and rotate the lemon. Repeat until you have enough zest and an albino-looking lemon. 
Another tip: be sure to keep your finger tips away from the grater or you'll need a bandage.
Normally, I'm all, "As long as it makes it in the bowl, who cares what order they go in?" But this time, I suggest that you really do put them in order because it makes stirring each thing easier. Otherwise, the lemon peel gets clumpy with the sugar or the flour gets lumpy. Ugh. Just do me a favor, and save yourself the aggravation! Whisk them all together and enjoy how your kitchen smells while you wait for the crust.
Once you pull the crust from the oven, pour the lemon mix over the hot crust. Don't let the crust cool! Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the lemon mix has set. If you take the pan out of the oven and the lemon jiggles when you shake it, put it back in for a few minutes and check again. The lemon should have an even creamy yellow color. If the edges are a little brown, that's fine! 
Fresh from the oven!
For easiest serving, let the whole pan cool overnight or for a few hours in the fridge. It will slice up a lot easier that way! Sprinkle the top with some more powdered sugar because it tastes good and looks pretty, or keep it more tart and omit the powdered sugar topping. Slice up, serve, and prepare to make more because these won't last long!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 10: We made it!

Hey Crushers!

Welcome to our 10th virtual running date and the 100th post for this blog! We made it! I set a new personal record of 2:21:21 (2 hours, 21 minutes, 21 seconds), and Steve finished his first half marathon in 2:06:09! I'm so proud of him!

Here are a number of pictures from the weekend. We started off by going to the Arthritis Walk in Dane County (Madison, WI) because I am friends with the honoree. She is such a special volunteer for that organization! After that, we drove through some gorgeous farm fields to pick up our race packets at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. The next day was race day. I'm still so happy about our finish times and that I could run the WHOLE WAY! Well, I did walk at the water stops because I didn't want to spill water all over myself, but the rest of the time I ran including all the hills! WHOO!

A big thank you to everyone who listened to us talk about this since January, to all of the event volunteers and staff, and all of the fun spectators and your signs! It really does help to see a sign that says, "Keep smiling! You're doing great!"

Started the day at Olin Park right next to Lake Monona.
Behind me you can see the city and the Capitol.

This is my "Super Friend" and volunteer extraordinaire, Shannon.

We made it to Lambeau Field! Time to pick up our packets.

Here is a picture of the expo. Sorry it's a little dark, but the atrium was really bright!
Vendors with all sorts of running stuff were there. I bought a running pack that said "one more mile".
I was thisclose to buying one that said, "If it weren't for me, you'd have no one to pass" or
"One day I won't be able to do this. Today is not that day." 

Cheeseheads on the run!

All the cool gear!

This was my goal pace, so we started there. Steve ran way faster with a 9:37 mile pace.
I beat my goal with a 10:47 pace! WHOO!

Everyone got a wristband that said "We run as one. Boston 2013"
Before the race started, everyone was asked to raise their arm and observe 26 seconds of silence.
There were a lot of teary eyes including my own. So powerful!

We made it! Check out those medals!

Only in Wisconsin do they hand out beer and brats at the finish line.
Miller 64 - mmm...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Relax and try this version of French onion soup

I had a "duh" moment yesterday. Also known as a "face palm" moment where something ridiculous happens and you have to slap your hand to your forehead. This may happen more often than I would like, just for the record.

Anyway, I subscribe to the nearly-daily Proverbs 31 devotional e-mails. Yesterday's devotion focused on the following passages from Isaiah 58:13-14:
13“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
I have been known to pack my days full to where I wake up at 6 a.m. and sometimes don't sit down again until after 8 p.m. only stopping to eat. I never forget food. I have also been known to say "I'll rest when I'm dead." After having experienced mono, I realize what it is to be in tip-top shape and then brought low. It's not pretty my friends.

My "duh" moment came during a hectic week of being really busy at work, doing lots of post-work activities, getting ready for our trip to Australia and the race this weekend. I make myself stop whatever I'm doing and read my daily devotion without interruption. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. However, when it does, I feel like I'm getting a moment of rest to hangout with God, and here he was reminding me to stop and relax.

As you can see in the verses above, God wasn't joking when he put "Thou shall remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" in the 10 Commandments. He was putting that there to remind us to take time to rest, recharge and spend some time devoted to him. That's a time to give God your box of worries. It's a time to focus on the message that he's giving to you (whether you get it right away or not). It's a great time to stop, look, listen and feel God giving you a moment to just be present in his presence. He says right in verse 14 that you will have joy in the Lord! Don't waste it!

Whether it is taking time to read the Bible, speaking truth to a friend or relative (and vice-versa), going to God in prayer or going to church on Sunday (or whenever your church has services), I encourage you to RELAX! Relax in some time with God. If I can do it, you can do it.

As you know, one of my favorite ways to relax in a non-spiritual way (although that's debatable since sometimes recipes require a lot of faith and prayer) is to spend some time in the kitchen. A week ago, Steve and I picked up some vidalia onions for making soup. Fortunately, there was a recipe for vidalia onion soup right on the side of the beef broth container! It's been a while since we had onion soup and grilled cheese, so we decided to have that for dinner.

Vidalia Onion Soup
1 Tbsp garlic grapeseed oil from Wildtree (I love this stuff!)
4 Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
water as needed so the onions don't stick
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Parsley
1/2 tsp Tarragon
4 Tbsp Tomato juice
1 Tbsp Whole wheat flour, or regular all-purpose flour
1 cup Dry white or red wine (I used Malbec and then poured myself a glass too!)
2 32 oz cartons of Beef stock (I used the low sodium kind)
Pepper to taste
As many slices of Swiss cheese as there are servings (depending on how big your bowl is, I'd say 8)

Gear you'll need: Large pot for the soup, measuring cups and spoons, a large spoon for stirring, a butcher knife for slicing the onions, and a wine bottle opener

While you're heating the oil in the bottom of the pot, finish slicing the onions. If onions make you cry, run them under cold water after you peel them.

This is only half an onion!
Once everything is sliced, throw the onions in the pot, give them a stir and let them cook down for about 10 minutes. They should go from being crisp to flexible like a cooked noodle.

That's a lot of onions!
After the onions cook down and get all bend-y, add the garlic, parsley, tarragon and tomato juice.

This is where Steve came in the kitchen and said, "This smells so good!"
 Stir that all in and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Then add in the flour and a cup of wine.
Ready for a drink?
Bring the wine and onions to a boil. Turn down the heat and let that all simmer together for 30 minutes.

When you're done, you can top your bowl (or mug as shown here) with a slice of Swiss cheese and even throw in a crouton or piece of bread for a true French onion experience. If you bowls (or mugs) are oven-safe, place then on a baking sheet, cover with the cheese and pop in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes until it gratinees and looks like this. We didn't have Swiss cheese at home, so we ate it just like you see in the picture, but seriously, if I had the cheese I'd have eaten it just like Julia Child.

If you made it through this whole post, congrats! It's a long one. Anyway, as a reward for making it this far, I have a link of really fun signs from races. They're hilarious, and honestly, sometimes seeing a sign that says "Running slow just means you're getting your money's worth!" or "It's a hill. Get over it." or "You made it to the START, you will make it to the FINISH." that helps you get to the finish line. 

Thanks in advance for the volunteers and well-wishers at the half marathon on Sunday. You are awesome!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

RACE WEEK FREAK OUT: Don't eat all the sweets

Hey Crushers,

OK, so I just got an e-mail newsletter from the lovely people that are directing the half marathon that's happening THIS SUNDAY.

I can't believe it's race week. Seriously, I'm kind of freaking out, but in a good way. The only problem with this is that I'm all, "It's race week. Oh my. I think I need a slice of cake." That's not the right way to carbo load folks. Let me tell you.

Image Source
I originally started running to counteract the effects of having a sit-all-day-at-your-desk job and all the sweet treats that seem to be in the office kitchen. Plus, as you know, I love to cook and bake and I'd be huge if I didn't exercise. It turns out that I went from "running a mile sucks" to "running 10 miles kind of sucks, but I feel awesome".

I'm not going to lie to you, I'm pretty excited to go back to running 4-6 miles for my weekend long fun run plus softball, pitching horseshoes, and doing yoga/strength training for a well-balanced exercise life. On the plus side, I'll get a shiny medal for finishing, a shirt to prove I was there, and the knowledge that I can actually go that far without a car.
It's true. All of it. Well, except the part about the broken toenail. That's gross.
Image Source
Wish us luck! We only have a few more days before RACE DAY! I promise to talk more about food and less about running next week. I have big plans for summer recipes including camping recipes, more grilled food and refreshing summer beverages!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 9: The obstacle course and marinade

Good morning Crushers!

This morning's virtual running date is going to take you back to the Ice Age Trail, but this time we're running hills in the Monches and Merton segments. I'm not a particular fan of hills, cauliflower, burpees or remembering to floss, but do you know what all of these things have in common? They're good for you!

I will admit that when I can walk up a hill just as fast as running it, I will walk. That usually happens on steep hills unless I'm in the "This is junk. Just let me run up this hill and get it over with" mood regarding a hill. I'm really sorry to say that our virtual running date has a lot of hills, but they will make you stronger! In case you need them, here are some tips from Runner's World.

Back when I did boot camp workouts, we did these exercises called "sleigh rides". Here's how it would work: start with two people face uphill from the base of the hill. The person in front has a stretchy band around her waist. The person behind is holding on the ends of the stretchy band as if they are reins. The first person runs up the hill pulling against the stretchy band that the second person is holding onto and pulling back on. If you are the first person, your goal is to reach the top of the hill and overcome the resistance that you feel.

I remember one fellow boot-camper, Josie, who cracked me up! She hated being the front person because it's harder, but then she thought about it. "Wait a minute guys. You don't want to be the person in the back. Then you're like Santa. You don't want to be the fat guy!" True story.

Anyway, usually, I kill hills, but this last run had some STEEP hills. Gorgeous, rocky hills that ran along the Oconomowoc River. (Oconomowoc is a Native American word that sounds like Oh-con-oh-moh-walk). We started running up and down hills through meadows and pine tree forests (including one Christmas tree farm). After we finished the Monches segment and started the Merton segment, we ran past the bridge where we got engaged. Near the river, it was like running an obstacle course. You had to jump over fallen logs, duck under low tree branches, navigate your footsteps around rocks, roots and low vegetation. We even had to go over a few boardwalks that were so close to water, that it splashed up when you stepped down. The hills might have been difficult, but I felt like I was running through these paths like, and this is going to sound totally dorky, that scene in the beginning of the Disney movie "Pocahontas" when she's bookin' it through the forest to see the ships landing in Jamestown. Or for an even nerdier movie reference, as if you're running through the forest in "Avatar" (same premise, but with blue aliens).

Anyway, as we're slogging up hills, ahem, I mean overcoming the hills on our virtual running date, I would tell you about the baby shower I went to. It was so nice to celebrate the almost-here baby and the mommy-to-be right before Mother's Day! I would also tell you to go to see Iron Man 3. Seriously, I think it's the best one. Oh, and stay all the way through the credits.

If your a mom, a mom-to-be, a godmother or any combo, I would also wish you a Happy Mother's Day! In one weekend, I was lucky to get to spend time with tons of my mommy-friends, my sweet mother-in-law, one of my pregnant sisters-in-law, my own awesome mom, my godmother and my grandma. That's a lot of moms! They are all tremendous people, who definitely deserve a day to celebrate them!

One last thing, I can't close a post without telling you what we had for Mother's Day. Steve and I had my mom, dad, sister and brother-in-law over for dinner. We grilled out chicken (marinaded with Wildtree slow cooker sauce and the Greek marinade below) and brats, veggie packs and made guacamole. We also had store-bought salsa since I ran out of tomatoes. My sister made a fruit salad and wonderful chocolate cake. My mom, even though she didn't have to, made a pasta salad and potato salad. It was delicious and we all got to go home with chocolate cake leftovers!

Greek marinade for chicken:
1 rounded Tbsp Opa Greek Seasoning from Wildtree (garlic powder, sweet oregano, pepper, and salt works too)
1/4 cup Olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 tsp pepper

Place thawed and trimmed, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (up to 6) in a plastic zip bag with all of the ingredients. Squish around so everything is coated and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour (overnight, max). Place on a hot grill and cook until juices run clear and the insides aren't pink. Enjoy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Be awesome!

Hi Crushers,

I want to throw a little blog love over to Jessi of Naptime Diaries and Hannah of NewLove Ministries and Home Truths for the inspiration for this post. These are some ladies who have found their passion for creativity and ministry and they live it out! Some people take a while to find what it is that they want to be when they grow up and some people know when they're 7 years old.

If you are a friend of mine and you have a birthday or baby shower coming up in the next few weeks, please note that you may see some of their art in person shortly. Sorry if this totally ruins the surprise!

Anyway, I am crushing on Jessi and Hannah's creativity. They are amazing artists! What a wonderful way to share God's truths in a way that brightens your home/office/friends' house...

My dad used to tell me, "Find a job you love and you'll never have to go to work." I really enjoy my job. I get to be all science nerdy and travel and work with people all over the world. However, I think that no matter what you do, there will always be days that "you have to go to work." Everyone has a bad day now and then. But it's also important to remember what God said in Ephesians 2:4-10 (bolded for emphasis)
4 But because of his great love for us,God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do.
That's right. God prepared us to do amazing things. Even when we have a bad day, it has to get brighter because we are hardwired for awesomeness. Whether we know what those things are or not is another matter, but that's why I think it's important to try new things and not be afraid. God is with us. It is his great love that made us alive and his grace that saved us. If God has done all those things for us, why not go out there, be awesome, help others, and be creative!

How about it? How are you creative? Do you design art? Do you cook? Bake? Garden? Perform? Whatever you do, go for it!

Speaking about trying new things, I tried a baked pasta dish last night with spinach, lemon and cheese. Yeah, we won't be trying that recipe again. It was too lemony and not enough spinach-y for us. And now we have tons of leftovers! Ugh... I think it would help if we added spicy sausage or something to it. We'll see... In case you are interested in trying the recipe here is the link.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

And so it begins... Grilling Season!

Good morning crushers!

What a crazy week, huh? Things are really gearing up at work for our big conference in Australia. I can't believe that in about a month, we'll be heading down under for work. Steve is able to fly out and meet me for some fun vacation time. In addition to training for the half marathon, I want to stay fit so that I can be my best self in Australia for work and play. You need to be prepared for anything when you sign up for activities in Sydney (walking tours and other adventures), the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns, the rainforest, etc. I'm So. Incredibly. Excited!!! It's a trip of a lifetime!

Besides prepping for this big trip, we are still trying to sell our house. We had an open house last weekend, and bummer time, we only got to show off our house to one person. And it wasn't even during the open house!

Steve and I are big fans of cooking on the grill. There are so many foods and techniques that you can use. While we had fired up the grill (and we have differing opinions on how to stack the coals), we were preparing for two types of grilling: direct contact and aluminum foil packets.

Grilling can be done over coals, an open fire or on a gas grill surface. I'm sure there are more, but these are the types that I'm most familiar with. There's tons of fun gear too (I've got my eye on this baby), but really, all you need is a long-handled flipper and tongs. You should probably have some sort of wire bristle brush for cleaning the grate too.

While we had the food on the grill, I had started to make chocolate chip cookies following the recipe that I used here, but this time I added two teaspoons of cocoa powder since I didn't have quite the amount needed of chocolate chips. So tasty... Then all of a sudden, Steve goes, "Hey honey, do you mind if someone sees our house?" At this point I have a stain on my shirt, a cold beverage in my hand and I haven't cleaned up the cooking/grilling mess I had made. "Sure," I replied, "As long as he doesn't mind that we're making dinner!"

We show a very nice man our house (he was checking out properties for his daughter), all while trying to remember to flip the pork chops and check the veggie packets. One of the pork chops got a little "crispy".

Here is what we made:

Grilled Rosemary and Lemon Pork Chops
4 boneless pork chops
1 Tbsp Lemon Rosemary Blend from Wildtree
1 Tbsp Natural Grapeseed Oil from Wildtree

Veggie packets:
3 large baking potatoes, diced into 1" pieces
1/2 large onion or 1 medium onion, diced
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 lb of brussel sprouts, washed and trimmed
1-2 Tbsp butter per pack (3-6 total) OR 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped parsley, or to taste
1 tsp dill
1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp pepper

Gear you need: 1 big zipper plastic bag or other large container, 2-3 sheets of aluminum foil (about the size of a baking sheet), knife for dicing, peeler for peeling carrots, large bowl, clean dish/tray for the finished food.

The night before, or at least an hour before you start the grill, put the thawed pork chops in a big plastic zipper bag or other sealed container with the oil and seasoning. Feel free to add a little pepper or real lemon juice. Seal the container or bag and shake it up! Make sure that everything is coated and then set aside in the fridge.

Get the grill going. If you don't know how, I'll explain this in another post. You may have different ways of doing this, but I do it how my dad taught me. If you don't want to know how to do this, invite someone who does over for dinner! Just kidding...

While you are waiting for the coals to get all ashy and white/gray, it's time to make the veggie packs. Since I needed the last of our butter to make the cookies, I used olive oil instead. In a large bowl, mix the oil, parsley, dill, salt and pepper so it looks like salad dressing. Chop up all of your veggies, except the brussel sprouts. Those you just want to trip and leave looking like the mini cabbages they mimic. Toss everything together so it's well-coated. Divide the veggies among the foil by placing two-three large spoonfuls of the veggies in the center of a sheet of foil.

Steps for folding these packets:

  1. Pour filling/veggies in the middle of the packet
  2. Grab the ends of the foil (the long way) and bring them together so it looks like a little foil tent.
  3. Fold them over and over until you reach the veggies.
  4. Take the short sides and fold them up over the edges so you don't see any of the veggies. 
  5. Poke a few small holes in the top to let the steam out.

By now, the coals should be ready. Using the long handled tongs or the back of the flipper, spread the coals out so you have a nice large cooking surface. Put the top grate back on the grill and place the packets of veggies (steam holes side up) in the center of the grill where it's the hottest. When you've got those on for about 10 minutes, Take the pork chops out of the marinade and put them on the grill on the outer edges so they get more of the radiant heat. You only want to have to turn the meat once, so grill for about 8-10 minutes on each side. You may want to move the veggie packs away from the center if they are getting black on the bottom. You don't want to grill through the aluminum foil (although I've never actually seen this happen).

We were chatting with the prospective home buyer while all this was going on, so unfortunately some of the pork chops got a little burned as I said before. What are you going to do?

How about you? What do you love to grill?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 8: Over the hills and through the woods

Good morning crushers!

Welcome to our 8th virtual running date! I don't know about your neck of the woods, but we had wonderful running weather this past weekend. On Saturday, Steve and I went for an early morning run to tackle 10 miles of the Ice Age Trail. We combined the Pike Lake segment and the Holy Hill segment. Basically, we ran (and sometimes walked) from the Powder Hill parking lot at Pike Lake to Holy Hill (and then we climbed the tower). If you had been running with us, you would have encountered the following:

  • Gorgeous weather! It was about 55-60 degrees, overcast with a light breeze and most of the dew had already evaporated.
  • Wildlife! We were too loud to see any deer, but we saw and heard lots of birds and people with their dogs. We did see a lot of "evidence" of where animals (deer) had been, so you had to watch your step if you know what I mean...
  • Empty country roads during the road connects, and when we had to go around the woods because the Waterford Road bridge was completely underwater and I refused to slog up to my knees in water/muck to get to the other side. (scroll all the way to the bottom on the link to see the bridge)
  • Fields of crops just starting to green and grow.
  • The best view from the highest point in Washington County.
  • One of your friends willing to pick you up at the end of the 10 miles and drive you back to your car so that you didn't have to walk all the way back making it a 20 mile trek.
I love hiking the Ice Age trail. That's where Steve and I go geocaching and where we even got engaged! It was totally different running it than hiking. If we were on a virtual running date and had been together, you would have had to dodge rocks, roots and other debris in the trail. On some parts, we would have had to run single file because of the narrow path, but some parts were wide enough for a whole group of people!

Another nice feature about the trail is that there are markers along the trail telling you about interesting features of the land. If we were on a virtual running date, I would have told you about my nerdy science days back in high school where I learned how to determine soil pH and spot a drumlin or kame. Oh earth science classes...

If we were on a virtual running date, I would also tell you about how to dry your shoes after having to run through a field that was flooded up to your ankles. Yeah, here we run thinking that all the long grasses are just laying down due to winds, but really they are in standing water. At the base of a hill? Whoops. Fortunately, we came to this chilly, clear water around mile 8 of our run, so it cooled off our feet. It was surprisingly nice. And squishy.

Anyway, when we got home we took our shoes and set them outside in the sun to dry. When you're drying the shoes, it's important to take the insoles out so that there isn't any water trapped in the bottom of the shoe. Running shoes tend to get stinky regardless of the terrain, but you don't want them to get any more gross than they have to. One thing that I should have done, but forgot to do is untie my shoe laces while they were wet. I'm pretty sure they're cemented into place now. Oh well!

What tips would you have for running on trails? Have you been on any great trails? Are you a fan of the Ice Age Trail? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Faith-filled Friday and cheater salsa

Good morning crushers!

You know that when you go to Christian weddings that the minister/pastor/priest will usually mention 1 Corinthians 13 starting at verse 4. You know these verses. You've heard them a million times.

"Love is patient. Love is kind..."

I blessed with a tremendously patient husband who puts love into action every day for his students, for his family and for his friends, and he even agreed with me to use these verses in our wedding! (Brandon Heath's song "Love Never Fails" was also our first dance song. Yes, I may have overdone it a bit, but I'm good with themes). Whenever I am having a moment where I want to stomp my feet or be frustrated because something doesn't go my way, I have to remember to act in love. That means being patient and being kind and being all those things that reflect the amazing love we have been given.

There are so many more references to how you should act in love toward each other and all that encompasses. So when things aren't going exactly how I would like or when we have another rainy day or have another person not show up to come see our house that's up for sale, I have to remember to be patient and act in love. How about you? Any reminders that help you? Share them in the comments!

Speaking of things we love, I'm really jumping tracks here and am going to share with you about "cheater" recipes and how I love them. "Cheater" recipes usually involve little to no work, but at least you're not opening a jar and dumping it in a bowl and claiming that it's yours. Not that there's anything wrong with using prepared food when you need to, but these recipes usually call for a little stirring or measuring. I recently read a few blog posts from some of my favorite fit foodie bloggers and everyone has been talking about dip and chips or veggies.

Other than guacamole, I have two favorite dips: dill dip and salsa. I could easily skip a well-balanced dinner and just eat tortilla chips and salsa or carrots and dill dip until I'm full. It may have happened once or twice in the past. Maybe... Anyway, here is my Cheater Salsa recipe for those times when you have to make a quick appetizer (or lazy dinner).

Cheater Salsa
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes with chiles (I like Rotel, but you could use whatever brand you like)
1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 can of corn, drained (I like the low sodium kind)
the juice of one lemon
1 clove of garlic, finely diced or put in a garlic press

Gear you'll need:
a medium sized bowl, can opener, garlic press

Open all the cans. Drain the beans and the corn. Rinse the beans. Dump all of the beans, corn and tomatoes in a bowl. Stir. If you want to add the lemon, just watch out for the seeds! You can also press a clove of garlic over the bowl and stir it in. Eat with chips. Or a spoon. Or your fingers. I won't judge you.

Enjoy your weekend and some salsa!