Thursday, August 20, 2015

Skillet Penne with Sausage, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Spinach

Things have been busy.  But I stumbled upon a new tasty cookbook from America's Test Kitchen.  I am eager to slowly start incorporating some of these recipes into our rotation.  So without further ado...

Skillet Penne with Sausage, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Spinach

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage (remove the casings)
3 cloves garlic minced
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 lb penne pasta
1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped fine
6 oz of baby spinach

Steps
1.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and cook.  Break up the meat with a wooden spoon.  Cook until no longer pink.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 sec).
2.  Stir in broth, water, pasta, and tomatoes.  Bring to a vigorous simmer and cook.  Stir often until the pasta is tender and sauce has thickened, about 15 - 18 minutes.
3.  Stir in spinach, a handful at a time.  Cook until it has just wilted.
4.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with some yummy cheese.
Finished Product

I didn't manage to score a finished picture.  And then before I knew it, it was all gone.  I was hoping for some left over but oh well.  I guess that is the best thing for a meal...for it not be around for very long.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Big Sur International Marathon

This past Sunday I completed something that I never had really dreamed possible:

THE BIG SUR INTERNATIONAL MARATHON

This is my race day report.  I do not want to forget what a day this was.  So here it goes...

My day started at the unbelievable hour of 2:45 am.  I tried to keep things quiet in the house as to not wake up the men folk of the house.  I enjoyed probably the quietest meal in ages - a cup of earl grey tea and an english muffin with a bit of butter.  I got all decked out in my gear - SW shirt, UA compression capris, Balega socks, pearl izumi arm warmers, UA hat, and Brooks Adrenaline shoes.  As I headed out the door, I made sure I had my Garmin ForeRunner 220 on, my cell phone (just in case), a cold weather fleecy jacket, and my Camelbak, filled to the brim with water, salty pretzels, and 6 of my favorite GU (Chocolate Outrage and Chocolate Peanut Butter if you must know).

For 3:30 am - Monterey was beautiful.  Not too cold or windy out.  I almost had an issue with our garage door refusing to close.  But after several attempts of hitting the button, it finally decided to cooperate.  It was wonderfully dark out - until I got downtown where all of the runners were converging.  The Custom House Garages were rocking - as everyone entered to park and make their way out to the buses.  I met up with a gentleman who came out from New York.  He asked me where were supposed to be going.  I guess I looked local enough.  It still weirds me out when people think to ask me where things are - I haven't felt like a "local" in years.  The Army life does that to you.

Anyway, my new friend and I made our way out of the garage to where the buses were lining up along Tyler street.  And by buses...I mean school buses.  The marathon coordinators requisitioned every school bus available in the Monterey County to transport all of the runners (marathon, 21 miler, 10.6 miler) to their respective start areas.  The bus ticket I picked up at the expo for a 4 am bus didn't really mean much.  Us runners formed an orderly line along the street and the marathon volunteers just kept loading us on to the buses.  Nothing to wait for.

I got loaded up into a short bus.  Go figure.  The driver gets on her way following the bus in front of her.  But clearly something is wrong.  We are moving but the bus sounds like it is choking at 20 miles per hour.  We make to Del Monte Center Mall right before the ramp to Route 1 before she decides to pull over (after hearing on the radio that the bus in front of her could not see her lights behind him).  She responds on the radio saying - She has no speed and the speedometer is not working.  15 runner ears perk up real fast.  The bus behind us pulls up along side and stops.  The driver shuts down the bus and then restarts and gets the thing in gear.  To everyone's relief, the bus whirred back to life with some "speed".  I know I was thinking - just my luck, get the short bus that won't make it down to the start area...perfect.   But the rest of the ride went fine - we passed the Finisher's Village, then Point Lobos, then the 10.6 miler start area, Bixby Bridge (although it was so dang dark I couldn't really tell), there were big lights for the 21 miler area at Andrew Molera State Park, and then we past Big Sur Station, looped around and came back to unload.

The start area was already filled with people when I got off the bus at about 4:50 am.  I hit the line of porto-potties since there seemed to be no line.  I then went out to look at the food situation.  There were bananas, parts of bagels, water, and coffee...lots of coffee.  I assume lots of coffee as it is the great "poo" inducer.  Really, you need to take a good poop before a race this long.  So there were lots of people with coffee.  I snagged a water and quarter of a bagel.  I thankfully had already taken care of business in the comfort of my own home - so no need for coffee.

I then slowly walked around the start to find an empty piece of curb to park my butt.  I didn't want to be standing any longer than I had too.  Thankfully, two ladies and a gentleman said they would kindly share a tiny bit of curb with me.
On my little piece of curb!
 So I curled up under my jacket (thank goodness - it was chilly but every now and again the wind got in a good whip) and snacked on my bagel and water.  Then we waited.  For about 45 minutes, until the color commentary began.

Thank goodness for them because the waiting in the cold was a bit more bearable.  (If I could give them any advice, the marathon people could really invest in a couple of those huge outdoor heating elements.  That would be awesome!)  Not to mention the sun was starting to creep up.  At 6:10 they started to call for Wave 3 (4:45 - 6:00 group) to begin lining up.  I took that as my cue to hit the potty one last time.  This was everyone's fabulous idea too.  So there was quite a bit of a wait...as well as quite a bit of a smell.  I assume all that coffee got everyone's bowels moving.

At about 6:20 they started calling for Wave 2 (3:30 - 4:45 group).  I figured that was my cue as I would love to come in right around 4:45 and I'd rather be at the back of a group then the beginning.  Plus, this was where the 4:45 pace group was at.  Might as well stick with them.  Bag check was absolutely awesome.  I pulled off my jacket, threw it in the gear bag, made a little tie, and then as I walked up to the start line I handed my bag to the volunteers who were stuffing them in huge bib-number marked garbage bins.  It was the easiest gear check ever!  I walked a bit up to the start - got a cheesy picture taken by the photo people and walked...

And walked...
And walked up the hill.

It was about 6:35...and the color commentary continued to tell everyone to keep backing up the hill.  And back up the hill some more. We have to fit the Elite group in!  Now everyone was a bit grumpy because we were all without warm gear and our view of the start line gets further and further away.

But they finally let the Elite group go at 6:45.  At about 6:50, they let Wave 2 begin walking back down the hill to the start.  I did everything I could to walk.  The less down-hill pounding the better because I knew it was game on.

I crossed the start at 6:53 am.  The sun was up and I felt a heck of a lot better moving.  I was glad I placed myself in the back and as left of the road as possible.  My plan was run 4 minutes then walk 1 minute.  This gave me the opportunity to be a bit speedy on the downhill but be right where I needed to be on the road to hop off and walk.  It was weird being passed 4 minutes into the race but I stuck to my guns.  I got a lot of those runners back because I forced myself not to go too fast (but I didn't rein myself in enough as time would soon tell).  As I passed the River Inn - I thought to myself, I wonder if they have breakfast to serve because we've stopped for lunch there an it is totally yummy!  But I had to keep my eyes on the road, loads of people and we went from both directions of traffic down to one.  It got congested really quickly.  I had a bit of trouble walking during that segment and was really hoping that it would have thinned out a bit more in the early going.

5 miles of downhill running.  You would think no biggy - but it will come back to bite you in the butt later on.  We were finally "out of the woods" so to speak and hit the 21 Mile start area at Andrew Molera State Park.  I looked down at my watch when I hit the timing mat to see my time.  Right around 45 minutes - okay 47:17 was the official.  I knew I was too fast so I tried to dial it back.  But then I thought of my Stroller Warrior friend Jessica running the 21 miler - she is speedy.  She was probably a good 5-8 miles in front of me since the 21 mile group was set off about 20 minutes before the elite marathoners.   I tried to bring my avg pace up to the 10 minute mark - as the first 6 miles were around 9:30 pace (yes, way to unbelievably fast for a marathon for me.  I paid for it later!).

At around the 6 mile mark, we were out to the coast.  The view was breath-taking!  You could see Point Sur Lighthouse in the distance.  This is where elements kicked in to high gear.  Coast on the left, massive heights to the right.  Add in 16 mile per hour WNW winds.  Un-freakin-believable!  Walking was hard...running was hard...breathing was hard.  I tried to keep telling myself that I could do this - I do this pushing a double BOB.  I also distinctly heard a guy behind me say, no stop weaving, I want to draft behind you at your pace. "You are welcome?!?!"

I ran into fellow Stroller Warrior Anne who was running the Relay with her husband - they each got 2 legs.  We chatted for a bit before she went off to catch some pictures of the Lighthouse.  Then I remembered that I was trying to do this and take pictures.  I hadn't taken a single picture yet.  I also decided it would be a good time to get out some GU for my tummy's pleasure. :P

Right before hitting the Little Sur River Bridge - off in the distance is Hurricane Point.
Happy face about a mile before Hurricane Point
Ten miles down and I pass the relay exchange to the bottom of the hill.  Thus began my ascent to Hurricane Point.  At the base you are greeted by the drums!

They sure help to get you pumped up for the initial part of the ascent!
The start of Hurricane Point.
That is what I left behind me before the climb.
So then it begins! Two miles of wind and uphill climbing.  I will be totally honest - I did not think it was that bad.  No, say it ain't so.  In my head it was equivalent to running the San Francisco NorthFace Endurance Challenge Marathon Relay.  It too was up up up for a mile and half and then down down down.  So this didn't seem that bad in isolation.  Time wise - it only took me 23 minutes to do.  That includes 4 minutes of walking.  After having already run 10 miles, I think 2 uphill miles in 23 minutes is awesome - and my knee was still feeling good!

The short descent from Hurricane Point brought us to Bixby Bridge.  This is the half way point.  Feeling great!  (I hope that there is a picture of me on the bridge)  I check my watch - 2:15.  Holy moly - if I keep that up I could be in at 4:30.  Then I thought - I did the Disneyland Half in 2:12 and it didn't have a massive 2 mile uphill.  I can totally run my next half marathon in under 2 hours.  That notion aside I still have another 13 miles to go.  Popped in some GU while listening to the piano player and I pushed on...

I kept up about a 10:30 - 11 minute pace through the 10.6 mile start area.  I remember looking down at my watch thinking wow 2:41 - that's 20 minutes faster than the 25K I ran at Fort Ord. Awesome!  Then past the final marathon relay handoff area.  But I was watching my gps as the AVG Pace slowly crept up 10:20 ...10:26...10:32...10:38.  I am pretty sure I hit the "wall" at Mile 18 - right around Soberanes Point.  This back half marathon was brutal. The wind was still present although it had lessened a bit but now the sun had come out in full force.  I still had not shed my arm warmers.  I seriously thought about it and then I said no.  If I get rid of them I will not be able to touch my arms for two weeks with the sunburn I will get.  So the arm sleeves stayed put.  The terrain was painful.  Little hill after little hill just kept coming and the road was uneven.  The slanted road was starting to severely impact my knee.

I was still following my 4 minute run, 1 minute walk strategy but at mile 18 I decided I would walk through the remaining 5 water/aid stations regardless of whether or not I was supposed to be walking.  This helped along with another GU.  Honestly, my legs were in pain - it wasn't fun to walk and it wasn't fun to run.  But I found some way to keep it up for the next 4 miles.

Until I hit hill up to Yankee Point.  Eww!  That is about all I can say about mile 22.  But right around that time Stroller Warrior Debbie was out on the course as a Bike Marshal and pretty much revived me.  To say I was the happiest camper in the bunch over the last 4 miles, is probably and understatement but she dolled out what I needed to keep my head above water.  She even got of the bike and into some flamingo dancing costume around mile 25 just to cheer me up.  That was super awesome.

At 22, my watched beeped off it's first 13:14 mile.  My heart sank a bit...that's wrong...a lot.  I was hoping that I could keep my miles under 13:00.  Oh well.  But we kept on going.  I busted my now tensed rear end into gear and brought my time back down into the low 12 minutes for the next 3 miles.  I ran right past the supposed best strawberries in the world at 23.5 miles.  I smelled them from the bottom of the tiny hill I had to run up to get to it.  Turned my stomach - I think I ran faster just to get away from the sweet smell.  :P

Nearing Point Lobos, Debbie let me know that the 4:45 pace group was coming up behind me - and that the leader was talking crazy talk.  I tried to keep her behind me but they passed by me right at the final water station at mile 25.  But oh my goodness - the talk dripping out of this pace leader's mouth - sort of obnoxious.  I directed my misery and anger at the 4:45 pace group and tried as I might to keep them in my sights.

The last mile brought me one final god-awful hill.  Whoever thinks it is fun to put a hill during the last mile of the race is just sadistic.  I don't care that is was only a 75 foot elevation - you don't just do that to a person.  I walked a lot of that final mile.  Then the watch pinged off the second 13+ minute mile.  

The final bridge to Rio road.  The last 0.2 miles.  Pull up the big girl panties and force every muscle in my body to pick it up.  I guess I did.  Stroller Warriors Amber and Yanira caught it camera.
They said I came in strong.  I came in crying, or trying to stop myself from crying.  I was just overcome - from stopping running in college because of my knee.  Starting up again after John was born.  Building my way from a 10K to a Half to a 25K to a marathon, and doing it so that I had minimal pain and wear and tear.  It wasn't something I was supposed to be or should be doing given my knee's state.  But I did it - on the toughest most beautiful course in the world.

Aww, pull your **** together girl.  You have got a medal to get...oh wait here's the photographer, oh and another photographer.  And wait your awesome friends are here.  And they are helping stay upright and drink your chocolate milk.  And then help you get a beer and your bag.  Oh goodness, they even walk back with you as you head to the medical tent to have the doctors "exorcise the demon" fluid built up in the two nastiest looking blisters you have ever gotten.  Goodbye - running shoes, you and I are no longer friends!

We then walked over to The Treadmill and the owner got me in some awesome compression massage sleeves for my legs.  At least I started to feel like I walk on my own again.  Even put my name down on the list for the special massage therapy guy who was out there working his magic.

Maybe the most magical thing to happen all day was that the winner, Adam Roach (who could probably have run two marathons in the time it took me to run mine) came over to the Treadmill to get some massage work done as well.  But the therapist said, "no, wait - Theresa is next on my list.  She's been waiting, once I get her done, then I'll work on Adam."  I think that right there made me feel like a million bucks.  The massage was pretty good too.

That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Breakfast Quiche

So, I have been trying to get out a bit more to make new friends.  My excuse for the better part of a year has been "Oh, I am waddling pregnant," or "I have a little baby".  Now the boys are moving and social.  I feel like getting out of the house is the best plan on most days.  I have been trying to go to events with other FAO (foreign area officer) spouses, play groups, and Stroller Warriors (I could...maybe will... probably write a whole post about this group).  One of the wonderful ladies at the playgroup shared this wonderfully tasty breakfast quiche.  I made this for dinner earlier this week and we devoured the whole thing.

Breakfast Quiche
from Playgroup Mommy friend

Ingredients
1 frozen deep-dish pie crust
4 eggs
1/2 lb cooked, drained meat
6 oz shredded cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Steps
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake pie crust for 10 minutes while combining other ingredients.
2.  Combine all other ingredients.
3.  When pie crust is done, pour mixture into the crust.
4.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes.
5.  Turn off oven and leave oven door closed for an addition 20 - 25 minutes.
6.  Remove and enjoy!
The Final Product

This really hit the spot.  Every now and again I enjoy breakfast for dinner.  This fit the bill.  I used 6 slices of thick cut bacon and 6 turkey breakfast sausages (crumbled) as my choice of meats.  I also used 1 cup of shredded Mexican taco cheese mix in place of the two cheese mixture.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quick, Easy Chicken Quesadillas

Normally, Saturday evenings are my easy dinner night.  I just throw in a ready to eat, prepared meal from Costco in the oven and sit back to relax - a little.  Lately, my mind has been going to the dogs.  I can not seem to remember much of anything despite my lists upon lists.  This past Saturday I forgot to add the usual prepared meal to my Costco list.  Let the panic begin!  Here is what I came up with - I have a stack of tortillas, some chicken defrosted, and cheese - light bulb!

Chicken Quesadillas

Ingredients
1 lb chicken tenderloins
6 8-in tortillas (makes 3 quesadillas)
3 tsp taco seasoning
1 cup mexican taco shredded cheese
Steps
1. Season chicken with taco seasoning
2.  Cook chicken with a little olive oil over medium heat in a fry pan, approximately 5 minutes per side.
3.  Remove from pan and shred chicken with forks.
4.  On a flat griddle, heat some butter and lay down one tortilla.  You will use one third of the cheese per quesadilla.  Using half of the third of a cup of cheese, lay down cheese onto tortilla.  Then lay down one third of the shredded chicken.  Spread remaining half of cheese on top.  Then carefully press second tortilla on top.
5.  When bottom tortilla is browned, careful lift the quesadilla and lay another pad of butter on the griddle.
6.  Once the butter has melted, flip the quesadilla over to brown the other side.
7.  Remove quesadilla from griddle when bottom is browned.
8.  Cut quesadilla into sixths.
9.  Repeat for remaining two quesadillas.
The Final Product

This was pretty quick and not to hard to make.  I was quite impressed with myself that it came out pretty tasty.  JT enjoyed three sectors and Thomas ate 2 sectors.  Between the two of them they devoured almost an entire quesadilla!  I am definitely going to put this one in the rotation!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken and Broccoli over Rice

This was my new for September slow cooker recipe.  It will not disappoint!  Did I remember to take a picture of it?  Alas, I did not but if you go to original link- the picture there will excite your eyes - and then you should make the recipe.

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken and Broccoli over Rice

Ingredients
4 boneless chicken breasts
14oz can cream of chicken soup
14 oz can cheddar soup
14 oz can chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt <- I did not add this, when I made it!
¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 Cup sour cream
1 12 oz frozen bag broccoli florets or 4 cups fresh broccoli lightly steamed
1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese

Steps
1.  Spray crockpot with cooking spray and put cream of chicken soup, cheddar soup, chicken broth, salt, cajun seasoning, and garlic salt into the crockpot. Stir the soups and seasonings together until smooth. Place the chicken in the bottom of the crockpot.
2.  Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or HIGH 3 hours. The last 30 minutes of cooking, shred the chicken with two forks and add the broccoli, sour cream, and cheese. Cook for about 30 more minutes until the broccoli is tender and heated through.
3.  Serve over white rice and garnish with more shredded cheese if desired.

The Final Product
First, I used about a pound of chicken tenderloins instead of breasts - just want I happened to have from Costco this week.  I left out the salt - between the cream of chicken soup, the cheddar cheese soup and the chicken broth there is no need for extra salt.  I did not have Cajun seasoning so I switched it out for a 1/4 teaspoon of blackening seasoning and I think that did the trick.  I definitely plan to make it again, especially when the severest of critics says "This is taste-ee!"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Slow Cooker Bacon Smothered Chicken

If bacon is in the title, or heck even just an ingredient, I know I need to try the recipe.  This one made the house smell soo delicious.

Slow Cooker Bacon Smothered Chicken

Ingredients
8 slices of bacon, cooked and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 cups fat-free chicken broth
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 8 oz package of fat free cream cheese
4 cups egg noodles, uncooked
2 Tbsp. dried parsley

Steps
1. Cook onions on medium heat over the stove top. Cook until they are golden brown.
2.  Add your chicken to the slow cooker; cover with the cooked onions and cooked bacon. Pour your chicken broth over top.
3. Cook on low 4 to 5 hours (or on HIGH 2 to 3 hours). About 15 min. before ready to serve, put your cream cheese in the slow cooker.
4. Cook your egg noodles as directed on the package.  When the slow cooker is ready, shred the chicken and mix well.
5. Then place your chicken on your cooked egg noodles and sprinkle with dried parsley. Serve warm.

The Final Product
Ooops, this is what happens - I forget to take a picture, then I forget to post the recipe.  So when I do get around to posting the recipe, I don't have a picture to remind myself.   The aromas from the slow cooker just made me want to rip open the lid throughout the day - that I do remember.  Overall it was a good dish, it seemed to me to follow the same vein as a beef stroganoff - except not so beefy.  Give it a whirl, at least your nostrils will thank you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Slow Cooker Tater Tot Casserole

I love tater tots!  Who doesn't??!?!  So I thought I would give this recipe a whirl.  The comments mention that this is crowd pleaser and they like to serve it with salad and be done with it.  That wasn't quite the case when I made it.

Tater Tot Casserole
from The Crockin' Girls

Ingredients
Non-stick Cooking spray
32 oz frozen tater tots
1 lb ground turkey, cooked
dash of fennel seeds
1 cup light sour cream
10.5 oz cream of mushroom soup
4 - 6 pieces cooked and crumbled bacon
2 cups of shredded cheese (I used a combination of cheeses)
1/2 onion diced finely
Steps
1.  Combine the turkey, sour cream, mushroom soup, bacon, 1/2 cheese, and onions in a bowl.
2.  Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray.
3.  Place enough tots in slow cooker to cover the bottom.
4.  Pour half of mixture over the tots.
5.  Use the rest of the tots to make another layer and cover that with the other half of the mixture.
6.  Sprinkle top with remaining cheese.
7.  Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW for 5 hours.

The Final Product
I apologize for not having a picture.  Honestly, I would not eat this meal for dinner.  I loved it for breakfast the next morning.  This turned out tasting like a healthier version of corned beef hash (I love corned beef hash!).  It was fantastic with a couple of sunny-side up eggs and a muffin.  So make this yummy meal - but make it for breakfast - you will thank me later!