More Than Running

When you love a sport, you want to do that sport all the time. And when you’re trying to be competitive in it (whether “competitive” means against others or just yourself), it’s easy to get wrapped up in doing just that. But if there’s one thing I know as an athlete, it’s that you need to do more than just your sport in order to excel.

As a swimmer in high school and college, I understood the importance of “dryland.” I didn’t always make it a priority, but I always tried to remind myself that there was more to swimming than just swimming. When I actually hit the weight room and did things to supplement my time in the pool, I saw results. I’ll never forget the summer after a disappointing freshman year season – I made as many 6am long course practices as possible and, thanks to not really having a job (which was not so fun when I had no money sophomore year) I also did a lot of running and weight training. It paid off big time and I told myself I’d be diligent with cross-training for the rest of my swimming career.

No shame then, no shame now. See, I used to swim!
No shame then, no shame now. See, I used to swim!

Well, my swimming career ended (for now), but I didn’t keep the promise to myself to be good at cross-training when I started running. I’ve found myself being great at it when I’m injured, but as soon as I start to get into the depths of training for whatever upcoming race, my cross-training falls by the wayside. It’s a combination of things; I’m tired, I’m spending more time running and have less time for “other stuff,” and if we’re being honest, sometimes I’m just plain lazy. But with this last injury preventing me from running a fall marathon for the second year in a row, I realized it was time to get serious. Or as my mother would say, time to shit or get off the pot.

Since I’m slightly injured right now, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to explore some cross-training options that would allow me to help me reach my running goals. Not having to worry about weekend morning long runs leaves time for fitness classes that I would otherwise skip because I wouldn’t want to waste energy on a non-running activity, or be afraid I’d be too sore. I’m also much closer to a variety of fitness options that I didn’t really have before… so there’s really no excuse!

Swimmer turned runner... kind of.
Swimmer turned runner… kind of.

This past weekend I got adventurous and tried two new-to-me workouts. First up was yoga with Dori on Saturday at a local yoga studio. After finding an Amazon Local deal a few weeks ago, we decided it would be in both of our best interests to check it out. The studio, Jivamukti Yoga, offers a variety of classes throughout the day, which is convenient. Unfortunately they don’t offer any early classes, making it a weeknight and/or weekend-only kind of thing.

Since we’ve both practiced yoga before, but it’s been awhile for us (and we’re far from experts), we decided to try the Beginner Vinyasa class. The mid-afternoon class was small (there were 7 of us including myself and Dori) which allowed for personal attention and a relaxing environment. We started with some chanting which I always have to try not to smile/laugh during because I’m a child, and then we moved on to some basic poses and a few sequences. It felt good to stretch out while also getting a little bit of a workout (my back and arms were slightly sore the next day). We ended the class working on an assisted shoulder stand, but both Dori and I agreed it would have been easier with out the blanket prop. It also made me realize the importance of a shirt with an elastic or adjustable waistband! Since we purchased a 5-class package, we’ll definitely be back. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other types of classes they offer, like their spirit warrior class which is a one-hour workout styled class, as well as their aerial vinyasa.

On Sunday, I finally tried out Refine Method, which I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. I have a lot of friends who love it, so now that I’m a quick PATH ride away from the city, it was the perfect time to give it a try.

As with all new things, I was a little nervous for my first class. Not because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do the work, rather I was scared of the unknown. I didn’t want to look like a total newbie, and sometimes when I’m working out I don’t pay close attention to instructions which leaves me clueless. Thankfully I had nothing to worry about because Dori was with me to help, and it was all really straight forward and simple – I wasn’t confused at all! The instructor, Laura, took the time to introduce herself and set me up on their pulley system, and to tell me what weights she thought I should use. Once the class started it was go-go-go for 55 minutes (followed by core-work and a cool-down for the last 5 minutes).

I was dripping sweat by the end of the class, and knew I’d be sore on Monday. We did everything from side lunges with single leg squats, to jump-backs (burpees) and kettlebell swings. My favorite part about the class was that each exercise was done for no more than a minute at a time, and just as you were starting to feel like you couldn’t continue, it was time to switch to the next exercise! And each set included a move targeting your upper body, followed by one targeting your lower body (or vice versa). It really is a total body workout that pushes you without feeling impossible. I felt really accomplished by the end of class, and was already thinking about when to go back! I think doing workouts like this two times a week could really help with my running because a lot of the exercises are things that are part of my simple strength work now. The classes are a little expensive, but I think I can make it work if I scale back on other things (aka my online shopping habit).

Needless to say, I’m ready to put in the work – both with my runs as well as my cross-training to make sure I stay strong, healthy, and get to the start line so I can crush my goals!

Tell me…
Do you cross train to supplement your running (if you’re a runner)? And if so, what do you do?
What’s your favorite workout?

Running and Swimming

I often think about just how similar running and swimming are in terms of sports. At the outset they’re very different; one is on land and the other is in water. As someone who has spent time dedicated to each sport individually, as I delve deeper into “being a runner,” I notice more and more similarities.


For those of you new to the party, before becoming a runner I swam for 10 years. It started innocently enough; we moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey, and for the first time we had easy access to public pools. I spent my summers up until that point cooling off with fire hydrant water. So naturally out of fear for my own safety my mom and dad signed me up for swimming lessons, and I rocked those bad boys. But by the time I was 11, I had outgrown swim lessons and it was either time to join the team, or find a new sport. So with intense hesitation, I joined the local YMCA team. Fast forward 10 years and I found myself graduating from The University of Scranton, having swum and lettered all four years in high school and college, with a few records and championships under my belt. It was natural I picked up running, right?

2007 University of Scranton Women's Team in Puerto Rico... can you spot me?!
2007 Women’s Team in Puerto Rico… can you spot me?!

Well from the outside, someone may say no, that swimming and running don’t go hand in hand (unless of course it’s swimming as rehab for running). But if you take a quick poll of runners, I think you’ll be shocked to find many of them have spent some quality, non-injury time in the pool. I’m no scientist, psychologist, or researcher, but based on my own experiences and personality, it’s become clear to me over the years why runners and swimmers gravitate towards one another’s sport (or at least that swimmers eventually become runners).

All alone, and liking it
All alone, and liking it

I find myself thinking about this every so often when I’m running, and there are a few things that stand out to me. The most obvious is that swimming and running are both very individual sports, yet they contribute to a common team goal. Sure, when you’re running or swimming a race, you’re the only one in that lane/on the road, and you’re racing against yourself, the clock, and whoever else is in the race with you. There aren’t teammates you’re relying on for the win (there’s little teamwork involved) – it’s just about you. But all of those individual efforts are combined to make up a team. Because of that, I think it’s natural for swimmers to turn into runners (and even vice versa), because they function similarly; even if one is on land and the other is in the water.

And aside from that individual, yet simultaneously team-like environment, we’re all a little crazy. I mean, think about it! Both sports require hours of repetitive monotony. Lap after lap, mile after mile, oftentimes only with your own thoughts. A lot of the time, the only person or thing that determines if you work hard or phone it in, is you. Both sports rely heavily on intrinsic motivation, and I think because of that, people who participate in either sport find that the highs are so high (new PR! race win!) , and the lows can be incredibly low (total bonk. injury). So naturally, I like to do both!

After a week of long course doubles, you go a little mad.
After a week of long course doubles, you go a little mad.

Admittedly, I haven’t been swimming nearly as much as I’d like. I blame this on the fact that there aren’t really any gyms with pools nearby, and those that have them come with a heavy monthly price tag. My parent’s still belong to the municipal pool where I grew up spending most of my summer days, so I try to go whenever I have the chance. I went this past Friday and did laps for the first time in at least 2 years (but I haven’t done a real workout in about 5)! While I was swimming I remembered how much I loved the sport, despite being slow, out of breath, and having my shoulders on fire. Swimming and running really are a great pair, and I really need to add swimming back into my routine. It may mean I’ll have to tone down my online shopping habit, but if it means getting back to a sport I fell in love with at 11 and obsessed over for the next 10 years, I think it’s worth it. Now if only I could get over my fear of biking, and I may have a shot at being a triathlete!

So tell me..
Do you use swimming as cross-training for your running? 
How many of you used to swim on a team (summer, high school, YMCA, club, etc.) and now run? 


To an outsider, sports like swimming and running seem very much individual sports. However, for those of us “in the know,” we realize that at times it can be a very individualized sport, but at the same time, highly team oriented. As someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves and is intrinsically competitive, swimming was the perfect sport for me growing up. I was able to race against myself and the clock, but at the same time contribute to a team and a common goal. So after I graduated, it was really no surprise to myself or anyone I know that running was the sport I decided to take up next.

Relays were always one of my favorite parts about swimming. I always swam the shorter relays (200 or 400), meaning it was anywhere from 25 to 60 seconds of pure “give it your all.” Or, as I fondly referred to it, going balls to the wall (almost literally). Swimming isn’t much of a spectator sport, but walk into any meet, and you are guaranteed to see people up on their feet, eyes glued to the pool when it comes time for the relays. Sometimes the hardest part about being on a relay was not your actual leg – but standing nearby, either completely out of breath or having near heart palpitations before your turn, knowing there is only so much you can do, and the rest falls into the hands of three teammates.

So obviously when I saw that there was a 10k relay at a park basically 5 minutes from my house on Sunday, I knew I had to sign up. The concept was simple: find a partner, and you each run a 5k, broken in half… meaning 1.55 miles twice. The event was put on by a local running team, so the field was fast. I decided that my best plan of attack was to treat it like a speed workout. Even though running 1.55 miles followed by a 10-ish minute break isn’t ideal, I figured it would be a good general test of my endurance. Plus, I was pumped to see that the race swag was a pair of gloves, instead of yet another boxy race shirt.

They even have little grippies!
They even have little grippies!

The best part of the race was the start – I generally start too fast and have to try and pull back in the first half mile or so, but since I was only running 1.55 and then getting a break, I didn’t pull back as much as normal… but I also didn’t feel like I was trying nearly as hard as a 7 minute mile usually feels. Since the field was full of legitimate high school and college runners, I kept on my merry way as people flew by me. After the first leg, I was definitely tired, but felt like I could have kept going, finishing with a just around 7 minute pace average. I tried my best to keep moving on the muddy grass, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my turn, so I didn’t move nearly as much as I would have liked.

By the time I started my second leg, my legs were definitely feeling it but overall I was comfortable. And then I got annoyed. Some dude decided that he was going to use me as a wind shield and draft off of me for the next mile. I considered slowing down, and even at one point as he was breathing heavily down my neck ask him if he was going to continue to draft off of me for the remainder of the race, or if he wanted to grow a pair and run his own race. Of course being much meaner in my head, I refrained and carried on. I came around the bend to hand off my baton, and was slammed by someone coming in behind me not paying attention. Not really the way I wanted to end my part of the race, but I was pleased with my overall 22:12! Unfortunately there wasn’t any water near the hand-off area, so I jogged in circles until the hubs finished, with our respectable time of  43:50.

I did about a mile cool down, and waited to see the results just for fun. We came in 55th and 11th in our division (co-ed open). Then we booked it to Old Man Rafferty’s in downtown New Brunswick for brunch with some other friends that ran the race as well. It was a perfect ending to a fun morning. The weather was perfect, the running was speedy but not too difficult, and anything that ends in cupcakes is good if you ask me.

This was obviously round 2.
This was obviously round 2.

Overall I’m really happy with the race, and the way I’ve been running in general. My last few runs while nothing spectacular, have felt good, and have been in the low 8’s. I’d really love to PR at my next half marathon in April, so if I can keep up the mileage and incorporate some more speed work like Sunday’s race, I think I’ll be in good shape. Now if only I could find more relays to do!

Have you ever run (or swam!) a relay? Love or hate them?
Do you have a favorite post-race food?


When I was just starting out running, I didn’t really understand fueling for long runs. As a swimmer, there really wasn’t any opportunity to eat during practice (though we did sometimes keep Starbursts on the pool deck just in case), and we stuck to water and Gatorade as our main fuel source for workouts. I was always one of those people that couldn’t eat much before working out, and on the mornings of meets you could usually find me choking down a Powerbar or something similar – full meals (or even partial meals) needed to be eaten hours in advance in order for me to not feel sick, and that holds true today.

The biggest difference for me between running and swimming is fueling – mainly because of the amount of time spent doing each activity. Sure, our practices were 2+ hours, but it wasn’t ever 2+ hours of continuous swimming… thank goodness! So the first few long runs and even long races I did, didn’t include a lot of mid-race fueling. I still am unable to eat a lot before I run, but I’ve managed to condition myself to expect and deal with eating along the way. It’s taken a decent amount of trial and error in order to figure out what works best for me, especially making sure I don’t eat something before or during my run that will upset my stomach and GI.


So what’s my plan? I’ve found that for the most part, unless my run is over 13ish miles, I don’t need any mid-run fuel as long as I have a solid breakfast (which I’ll get to). But, if I’m going longer than that, I like to take something every 5 miles. I’m going to be honest with you – I think energy gels are pretty gross. But, I know that they are the fastest and easiest way for me to eat something during a run. The bites/gummies/chomps/beans are more pleasant, but they also up my chance for biting down on my tongue or cheek while trying to chew them and run at the same time (believe me, it’s happened). Of course I’m picky about the flavors I like, and so I stick to the Clif Shot Vanilla, but will gladly take any brand that has a Chocolate or Mocha flavor as well. So during a marathon I’ll take a gel before the race, and then at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20. I typically take the on-course gel they offer as well, just in case.

My breakfast also varies depending on the length of my run. For runs less than 13 miles, I’ll either have a a Picky Bar or a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For longer runs, I usually have a whole peanut butter and jelly sandwich… and of course lots of water! I’m new to the whole Picky Bar club (literally, I just joined their monthly club) and am IN LOVE with all the flavors. I know a  lot of people don’t like energy bars, etc., because they “taste like cardboard,” but I beg to differ, at least about the PB’s. My favorite flavor is “Lauren’s Mega Nuts,” and they’re gluten and dairy free – nice and easy on the digestive system for someone like me.


As for post-run, anything is game. I usually spend most of my runs thinking about drinks – smoothies, iced coffee, Slurpees, protein shakes, beer… it’s weird, but I just go with it. No matter how cold it is after I run, I almost always want a cold drink, which I usually wind up regretting as I sit on the floor shivering. Why the floor? Growing up I was conditioned not to sit on the couches in the following situations (unless I put a towel down first): after putting on sunscreen, after working out, or immediately after swim practice (hello chlorine). So I still follow those rules today in my own house. I usually have an iced coffee, and then try to help aid my recovery with a protein shake and tart cherry juice (if I have any on hand). As for food, anything is game – if the run happens earlier in the day, I’ll typically make something brunch-y, but if it’s later in the day or evening, I’ll eat pretty much anything. I just make sure to make it as nutritionally sound as possible, and depending on the number of miles I’ve run, calorie heavy.

Fueling for workouts (especially running) really is a science, like they say at Picky Bars. Different things work for different people, so it’s really important to take the time and figure out what works for you… especially if you have any intolerances, allergies, or dietary restrictions. My routine works for me, so I don’t plan on changing it until I need to!

How do you fuel for workouts?
Do you fuel differently depending on the length or activity?

Sweat Fest

On Wednesday evening, for the third year in a row I ran Downtown Westfield’s 5k & Pizza Extravaganza race. And every year, it’s unbearably hot – somehow being just a bit hotter than the previous year. As you can guess from the title of the post, by the time the race was over, I looked like I went for a swim. I really think they should consider changing the name of the race to Sweat Fest. I can’t imagine anyone walked away from that race not needing a cold shower or two.

I’m not really complaining (much), rather stating the facts. I love the race for a few reasons, the biggest being that it’s right through the center of my hometown. Even though it doesn’t start until 7pm and it’s in the middle of the week, it’s still fun. I prepare myself the same each year, by guzzling as much water as I can at work, and reminding myself “it’s okay that it’s hot, it’s only 3.1 miles. It’ll be over before you know it.”

The race started as most do – me standing towards the front but not too far forward, yawning the entire time. When I was swimming, my parents always used to tell me it looked completely ridiculous as I stood behind the block waiting for my race, and I’d be jumping up and down, stretching, and yawning. Turns out that’s just your body’s way of trying to get more oxygen, so I always appreciated the extra yawning – plus it helped to psych out the competition, since they probably thought I was tired! We were of course all squeezed in and I had already started to sweat before the horn even sounded. Once it did, though, I was off and thankfully didn’t find myself needing to weave as much as I had during the Firecracker 4-miler.

Since this is the third year I’ve run the race and it’s in my hometown, I like to think I know the course pretty well. The first mile is pretty much uphill, the second is pretty level, and a large portion of the third is downhill. Since it’s all on residential streets, there are families out with water guns, hoses, and open fire hydrants, which I tried to take advantage of. I didn’t, however, stop for any water. This was somewhat strategic as I didn’t want to waste time, and I also already felt like I had to pee – I didn’t want to make it worse. My hip has been feeling less than stellar the past week (super tight and achy), so I wasn’t really sure how it would hold up during the race. I made sure to foam roll it the best I could beforehand, and I think that helped. I also wore a hat (I am so not a hat person) in hopes that it would keep the burning sweat out of my eyes, and it did!

Per the ususal as I was coming down the home stretch I was hoping no one would be in my way once I stopped just in case my almond butter sandwich decided to pay a visit. I tried to kick it up as much as I could, especially when I rounded the corner and could see the clock slowly ticking away at 23:50. Turns out my gun time was 24:00.01 (go figure), and my chip time was 23:50! I didn’t wear a watch, so I have no idea exactly what my splits were – but I remember my first mile was about a 7:35, and that made me nervous for the rest of the race. However, with my overall average pace of 7:40, it seems like I held on to it pretty well! That time was also good enough to land me 8th in my age group, and 306 overall out of over 2500 runners! I couldn’t be happier considering the injury prone winter and spring I’ve had!

Once it was over, I scored myself some free goodies (they have some pretty sweet sponsors – Shop Rite, Stop ‘n Shop, Balance Bar, etc.), and watched my fiance devour some pizza. It’s called the “Pizza Extravaganza,” so they always have boxes and boxes of pizza for the runners post-race. I have yet to enjoy a slice of pizza after the race, since the last thing I usually want to do is eat (at least for about 30 minutes). We were hot sweaty messes, but I think it’s safe to say it was worth it!

With temperatures rising as the week continues (we’re slated for a high of 102 on Friday!) I have a feeling the rest of the week in terms of running will be done very slowly and/or super early. I also have grand plans of spending Friday in and around the pool in our development, exclusively.

Cracker, what?

A few weeks back, I received a large box of assorted crackers from Westminster Cracker Company. I was psyched to get them since I love crackers (especially oyster crackers!) but I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I thought about just throwing them into a soup or stew, but that didn’t seem to exciting to me. So, I figured why not try to use oyster crackers as a coating on baked fish? Since I don’t know much about fish, I wasn’t sure what type I should try the coating with. My first thought was cod, but that seemed kind of boring. Plus, Wegmans had some large bags of frozen tilapia, so that’s what ultimately aided in my decision. Paired with some french fries, it was my own fun spin on fish ‘n chips!

This past Monday marked the official beginning of our Philly marathon training. So, we ran the Firecracker 4 miler on Monday, another 4 miles on Wednesday, 5 on Saturday, and then we tackled 8 on Sunday. Since I’ve been battling shin splints on and off since November (I’m going to get rid of them this time!), I’ve been nervous to increase my mileage. I’ve decided that this time, though, unlike all of the others, I’m going to try to keep my pace significantly slower. I think the combination of the faster pace plus the increased mileage is what has caused me trouble in the past. Fingers crossed!

In addition to the running, this week I also had a solid yoga class on Saturday, and went swimming on Sunday! I really wish there was a gym nearby that had a pool, I really miss it sometimes. I’m tempted every now and then to look up masters programs and check them out, but I’m yet to bite the bullet on that. Maybe one day. Perhaps it was my time in the pool on Sunday that inspired me to make the oyster cracker baked tilapia and fries for dinner that night. Or it was just because we had a giant bag of frozen fish in the freezer. Either way.

Once the fish were thawed, the recipe took a total of 20 minutes (including cooking time). I cheated a little and just had frozen french fries, but that’s because last week at Wegmans the fiancé bought a giant bag of them. Might as well use them up! Now that we still have quite a few filets left, I’m thinking fish tacos are definitely in order. But next time you’re looking for a quick and easy dinner, and you have a bunch of crackers (any kind will do) on hand, you should consider this!

Cracker Crusted Tilapia
– Serves 2 –

4 small tilapia filets
2 cups crushed crackers of your choice (I used Westminster Oyster Crackers)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beatten

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Meanwhile, beat two eggs in a shallow bowl, and crush crackers over a large plate, mixing in the cheese. Take each filet, dip it in the egg mixture, and then place it on the plate. Flipping it from side to side and pressing, make sure the filets are coated with the cracker crumbs. Place each filet on a well greased baking sheet.
3. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the fish begins to flake.

Quarter Life

Today, I turn 25.

It’s hard to believe that I’m 25 – sometimes I think to myself there’s no way I’m THAT old (yes, I know that’s not old at all), and other times I think to myself it’s amazing I’m still so young. Either way, today is my birthday! I’ve always loved my birthday, but who doesn’t?

Growing up, I was never in school to celebrate my birthday. In second grade, though, we made it all the way to June 27th because there were horrendous storms all winter, and we had to make up all our time off. Because I couldn’t have the in-class birthday celebrations on my actual birthday, during the last week of school my mom would always bring in watermelon that we would enjoy as a class outside. I always thought it was so cool to do something different, and looking back, my mom certainly had the right idea by giving the kids watermelon instead of cookies, cakes, and candy! My birthday parties were always a blast – roller skating, bowling, going to the pool, movies and pizza… my parents always made sure I got to do what I wanted.

Birthday party at an ice cream parlor. Checkout my sweet scrunchie!

Throughout high school and college, my birthdays started early, with 6am long course practice where I ususally had to do something “fun” to celebrate, such as a 400 free for time, or maybe some laps of birthday butterfly (while everyone stayed on the sidelines using a kickboard to splash). Even when I turned 21, I was up at the crack of dawn to get my swim in.

All the swimming paid off - Landmark Champs '08

I always loved the fact that my birthday was in the summer, and I never had to spend my day at school or in class. Even when I was working during the summer, I somehow always managed to get my birthday off. Since joining the real world, though, I’ve spent most of my birthdays at work. It’s really been quite a different experience. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older, because I’m at work, or a combination of the two, but my birthday just doesn’t have that same pizzaz it used to. That isn’t to say I don’t love the day!

So today, aside from work, I’ll be celebrating with my wonderful fiancé and family, with dinner and of course cupcakes. I know this year is going to be epic – I’m getting married, running my very first marathon, and most importantly, really planning on loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what the year has in store for me!

Bring it on 25!

Breakfast of Champions

While I was swimming, I often had to wait until after practice to enjoy a “real” breakfast, since practice was usually anywhere from 5:30a to 9a, depending on the day, and season. When I got home, I was always ravenous, and since I had already been up for quite a few hours, wasn’t really interested in typical breakfast food. Being a huge bologna fan (I grew up eating bologna and American cheese sandwiches cut into quarters, with an offset of real juice and tons of veggies for lunch), I oftentimes made myself a bologna and cheese sandwich, with an iced coffee. It’s a totally weird (and to some gross) combination, especially for breakfast. My mom liked to joke that it was “the breakfast of champions.”

For Valentine’s day, I bought the fiancé a French press, because he’s been wanting one for ages. I know nothing about them, so I just went with what was rated highly on Amazon, a Bodum Brazilian press. Since it’s a little more time consuming compared to your average cup of brewed coffee, we decided to save it for the weekend. After boiling water, letting it sit so it wasn’t super hot, and then letting it all sit together for 4 minutes, we were ready to enjoy our first cup of French pressed coffee. Let me tell you, the flavor is completely different. We used our go-to coffee, Dunkin Donuts (French vanilla flavor), and it definitely didn’t taste like it does when we make it in our regular coffee maker. You can really taste the coffee flavor, and honestly, it tasted thicker. I know that sounds ridiculous, but as someone that always drinks their coffee black, sometimes it tastes a little too watery for my liking… but this was perfect. I’m definitely a French press convert!

Yup, that's me in the background getting my cook-on

Leaving the fiancé in charge (it is his, after all), I set out to make a breakfast scramble with tofu. I’ve made it no secret that I’m not a huge egg fan, so after reading a bunch of different vegetarian and vegan recipes using tofu instead, I decided to give it a shot. I went with a Southwestern theme, since that’s my go-to breakfast flavor combination, and it was really delicious. Since you don’t have to worry about making sure the eggs are cooked all the way, the whole entire thing took about 10 minutes, leaving us perfect timing for when the coffee was ready. I could have definitely had this wrapped up into a burrito, atop some toast, maybe in a casserole, or just how I had it, plain.

Southwestern Tofu Scramble
– Serves 2 –

8 oz. package of tofu (pressed to remove excess water)
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
1/3 cup chunky salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheese (any blend will do)
1/4 cup cilantro
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp Adobo
1 tsp ground cumin
Sour cream or Greek yogurt (I used Chobani plain) for garnish

1. Heat oil in skillet, and add onion, pepper, and jalapeno. Sautee for 5 minutes, adding spices half way through
2.  While the onion and pepper mixture is cooking, mash tofu in a bowl until it has the consistency of eggs
3. Add tofu, cilantro, salsa, and half the cheese mixture. Cook about 5 minutes, making sure everything is combined
4. Finish off with the rest of the cheese, mixing all the way through, and remove from the heat
5. Serve with the sour cream/yogurt and any other garnish you’d like

Spicy Quinoa Salad

Promising myself two legitimate dinners in the kitchen this week, I went for a Spicy Quinoa Salad and paired it with just some chicken breast we had hanging out in the freezer. I’m trying to use as much of any perishable items I can, which is why I decided to pair this with just some plain ole chicken.

I actually had a hard time spotting Quinoa at the grocery store on Sunday. I found Bob’s Red Mill right away in the organic section, but it was $8! I know, I know, that’s not much. But for a grain I’d never had before and wasn’t sure what else I’d be using it with, I just couldn’t plunk that down. We also try to stay under $75 a week, and I knew we wouldn’t if I grabbed it. I headed over to the rice and pasta aisle, and spent a solid 5 minutes staring at all the different rice trying to find it. Turns out I had my back to where it was, and after almost giving up, I found a nice box for $3.50! Sure, it wasn’t whole wheat or organic, but sometimes you just have to cut corners.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I struggle with cutting onions. Over the summer I had the great idea of using my swimming goggles to help combat the tears, and it works. I thought it was about time I shared a little treat with my readers. So here’s a picture of me from my Macbook in the kitchen (I bring it with me to read off recipes), post run and gleefully holding a red onion and a knife while sporting my goggles. Laugh away!

The recipe was super easy, and quick, which in these final packing days has been much appreciated. Trying to finish up packing and cleaning, doing homework, and trying to finally get back to running has jam-packed my week. I was able to tackle 2 miles on Monday night, and another 3 Tuesday. It’s definitely on it’s way to recovery, and feels a lot better than it did when I tried to start running last time. I’m really hoping I can be smart about this one. At this point, I’m not concerned about PRing the Disney Half Marathon, rather I just want to be able to finish the 13.1 pain-free. I’ll set my sights on a PR for the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon in April.

This was my last “real” dinner in this kitchen. In retrospect, I’ve really come into my own here. I started off making burritos and stir-fry, and really blossomed to making intricate desserts, scrumptious dinners, and just having a lot of fun. I’ve also given my fiancé plenty of opportunity to work on his camera skills (thanks babe)! Aside from making my work BFF/bridesmaid a sweet birthday treat on Thursday night which I’ll be sure to post about, next week’s food blogs will be from a new kitchen. How exciting!

I didn’t have any good pictures for the recipe, so head over to Serious Eats for a picture, which is where I got this glorious recipe!

Spicy Quinoa Salad
– Serves 4-6 –

1 cup quinoa
Kosher salt
2 cups diced cucumber (about 2 medium)
2 cups finely diced tomatoes (about 2 medium)
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

1. In a large bowl, cover the quinoa with cold water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste (1 teaspoon or so), reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes until the grain becomes slightly translucent. Drain off excess water, cover the pot with a dish towel, replace the lid, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine the cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and olive oil in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, and vinegar. Allow to sit while the quinoa finishes cooking.
3. Combine the vegetables and toss to coat, then stir in the quinoa. Season to taste with salt, oil, and/or more lime juic, and serve immediately with sliced avocado.

A Running Foodie’s Revelation

I’ve mentioned here and there on this blog that I run. However, I ususally stick to food when it comes to my posts. I know that there are a ton of fellow foodie runners or runner foodies (whichever you prefer) also in the blogging world. I’m still working on the best way to meld the two together.

A little over three weeks ago I injured myself running in my new Vibram Five Fingers. I thought I was easing in to them – two miles one day, four the next, and five later in the week. However, by mile 4ish on that five miler, my ankles started to hurt like never before. Being stubborn, I powered through the last mile, only stopping because I physically couldn’t run anymore. I walked myself back to the car, and felt okay. As soon as I got home and stepped out of the car, though, I could barely walk. I spent the rest of the evening and the next day at work hobbling around in pain. Not to mention my little ankles had swollen to be a giant lump of cankle (not the most attractive). The pain would come and go in intensity over the next two weeks, so I didn’t do any physical activity and wore sneakers every day.

It was during this period that I had a revalation. I am a runner. The overwhelming feelings I had when the end of the day hit and I realized I wouldn’t be heading out for a post-work run was torture. Just ask my fiancé; I’ve now broken down over it about three times. It’s amazing what running can do for you (physically and mentally). Sure, when I’m in the middle of my run, do I love it? Not usually. But the second it’s over, do I think about how I can’t wait till my next one? Always. I’m competitive by nature, and as someone that has always participated in individual sports (hello, swimming!) I found myself gravitating towards running.

Since my little ankle mishap, I’ve gotten back to running – kind of. Two weeks ago I started with a slow one mile run to not push it. The next day, I bumped it up to two successfully. Two days later, I decided to tackle three miles, and kept a much quicker pace. While I usually try to ignore nagging pains and “suck it up,” I’ve done my best over the past few weeks to be as conscious of what my body is telling me as I possibly can. So, the second the discomfort grows, I stop. I attempted a treadmill run after my 3 mile success, but it was a giant failure. I had tears welling up in my eyes at the gym, and the thought of someone seeing me in the corner crying over not being able to run made me immediately suck it up and walk as fast as I could. All I want to do is run – is that so much to ask?

I decided to give it another try this past weekend, and finished 3 miles in an 8:45/mile pace. The pain was definitely less than before, but I could feel it a little the next day. On top of that, I headed to cheer on my fiancé at a local 5k. It was definitely hard to be on the sidelines and not in the race. However, I was happy to see him cross the finish, since he always finishes before me. Plus, it was a great race to see him finish as he came in 11th overall and PR’ed by over 2 minutes to finish in 20:29!

I was planning to run a 5k next Saturday (10/9), but I think I’m going to pull out of it. Even if I’m completely healed by then, I know my lack of training will make a PR nearly impossible, and I’ll only frustrate myself more. So, I’ll still get my t-shirt and then cheer for my fiancé again as he runs through the park we visit nearly every day after work. Hopefully by November, though, I can run in the few “Turkey Trot” races that are around, and pump up my milage for our Disney Half Marathon. For my last halfie (and the first one I ever did), I only trained for a little over two months. So, as long as I’m back to myself by the middle of this month, I think I’ll be okay.

Until this injury, I never really thought of myself as a runner. Nor did I realize how big a part of my life it has become. I make my schedule around running; doing homework, what I’ll have time to cook for dinner, when I’ll make plans to go out, etc. Does this make me a little insane? Probably. But you can’t tell me that anyone who willingly runs for hours at a time isn’t just a little off their rocker. I’m proud to be a part of that group, and hopefully one day that half insanity will go full Mary.

I realize in the grand scheme of things it isn’t so bad. However, in my little world, not being able to run is all I can think about. But have no fear – I’ll slowly but surely get back to it!

In the meantime, on my road to recovery, I’ll whip up some deliciousness to keep your palates entertained. And as always, any suggestions on how to help my ankles along in the healing process would be greatly appreciated!