We Can’t All Be Julia Child

Today’s Happy Note: Meeting my new students!  I volunteer with high schoolers in NYC public schools and love it.  Some of them told me that I have really strong arms and legs, randomly.  I guess all my strength training and running pay off (although in reality the benefit for me is mostly mental — I want to look fit, but I don’t have a pathological need to “look good” — I’m past that stage, thank God)!

Marathon Training: During my hilly 9-miler this morning, I realized that my half-marathon on Saturday is not gonna be easy.  I have already run 39 miles this week and will probably do 3 or so tomorrow.  Saturday will include the half-mary plus an extra 5 for a grand total of 18 and 60 for the whole week. Wow.  Holy crap.  That’s a lot of miles.

I need new shoes just thinking about it.

Today was another super busy day of running, classes, therapy, more classes, volunteering and….law school fair! This probably sounds really boring to you, but applying to law school is actually something I’m genuinely excited about. Every time I find a new school that seems fun and vibrant and has good programs in the areas I’m interested in, I add it to The List. The List is getting bigger every day.

I haven’t felt so thrilled about most big changes or decisions in my life.  But, like my decision to leave school in the second half of my sophomore year, this is just something that I feel clearly and simply right about. In my heart.

All this is to say that my life is crazy busy right now, just like so many of your lives!  And I want to share with you my favorite easy dinners (and easy dinner-making tips) for when life gets like this.

Sometimes I get home at 8 or 9 and I. Do. Not. Want. To. Cook.

Chopping vegetables and coming up with complicated fish marinades can be relaxing.  But not when you haven’t eaten in six hours and you’re ready to eat the damn non-stick pan you’re cooking with.

Speedy-but-healthy weeknight dinner tips:

  1. Do not fear the afternoon snack. I always have one between three and five.  Usually something relatively large.  A good afternoon snack means that you’ll have the time and energy to prepare a tasty, healthy dinner.
  2. If you can, prep your vegetables on the weekend.  I like to either make a giant stir-fry over the weekend or just cut up a few cups of sliced carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, or whatever is in season and in my fridge!
  3. Simple does not necessarily mean bad.  When you’re pressed for time and money, fancy is rarely an option, in fact.  Pick simple proteins and fats. Don’t buy a live lobster or a 10 pound complicated rack of lamb.  Some of my favorite choices: eggs, hummus and cheese, salmon (cooks quickly!), natural/organic deli turkey, canned beans, canned tuna, quinoa, frozen pre-cooked shrimp, extra firm tofu, and nut butters, of course.  You can spice up a simple protein relatively easily and quickly.
  4. You don’t need a lot of equipment but the essentials are, well, essential.  A cutting board (or a very sturdy plastic plate that I may or may not use as a cutting board), a good knife, a measuring cup, a glass mixing bowl or two, a good spatula, a wooden spoon, a pot, and a non-stick pan.
  5. Invest in some spices and sauces that you can throw into a dish to take it to the next level: salsa, hummus, peanut vinaigrette, green chiles, lemon pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, seedy mustard, guacamole, etc.

And without further ado, easy weeknight dinners in pictures!

I tend to go for easy stir-fry comobs.  This was the one I mentioned yesterday — broccoli, onion, sweet potato, tofu, and peanut sauce.  I paired it with some TJ’s carrot ginger soup.  Soups, provided that they’re low in sodium and don’t have crazy ingredients, can be great sides or main dishes if you add in some fillers.

Sweet potatoes are really easy to steam in the microwave!  I topped mine with turkey here, but you can also use beans, greek yogurt, nut butter — whatever.  Paired with a side salad, dinner was good to go.

Sometimes you just need a Smoothie In A Bowl for dinner.  Throw on some granola and nuts for toppings to make it heartier.  And pair it with a side salad if you’re weird like I am and don’t mind veggies with your smoothie.

Omelets or egg scrambles are always a good choice! Tonight I had one stuffed with broccoli, green pepper, and cheddar, with a bowl of oatmeal on the side.  Breakfast for dinner is usually quick and always tasty!

These have all been dinners from just this week.  It’s easier than you think to be creative but tasty.  Inexpensive yet healthy.

Some of my other favorite weekday dinners include quinoa with beans mixed in, salmon baked up with soy sauce, ginger, maple and roasted veggies, whole grain pasta with marinara and local grass-fed ground beef, wraps with avocado, hummus, spinach, and tuna…the list goes one.

Your favorite quick and easy dinners?

Because let’s face it.  We can’t all be Julia Child all the time.

I have more exciting (and important) things to do than cook dinner.  BUT I still want to be nourished and satisfied. These tips and dinners fit the bill.

Hot, Sweaty, Heavy

Today’s Happy Note: Sometimes a silly little kitchen failure, like the one pictured below, makes me smile!  Needless to say, this batch of oatmeal was ruined.  That is indeed a sea of oatmeal soup.  I smiled!

What was hot, sweaty, and heavy today?  My run, unfortunately!  I woke up at 9 this morning and felt like a sack of bricks.  I took the day off work in the name of packing — yeah, that didn’t happen.  I’m moving tomorrow and have not packed one. single. thing. I haven’t even started my laundry.  For some reason I operate best at night though — I do my best writing, my best cleaning, sometimes even my best yoga, after midnight.  Weird.

So.  I got distracted (happens easily).  Back to the run.  I accomplished nothing all day; my body literally felt like a sloth.  Minus the hairiness part.  But I was damn determined to get out the door.  And you know what? Sometimes getting out the door is an accomplishment in and of itself. I had to bribe myself with the promise of a massage — sometimes I am so lazy it scares me. 😉  But admit it, you have days when you have to bribe yourself to leave the house too.  I know I can’t be the only one.

The run was muy sluggish, but I finished my 8 hilly miles in a little under 90 minutes. I hit up the gym for some much-needed strength training afterwards — I actually crave lifting weights sometimes.  I did almost an hour of arms and abs. It felt great.  And at the end of my epic little workout, you know what?  I felt amazing!  It is so true that you almost never regret a workout, but you almost always regret not doing a workout.

After reading this post on Runner’s Trials, I was inspired to make my own nutrition goals for marathon training!  But first, I want to show you my excellent eats from today — I think this is a pretty good example of what a day like today (8 miles) should look like, ideally, for ME (every body and every runner is different).

Brunch was another avocado-cinnamon-vanilla SIAB, topped with some flax PB, some honey roasted nuts, and a half a TJ’s PB granola bar, crumbled.

I officially declare that I like rice — I used to hate it passionately, probably because my mom always made brown rice when I was little and all the other kids had white rice.  I refused to eat brown rice because I didn’t want to seem any weirder than I already was (I was reallllllyyyy weird).  So, for the last 20 years, I have mostly eschewed rice.  But I really like a nice grainy brown rice.  I ate it with cinnamon, stevia, sunflower seed butter, and TJ’s dark chocolate covered ginger for an amazing afternoon snack.

More snackage.  I had about twice that much chocolate.

Romaine, carrots, peppers, broccoli, avocado, two apple chicken sausages, and TJ’s spicy peanut vinaigrette.  I love giant salads for dinner, but I can never have one and then be satisfied for the rest of the evening.  An hour or two later, I need a substantial dessert.  Enter….

This was a bowl of 2% Greek yogurt, the other half of the granola bar from this morning, a small spoonful (teaspoon?) of sunflower seed butter, and chocolate trail mix, which I had a few too many handfuls of while preparing this.  In my defense, I was frustrated because of the microwave oatmeal disaster, which had just occurred. 🙂

That’s everything, minus two werther’s candies and the unpictured handfuls of trail mix.  I sometimes eat an extra spoonful or two of nut butter when preparing anything that involves nut butter (okay, so that’s pretty much everything I eat…) but I honestly can’t remember if I had any extra today.

Marathon Training Nutrition Goals

1. Four to six smaller meals per day. Time and time again I come back to this way of eating because it works for me.  I would much rather eat every three or four hours than six or seven, thank you very much.

2. Do not be afraid of the whole grains! I can’t tell you how satisfied I felt after that bowl of brown rice this afternoon.  I also love oats and quinoa.

3. Less processed food, more “clean” food. My diet is pretty clean as is, but there are a few things that could stand to be eliminated.  I am going to focus on whole foods, like fish, chicken, fruits, vegetables, greens, some plain greek yogurt, nuts, nut butters, tofu, avocado, healthy fats, and grains, of course.  I don’t intend to eliminate protein powder (especially the simpler ones), but I do want to use it less.  My staples are as follows: spinach, frozen berries, carrots, apples, salmon, tofu, peanut butter, oats.  So simple, so nutritious.

4. Sugar in moderation. I feel better, think better, and run better when my diet is mostly free of processed sugar (i.e., granola bars, flavored yogurts/nut butters, non-homemade baked goods).  I fully intend to continue consuming honey, maple syrup, stevia, baked goods that I have made, good dark chocolate, and farmer’s market pastries (because they’re too damn good to give up).  Once I have a little bit of sugar, I tend to want a lot more, so Iam really going to try to be careful and moderate here.

5. Say no sometimes and recognize hunger vs. not-hunger.  I do not have to eat anything, ever, if I do not want it.  Training for a marathon does not mean that I can (or even should) eat when I’m not hungry.  I can say no to food at parties, extra food on my plate at restaurants, late-night snacks, etc.

6. Above all, listen to my body.  If my body is saying “feed me a giant pile of veggies!” I shall listen.

I should probably start this whole packing monstrosity now.  Blogging is so much more fun though!

My nutrition goals are really just guidelines.  I think that one of the most important things is not to get mad at myself if I have an off-day.  It won’t kill me.

Do you have general nutrition goals/guidelines/thoughts that you live by?  And does anyone out there happen to be an expert on losing ten nagging pounds while training for a marathon? If so, please share. 🙂

Transition Stress/Long Run/Meat

Today’s Happy Note: My day involved plenty of chocolate.  Always a good thing.

Mental Health Note: Transitions, of any sort, are always stressful and tricky for me.  At this point in my life, I have come to accept that, and instead of trying to pretend that the stress isn’t there (and thereby making it much, much worse), I just acknowledge it and do my best to soothe myself.  I find moving around — which, unfortunately, happens a lot in college — not just physically exhausting, but emotionally draining as well.  I get attached to places.  I go back and forth between NYC and Michigan (and sometimes Canada) quite frequently.  I am in NYC right now, but have to move back into my dorm.  I’m also making a shift from full-time worker to full-time student and part-time worker.  My life patterns are not all that different during the school year, which helps to ease my mind.  I know that I will still eat oats with nut butter or smoothies for breakfast.  I know that I will find some time in the day to squeeze my run in and that I will make time for friends and life outside of school.

All this is to say that the stress is creeping up on me already — I can see and feel it. It sort of drapes its way around me and sits on my heart and body like a heavy scarf.  I move into my dorm room on Saturday and start classes Tuesday.  I have been mentally preparing myself.  One thing I find very helpful is finding room for extra sleep during my day/night.  Stress often leaves me sleepy-tired, and if I can either sleep 9 hours at night or 7-8 hours at night with a nap in the late afternoon, I am much happier and calmer.  Other things that help include lots of self-care (doing stuff like painting my nails, getting a massage, strolling in the park and looking at the flowers, etc.), reaching out to people I love, and eating delicious but clean foods.

How do you deal with life transitions — physically or emotionally or occupationally?  How do you relieve the stress/anxiety/tension? I love consistency, but I understand that, for the next few years, my life will not necessarily be straightforward.  I am learning how to find the excitement in this.

I got my run in this evening!  It was way too hot at the beginning, but eventually cooled down with a nice breeze. I did ten miles and actually felt really great during it.  I held about a 10 minute per mile pace, but was probably around 9:30 at some points.  I feel like I may finally be back up to pre-hospital strength!  Yay!  I also lifted weights for a quick 30 minutes.

Long run eats:

I’m not showing everything because I think it’s boring.  But I have done a good job keeping track.  And I don’t have a picture since I only just made it, but I am currently eating a delicious chocolate banana smoothie with TJ’s dark chocolate in a nut butter jar.  Nut butter jars make everything better. Seriously, I would be so thrilled if I got my Christmas and birthday presents in (clean) nut butter jars from now on.  It would be so cute!  I’m pretty sure my relatives already think I’m a weird foodie though, so I probably will go ahead and *not* make that request…

Lunch was kinda epic: steamed carrots/yellow squash, green grapes/cherry mix, and a turkey/cheddar/avocado wrap on a TJ’s multigrain tortilla.  I have a lunchtime sandwich fear, for some odd reason.  But on longer run days, I find it helpful to have a sandwich for the extra carbs/calories.  It works out perfectly fine because, when eating more earlier in the day, I eat less in the evenings.

Awesome new snack!  TJ’s (do you see a TJ’s them here?  Hmmmm….) peanut butter crunchy granola bar.  This was a tad sweet but definitely tasty.

Dinner involved more meat — apple chicken sausage, in honor of my sister (it’s one of her favorite foods, but I also really like it as well) with a GIANT salad of romaine, peppers, avocado, and TJ’s peanut vinaigrette (LOVE).  I had okra fries a la Meghann on the side.  They were actually really good.  When I cut up veggies like carrots, squash, or, in this case, okra, into fry form and bake them, I am not intending them as a fry replacement.  I just like roasted veggies.  But these were actually legitimately fry-like!  I coated them in salt, pepper, and EVOO and baked at 400 for about 30-ish (maybe 40?) minutes.  Okra=my new friend.  Oh, and if you are wondering why it’s dark in the above photo that’s because it’s purple okra!  I love veggies in fun colors.

Hello, okra.  You can come over for dinner anytime you want.  Have you had okra?  Do you like it?

Meaty talk:

I don’t eat a lot of meat.  But I think it can be a very healthy part of a diet and I will probably never go vegetarian. I do believe in ethical, moderate meat consumption.  I get as much of it as I can from the farmer’s market or other local, natural, and/or organic sources.  I just realized, while posting, that I had meat twice today! Turkey at lunch and chicken sausage at dinner.  And you know what?  I feel great. The protein and fat really work wonders for me.

I like all kinds of protein sources.  My favorites: salmon, shrimp, steak, turkey, tofu, lentils, black beans, tempeh, whole grains, greek yogurt, veggie burgers, cottage cheese, nut butters, and certain protein powders.

Your fave protein sources?

Bedtime for this stressed chica.  Goodnight friends! 🙂

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