Monday, October 31, 2011

Meatless Monday - Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

One of the many nice things about our trips to Michigan is all the great produce we pick up from the local farms.  Our basement is filled with apples and during our last weekend, we picked up a bunch of squash.  Here's an easy vegan recipe that uses both:

2 medium onions, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped into 1/2" cubes
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, chopped
8 cups water
Pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper

In large stock pot, saute onion, celery and carrot in olive oil for 5 minutes (store-bought broth can also be used).

Add squash, apple and water and bring to boil.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until squash softens.

Remove bay leaf and puree to desired consistency (I left it a little chunkier).

Add spices and salt and pepper to taste.  I garnished with black bread garlic croutons and parsley (parsley is a great digestive aid, breath freshener and source of vitamin C).


Recipe adapted from

Happy Halloween!

For a chance to win an 
Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet, enter HERE!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Fluff

Bit of bummer news - MRI results indicate I have another torn meniscus :(  Back under the scope asap, and back to running ASAP.  I had the same procedure on my other knee two summers ago.  It was a relatively painless procedure, and with physical therapy a pretty quick recovery.  Hoping for the same experience second time around.  Our family signed up for our local Turkey Day 5k - I was planning to run it, but it looks like I'll be walking with the stroller instead.  Next year we'll have 6 running it!

Never thought I would become the stereotypical soccer mom - but I have (minus the "mom jeans" and taxi bumper sticker).  We live in the 'burbs, and I drive a minivan load of boys and girls to and from practices and games sometimes up to 5 times a week.  The kids My minivan gets muddy and stinky at times.  The other day when I picked up one of the boys, he asked,  "what's that smell?"  My son jokingly replied, it's probably your feet.  He said, no it smells nice.  My son said - it's probably my mom:)

The new look of soccer moms

First frost this morning - time to get out the warmer gear!  Looks like we'll have decent weather for all our weekend plans, which of course include - - you guessed it - soccer.  

Happy Friday!

Any exciting plans for the weekend?   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Train Harder, Live Stronger - Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet Review and GIVEAWAY

"Your toughness is made up of equal parts persistence and experience. You don't so much outrun your opponents as outlast and outsmart them, and the toughest opponent of all is the one inside your head." - Joe Henderson

So much of endurance training is mental.  Endorphin Warrior's aim is to help you train, perform and live with greater strength of body and mind.  Their products (bracelet, rings, pendants and more) have positive and powerful messaging to wear while running, cycling, working out, sweating, racing – or all day long – to help you stay strong-minded and focused...and help you train harder, improve performance, achieve your goals, overcome challenges and live stronger.
The Endurance Warrior Training bracelet is made of a natural leather wristband with a nickel-plated metal tag that won't rust.  It's made to be worn while training or all day as a reminder to stay focused and strong.  I wore it all day - including while running, hiking, cycling, even showering and sleeping.  It is comfortable and lightweight.  A snap closure provides easy on off.  I used the sizing directions on their website to find the correct size.  Right out of the baggie, the bracelet looked tiny and fit a bit snugly, but then stretched slightly for a perfect fit.  Bracelets are unisex - check out Kovas' review at Midwest Multisport Life.

From 18 positive and powerful key words/phrases, I chose "TRANSCEND" for my bracelet. Transcend not only means to go beyond limits, it's also the euphoric feeling one gets during and after a great run (probably due to the endorphin rush).  Each time I look at the my bracelet, I want to lace up my running shoes and head out the door!

Would you like your own motivational 
Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet?  
Here's your chance!  To enter:

  •  you must be(come) a follower (let me know in a comment)
For additional entries:
  • go to Endorphin Warrior  - what word/phrase would you choose and why? 
  • post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook and/or Twitter account

Please leave a comment for each entry.  Giveaway runs through Thursday, Nov. 3rd.  Winner will be announced Friday, Nov. 4th.

Endorphin Warrior - products celebrating the magnificence of running, 
endurance training, working out...and living strong.

Great gift idea for athletes!  
To see all the products and for more information on Endorphin Warrior, 
check out their websiteblog, Facebook page 
and follow them on Twitter.

(Disclaimer: I was sent the Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Endorphin Warrior. I did not pay for the item, receive payment, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company's website, the opinions are my own.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits - Halloween Candy Consumption

Goblins, witches and vampires, oh my - a lots and lots of candy!  With Halloween just around the corner, here are some interesting statistics about trick or treating and candy consumption.

41.0 millionThe estimated number of potential trick-or-treaters in 2010 -- children age 5 to 14 -- across the United States. Of course, many other children -- older than 14 and younger than 5 -- also go trick-or-treating.

24.7 poundsPer capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2010, 5% of which occurs on Halloween and the week following.

90 percent of parents admit to stealing candy (usually chocolate) from their kids' Halloween stash.

American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories/day of "discretionary" or extra sugar (equivalent to 6 tsp), and men no more than 150 calories (9 tsp).

Top 5 Halloween Candy in 2010 (and nutritional break down)

1.  Candy Corn (serving size 20 pieces/42.4 g)
Calories 150, Total fat  0 g, Total carbs 38 g

2.  Snickers (serving size 1 bar/2 oz/57 g)
Calories 271, Total fat 13.6 g, Total carbs 34.5 g

3.  Reese's PB Cups (5 pieces/40.4 g)
Calories 210, Total fat 12 g, Total carbs 22 g

4.  KitKat (1 bar/43 g)
Calories 210, Total fat 11 g, Total carbs 28 g

5.  Milky Way (1 bar/58 g)
Calories 270, Total fat 11 g, Total carbs 41 g

In order to burn off the calories from a serving of candy corn, you'd have to 
run for 10 minutes at 8mph, 
cycle for 14 minutes at 14-16 mph, 
hike for 22 minutes, 
rake leaves for 33 minutes or 
read for 1 hr and 43 minutes 
(calculations for individuals weighing 150 pounds).

Sources:  U.S. Census Bureau,,,

What do you hand out to trick or treaters?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meatless Monday - Falafels

Another family favorite - falafels. This recipe was a little too spicy for my 4 and 1 year old (next time I will cut down on the onion to see if it makes it more palatable for them).  I used to buy a premade mix for falafels, but this recipe is so easy and delicious, no need for a mix (adapted from food) -

In case you're not familiar with falafels...

Falafel is very popular in the Middle East as a fast food. Vendors sell it on the street corners in Cairo. As a main dish, it is served as a sandwich, stuffed in pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes, and tahini. As an appetizer, it is served on a salad, or with hummus and tahini. Falafel is a favorite among vegetarians. In Egypt, McDonald's has their version of a falafel sandwich. Can you guess the name? McFalafel, of course (from 

Prep Time: 15 minutes 
Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes  

Ingredients: 1 cup dried chickpeas (or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans) 
1 large onion, chopped 
2 cloves of garlic, chopped 
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped 
1 teaspoon coriander 
1 teaspoon cumin 
2 tablespoons flour 
Fresh ground pepper 
Coconut oil for frying 

Preparation: Soak dried chickpeas overnight. Drain chickpeas, and place in pot with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then simmer for about an hour. Drain and allow to cool for 15 minutes. If you're in a crunch for time, canned chickpeas can be used. I find that dried and boiled taste much better - sometimes canned chickpeas are a bit slimy. 

Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. Add flour. Mash chickpeas (with fork or food processor), ensuring to mix ingredients together until a thick paste forms. 

Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten. I pan fry with coconut oil, or you can fry in 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees until golden brown (5-7 minutes). 

Serve hot as an appetizer with hummus and tahini, or as a main course.  Make it into a sandwich with pita bread, top with lettuce, tomatoes (we omitted tomatoes - nightshade), red onion, tahini, yogurt, salt and pepper.  Falafel can also be formed into patties and served like a burger. 

Serves 4

Do you have a favorite Middle Eastern food?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Fluff

Yesterday on our way to school, Munchkin asked me if I miss him while he's at school.  I said of course I do and asked him if he missed me - he said yes, a little, but he knows he'll see me again soon.  Seems like a healthy response.  As we waited in the drop off line, we watched a little boy screaming and flailing as a teacher brought him into school.  It has been almost 2 months and every day same thing.  I'm sure as soon as he gets into the classroom he is fine, but it must still be hard on the mother.  We are lucky - all three of our school aged children love school.  We'll see how long the sentiment lasts...

I've been having knee pain since mid August.  After a visit to my PT and an orthopedic surgeon, consensus so far is that my knee symptoms are consistent with another meniscus injury.  I'm going for an MRI today to find out for sure.  Whatever the problem is, I am determined to have it under control soon, be it surgery, more rest time or physical therapy.  This time around, I plan to keep my hips strong and muscles balanced to prevent any further knee problems.

I'm a total chocoholic.  This week I challenged myself not to eat any chocolate - and I succeeded!!  Since chocolate is really my favorite sweet, I didn't consume any other candy - no real desire for it.  The big challenge will be to see if I can keep it up through the end of the month.  The past couple of years, we've allowed our children to sort and play with their candy and then choose 5 or so pieces to keep.  The rest we pack up and send to work with K (can only imagine what happens to it there :) This year, however, our Healthy Kids Committee at school is collecting Halloween candy to send to the troops - not the healthiest thing for them, but less temptation for us...

Have a great weekend!

What do you do with your child(ren)'s Halloween candy?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Raw Power and Reviews to Come

After some warm, almost summer-like weeks, it looks like Chicagoland's weather has turned for the worse to fall.  The silver lining to all the dreary days is that I finally get to try out some new Brooks gear -

Brooks Silver Bullet Jacket, Silver Bullet Wind Tight, and Infinity Hybrid Wind Shirt

And to help stay strong-minded and focused during workouts -

Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet

Check out the raw power of Lake Michigan - winds of 40 mph and waves to 24 feet - would be perfect to try out my new gear or go for a swim :)

Reviews coming soon!

What's your favorite weather to run in?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits - Tippling and Sipping

Our fridge is stocked with milk, unsweetened soy milk, seltzer water, and the occasional beer and white wine (amongst lots of food).  I start my day with coffee, drink water and green tea during the day and have a glass of wine, usually red, with dinner (or after) most nights.  When it comes to beverages, looks like our household is doing pretty well...

People who drank at least one diet soda a day increased their girth 70 percent more than did those who abstained over a 10-year period, while those who drank two or more diet sodas a day saw their belt size grow at a 500 percent greater rate. Chemists found that aspartame, used in the majority of diet drinks, forms acids and methanol in the liver, both of which can disrupt cell function and cause fat accumulation. Other studies show that the sweetener kills or inhibits the brain cells that signal feelings of fullness, causing diet-soda drinkers to overeat. 
Grape seeds contain compounds that may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists found that grape-seed extract reduced levels of proteins linked to the development of the disease in mice. To help safeguard your brainpower, eat a Mediterranean-style diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and enjoy a glass of red wine each day (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease).  A drink a day may also protect against dementia in the elderly.  

A study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that people who sipped coffee or hot tea were 53 percent less likely to carry the bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in their noses. Harboring the germ raises the risk of developing an antibiotic resistant infection by about 4 times. Temperature is key - iced drinks won’t fight the superbug.

Me without my coffee in the morning :)
Facts taken from Health, Men's Journal and Women's Health.

What's your healthy beverage of choice? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meatless Monday - Squash, Noodles and Sunflower Butter

Here's another healthy, vegan and delicious meal our whole family enjoyed - spaghetti squash, spaghetti noodles, and sunflower butter sauce.

Usually we have red sauce with squash and noodles, but since were avoiding nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant,  peppers and potatoes), I decided to make a variation of peanut noodles (K doesn't eat peanuts either part of his diet prescribed by his doctor) swapping sunflower butter for the peanut butter.

Spaghetti squash
Spaghetti noodles
Sunflower butter
Rice wine vinegar
Grapeseed oil for stir frying
Fresh ground black pepper (not a nightshade) and salt to taste
Trader Joe's frozen Stir Fry Veggie Mix
Cilantro, chives, red onion, cashews for garnish

To prepare the spaghetti squash - cut in half, add 1/2 inch - 1 inch water to casserole dish, bake for one hour at 375.  Boil up some spaghetti noodles (my kids complain less when I add pasta).  Mix together noodles and squash and toss with some olive oil.

In a little bowl mix up some sunflower butter, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, soysauce, rice wine vinegar, grapeseed oil, fresh ground pepper and salt - all to taste (sorry no measurements).

In a wok, stir fry some Asian veggies (easy and perfect for this dish - Trader Joe's frozen Stir Fry veggie mix).  Add sunflower butter sauce.

Plate noodle/squash with veggies and sunflower butter sauce.  Garnish with cilantro, chives, red onion and cashews.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits - Exercise and Illness

With the kids back in school and spending more time inside, chances for them catching some sort of bug and bringing it home, greatly increase.  Here are some interesting tidbits  from the current and previous Runner's World to help keep you healthy... 

Running in the rain or cold will NOT make you sick. You’re more likely to catch a cold when you spend more time inside, where germs spread. Some reports suggest cold temps may reduce effectiveness of your immune system, but you’d still have to be exposed to a virus. 

People who exercise have 20% fewer colds than their nonactive peers, report the University of South Carolina. 

Chicken soup for sick runners: the ingredient combo in both home-made and canned varieties has a proven anti-inflammatory effect. 

Runners who ate a cup of blueberries daily for 6 weeks and ran for 2 1/2 hours, had more immune cells and less inflammation and oxidative damage before and after the run than runners that ate no blueberries. Researchers believe anthocyanidins (also found in blackberries and pomegranates) in blueberries are responsible for the protective benefits.

In a study from Munich University, runners drank one to one and half liters of nonalcoholic beer daily for 3 weeks, then ran a marathon. Afterwards they drank NAB for 2 more weeks. Compared to nondrinkers, the NAB group had more killer T cells (a sign of a strong immune sys) and 3 times fewer post race respiratory tract infections. 

So get outside and enjoy the beautiful fall weather:)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Fluff

We have a fun packed long weekend starting today with a preschool field trip to the Arboretum with Munchkin.  He's especially excited because we get to ride the bus - fun, fun:)

The rest of the weekend we'll be at Lithuanian school, soccer games, and a family wedding and finally off to Michigan to enjoy the fall colors, walk in the woods and visit a pumpkin farm.  Good thing we have an extra day!

And what could possibly make this an even better weekend?  Check out this amazing forecast...

May not be optimal marathon conditions, but we get to wear shorts - and maybe even go to the beach while in Michigan!

Good luck to all those running the Chicago Marathon!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits - Knee Health and Injury

Since returning from our trip to Lithuania, I've had some joint soreness - primarily in my right knee. While on vacation, we walked a lot, but didn't run like we had planned. 

Despite the soreness I ran my first half marathon 2 weeks after returning home - definitely not the smartest choice, I admit.  Going down stairs is the most troublesome.  Walking (even running) and biking feel fine. A couple years ago I had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean up a torn meniscus - and although the pain is similar, I can squat and sit criss cross apple sauce no problems (which was really painful). I've tried RICE and ibuprofen which helps some, but I guess maybe it's time to go see an orthopaedic. It's not excruciating, but nonetheless I would hate to create more damage.  

Runner's World has some timely knee tidbits...

Stanford Medical School researchers found that after 20 years, the knees of distance runners were actually healthier than those of a control group.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine findings - overall “physical activity (including running) is beneficial, rather than detrimental, to joint health.”

About 50% of running injuries involve the knee, according to a British Journal of Sports Medicine report.

Exercise scientists have discovered a link between weak hips and that all-too-common knee agony known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) which aggravates the front of the knee.  

Check out for a video of a hip strengthening routine.  

Have a good hip/knee exercise to share?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Meatless Monday - Lazy Indian Food

In an effort to eat less meat, we've been having Meatless Monday in our house for a couple months now.  One of my family's favorites is a mix of Indian dishes on top of brown basmati rice with garlic naan.  I have made some Indian fare with success, but when I'm feeling lazy and time is tight, I turn to Trader Joe's.

Even though it is processed and pre-packaged, the ingredients are simple and all natural (all Trader Joe's brand food has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, no MSG, no genetically modified ingredients, and no added Trans Fats).  But best of all, my oldest 2 have made the whole meal by themselves and everyone (including little A Bomb and Munchkin - who's super picky) love it.  We've tried all of the entrees in Trader Joe's Indian Fare line, and liked them all.  For our family, the least kid friendly is the Punjab Eggplant - which is okay because we're going to cut out nightshades for a month or longer depending on results (eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers - some studies show this family of veggies cause inflammation in the body which lead to skin and joint problems).

The whole meal is super easy to make, like I mentioned Tazer (10) and Gaigai (8) have made the complete dinner.  While your rice is cooking, put on a large pot of water to boil.  Preheat oven to 400 for naan.  Once water is boiling, immerse sealed foil packet(s) for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, put frozen naan into the oven for a couple of minutes - take out and brush with some butter or olive oil.  Remove foil pouches from boiling water, cut open.  Top rice with your choice of Indian Fare.  We also add cashews and yogurt (some of the dishes are a bit spicy for the kids).  Although the kids like the entrees, their favorite part of the meal is the garlic naan - chewy on top, crispy on the bottom, and topped with butter or olive oil, the naan complements and completes the super easy super delicious Indian dinner!

Do you have an easy meat-free recipe?
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