Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Abuela’s black beans

Everybody in my family has gone through it….trying to replicate our mom’s or grandmother’s recipes with no avail. I remember when my sister Monique first got married, she didn’t know how to make beans so she made rice with corn. We made fun of her for years about that. It took some practice but she eventually got the hang of it.

My grandmother’s black beans, however, can only be replicated by my mom – and even hers aren’t as good as my grandmother’s (sorry mom.) Not that they’re not good, they’re just slightly different.

When Dennis and I first started dating my grandmother invited us over for dinner where she made black beans and rice. Dennis immediately fell in love with them, so whenever she needed work done around the house she’d lure him over with her black beans. However, we’ve since moved away from each other – she’s in Phoenix and we’re Northern VA – so if we want them we have to make them ourselves. So for the first time in my 31 years, I attempted Abuela’s black beans. (she is 90 years old, by the way, and still kickin’)



Ok, they weren’t bad….they just weren’t hers.

In a saucepan I sautéed:

  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1T oregano
  • 2 bacon strips
  • salt, pepper to taste

I soaked the beans overnight. The in the morning I put the sautéed veggies, beans, 8 cups of water by suggestion (WAY too much) and 2 more strips of bacon for flavor  (not enough.)

I cooked them on low while I was at work-about 9 hours.


The verdict? Dennis ate about three bites and very politely said, “They’re not…bad….” I ate them though. After all, it was a little piece of home.

It’s hard failing at a recipe that is so close to my heart. Oh well, with time…until then I’ve just have to fly to Phoenix to get them.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Re-thinking it all

After pressing “publish” on yesterday’s post, I spent a lot of time thinking about my wanting to back out of the Army 10 miler. After a long chat with a friend from home, I realized that my problem is not running, it’s the pressure that I’ve let the running put on me. What happened to the days when running made me feel like this?


Ok, well that’s beer in my hand so of course I was feeling good…

So today, I decided to go for a short run with just a watch, and when I ended, I ended. I didn’t pay attention to the time, I didn’t pay attention to the mileage, I just ran. And it was all good until a Marine (he had the haircut and a Marines t-shirt on) blew by me in front of a line of traffic!! I can only imagine what that looked like!

Anyway, I’m feeling better today. Little by little and hopefully I’ll get back to this:


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Football season does not have to equal fat season

I can’t explain to you how much fun having a Fantasy Football team is. I loved watching football before, but now I have something at stake with every game that’s played. There’s no money involved, just bragging rights, but it’s fun to talk smack and beat your opponent every week.

The only downside to football is the food that it’s associated with pizza, wings, and beer. And chips. And just plain old junk. Don’t worry, I didn’t eat any of that. 

How about a  99% fat free turkey burger with 3 bean salad wrapped in lettuce with avocado?



Ok, so I used cheese. It was completely unnecessary but it was kind of an accident (meaning Dennis put it on since  I didn’t tell him not to) 

Army 10 miler update:

I’m contemplating giving up my bib for this race. It’s not that I don’t think I can do it, it’s that I don’t really want to.  I missed a lot of running time this week due to severely annoying allergies, a lot of paperwork that kept me at my desk through lunch, traffic, and 85-90+ degree weather that kept me from running after work. I know, excuses excuses, but honestly I’m OK with it. I made sure to get out and walk at least 3 miles every day, so I feel OK physically.  If I can’t get in a good amount of miles this week, I’ll have to pass.

What about you—is it worth running a race if you’re not excited about it?

The only reason I ever started running races was because I loved doing it. I could never get enough of that feeling of exhilaration, but now all I feel is frustration and anxiety. Why force it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Split it

I had a 7.5 mile run on my schedule today and the idea of it was stressing me out. Running more than 5 or 6 miles alone can get a little boring, and it’s hard to stay properly fueled and hydrated when you’re out for so long. So I decided to split my run into two 40 minute sections with a stop back at my house to refuel.

I ran 20 minutes out, turned around and came home to fill up the water bottle and eat half a banana with a spoonful of honey.  The first 3 miles were pretty easy and I was keeping a steady pace of just under a 10 minute mile. I was trying to keep it as easy as possible since lately I’ve been struggling with hills and anything over 5 miles.  The fourth mile is where I started to feel the heat-it was in the mid 70s and sunny when I left at 10 a.m., which was a bit warmer than I had expected it to be. Plus, this part of the run back to my house is up a mean hill that has been killing me these past few runs.

The second time around wasn’t any better. The first mile out is mostly uphill and I thought I was going to throw up. But things started getting better as the road flattened itself out and mile 5-6 felt much better. Then I hit about a half mile uphill stretch around mile 6.5 where I started fighting with myself about whether or not I should give up my bib for the Army 10 miler. I finished the last mile and almost cried when I walked back into my house and tried to stretch out my sore back and legs.

Stats: 7.5 miles, 1:17:23

Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through so much torture, but in the end I’m usually glad I did. Especially since I came home to this. Mmmm carrot cake.


I found this recipe at 101 Cookbooks. The author of this blog is a genius.

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used 1 cup spelt flour and 1 cup all-purpose GF flour)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, heated until just melted
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, seeded and finely chopped into a paste
  • 3 ripe bananas (1 1/4 cups), mashed well
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (2% or lowfat is ok)
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (or to taste) – I used the maple syrup


Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9x5x3 / 8-cup loaf pan (or 8x8 cake pan) and line it with parchment paper.Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the walnuts and set aside. Stir the dates into the melted butter, breaking up the dates a bit.


In a separate bowl combine the bananas and carrots. Stir in the date-butter mixture, breaking up any date clumps as you go. Whisk in the yogurt and the eggs. Add the flour mixture and stir until everything just comes together. Spoon into the prepared pan.


Bake for about 50 - 60 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean in the center of the cake - it'll be less if you are using a standard cake pan. Remove from oven and let cool.

While the cake is baking whip together the cream cheese and agave nectar. Taste. If you like your frosting sweeter adjust to your liking. When the cake has completely cooled frost the top of the cake with an offset spatula.

I didn’t frost my cake with it since after it cooled, I cut it into single servings, wrapped them up in aluminum and threw them in a freezer bag to store. I can’t eat my baked goods fast enough so this keeps me from forcing myself to eat and also from anything going bad.

There are a few things I would do to make this recipe a little more to my liking (such as adding a few more spices) but overall it was the perfect texture and had great flavor. And the fact that it was sweetened only by bananas and dates made it even better.


It was so moist and thick…so good. A great compliment to a long run.

Off to watch my team play Sunday Night Football!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nope, still don’t like ‘em

I don’t like green smoothies and I keep trying to convince myself that I do. It’s been well over a year since I first tried this blog-crazed drink and I still don’t know why I keep trying them.

So many of you out there seem to like the green smoothies and swear you’ve experienced increased energy levels and great skin from drinking them daily. When I first read about them I thought, “I want to experience those things too!” So I started making green smoothies hoping to feel good…and every time I made them I was sadly disappointed. But for some ungodly reason I keep trying to like them. Hence this morning’s failed concoction.

Last night I stopped at the farmer’s market on my way home from work and found a fresh bunch of spinach that looked oh-so-good so I decided to buy it.


But this morning it started to look a little wilted, so I thought I should use some ASAP. Since I make green tea lattes every morning I thought, why not just throw a little spinach in there? I mean, the matcha tea is pretty earthy tasting already so adding a little spinach to it can’t hurt right?

I took one sip and thought, “Nope, still don’t like it.”

Once I got through the initial thick cloud of spinach, the latte was drinkable, but every couple of sips I’d get a taste of the spinach that would make me gag.  Since I hate wasting food (especially my very expensive matcha tea) I drank it anyway. I love spinach, but something about the consistency when it’s blended is gross to me.

How about you-do you like sneaking greens into your drinks? I’d love to hear your recipes. I like using carrots in smoothies.  And sweet potato too!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A nice day for a drive

One of the cool things about being new to an area is exploring. Even though we’ve actually lived in the DC Metro area for a year, we still have a lot to learn. With traffic being a royal pain in the ass, we tend to spend our weekends running errands since doing them during the week is impossible. And running errands around here on the weekends takes up half of your day (if not more) so needless to say, we don’t really have the chance to do as much fun stuff as we would like. Oh and did I mention that during football season, nothing gets done on Sundays? Yeah…Sundays are for football so aside from a long run and some cooking, we don’t leave the house.

But that’s another story.

Anyway, Saturday morning we got up and decided to go for a drive. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and 75, so getting out early worked in our advantage. We just decided to drive with no place in mind. We ended up driving into Manassas, VA, which has a very bad reputation, but we actually had a great time.

We bumped into a farmer’s market

manassas farmers market

Where we bought some zucchini, tomatoes, a spaghetti squash and some Honey Crisp apples.

honeycrisp 9.11

And we found a mystery veggie.

weird zucchini 1
They labeled it as a zucchini (and it could be!) I just have never seen a zucchini look like this before.

weird zucchini 2
But the best part came after.

We were feeling frisky (not that kind of frisky!) so we stopped at a housing development a few miles north of where Dennis works and randomly toured about 5 model homes. And we fell in love.

The kitchens in these places?! Hello double ovens, islands, counter and cupboard space galore! They were all gorgeous (and quite surprisingly in our price range) so we have done nothing but talk about how badly we want to move in. Like now.

Unfortunately we just signed another year lease on our townhouse, and oh yeah-we  need to keep saving for a down payment! At least we have a goal to look forward to now. And the fact that I’d need to find a new job doesn’t help. The traffic from there would be horrendous and totally not worth it.

Do you own a house? Is it as exciting as I feel like it is? (besides the money-suking part)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back in training mode

I hate when I fall behind on my blog posts, especially when I actually have stuff to write about! An eye doctor’s appointment after work Tuesday and my fantasy football league draft last night has kept me busy, so I’m going to try to wrap this up in one post as quickly and easily as I can.

I have 6 weeks until the Army 10 miler and have to get my butt in gear.

Since Sunday I have run 13 miles. It started out with an easy 5 mile run Sunday afternoon. It’s pretty hilly around here so my time of 50:26 didn’t piss me off too much.


Tuesday was a quick and speedy workout that really kicked my arse.

The plan: 20 minutes of sprints, 10 minutes strength. What actually happened: 18 minutes of sprints, almost passed out next to the treadmill for 10 minutes.

Minute 0-5 Pace: 6.0
Minute 5-6 Pace 6.5
Minute 6-7 Pace 7.0
Minute 7-8 Pace 7.5
Minute 8-9 Pace 8.0 <---- really freaking hard
Minute 9-10 Pace 8.5 <----- even harder
Minute 10-11 Pace 5.5
Minute 11-12 Pace 6.0
Minute 12-13 Pace 6.5
Minute 13-14 Pace 7.0 <---- starting to feel it much sooner than last time
Minute 14-15 Pace 7.5 <---- starting to see spots
Minute 15-16 Pace 8.0 <---- don’t pass out…DON’T PASS OUT!!
Minute 16-16:30 Pace 8.5 <--Breathe! Breathe!
Minute 16:30-17 Pace 5.0 <---- Phew!
Minute 17-17:30 Pace 8.5 <--- a little more manageable with the break
Minute 17:30-18:30 Pace 5.0 <----- holy hell that was hard
Minutes 18:30-23:50 Pace 3.0 <----- seriously feeling like I’m going to die and surprised I made it this long

I was beat. Sprinting for a minute at a time is hard! That’s why I had to break it down at the end to 30 second intervals but believe me; sprinting at 30 second intervals is still hard.

Wednesday’s workout was an interval mix that have now become one of my favorite workouts.

Nicole’s kick ass interval workout

  • Warm up 5 minutes at 6.0 on the treadmill, and then pick it up for the last 5 minutes (I picked it up each minute by 1 to 6.5)
  • Jump off the treadmill and grab 2 15lb. dumbbells and a balance ball
  • Do 20 reps of butterflies on the balance ball.
  • Jump off the ball and immediately do planks: regular planks for 30 seconds, then side planks (on each side) for 15.
  • Immediately grab 5 pound weights and do lunges, 10 each side.
  • Grab 15 pound weights and do a set of 20 arm presses.
  • Put the weights down and do dips.
  • Jump back on the treadmill and do intervals for 10 minutes: 6.5 for one minute; 7.0 for the next; 7.5 the next; 6.0 for recovery. Then back up again until you reach a mile (around 9 minutes) and jog at 5.5 for a minute of recovery.
  • Back to the weights-do the same as above again. Then back to the treadmill to do the same as the last round.

Total time: around 50 minutes
Miles: 3.26
Strength achieved: arms, legs, abs, back

Thursday: 3 mile tempo run
I tried really hard to keep myself at an uncomfortable “tempo” pace for the entire 3 miles but after the second mile I had to slow down a bit. The tricky part about this run was that I didn’t have my Garmin so I had to go by feel. I know the route like the back of my hand so I knew it was right around a 5K, and I slowed down toward the end (hills) but the weather was perfect (74, sunny and low humidity) so it felt great overall. Then I came in and did some weighted squats, arm curls and planks.

Phew! I’m feeling a little sore but great! I won’t lie, I do have a slight sore throat and my ears are a little clogged, but I’m not sure if it’s just allergies or if I’m actually getting a cold. The ears started bothering me Monday night, the throat this afternoon (after my run.) Hopefully it’s nothing my Allegra prescription can’t handle.

It’s taking all I have to stay up for the first football game of the season (having a fantasy football team makes every game exciting) but I think I’ll be heading to bed VERY soon. Like now.

Are you a sports fan? Do you get really excited for a particular sports season to start?

I am a huge sports fan! Although I’m really excited for football, nothing beats opening day of baseball season for me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Three Bean Salad and some good friends

Happy Labor Day ya’ll! The weather has been amazing here and I couldn’t be more excited. The temperatures have dropped down to the low 80s with virtually no humidity with TONS of sun.

We drove up to Hanover MD to visit my friend from home, Megan, and her husband Richard. We really wish we lived closer to them since they are the first “couple friends” we’ve been able to hang out with in a while. Finding couple friends is really hard in my opinion, so I’m glad they’re only an hour away.


While there we hung out on their deck and grilled up a traditional Central NY dish, chicken spiedes.


And I made some 3 bean salad.

My neighbor Sue made this a few months back and I’ve kind of taken over the recipe since. It’s a very quick, light, healthy and easy way to add flavor to any meal.

3 bean salad (adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1 cup fresh, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp fresh finely chopped rosemary

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar (I used 2 packets of Stevia in the Raw)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  1. In a large bowl, mix the beans, celery, onion, parsley and rosemary.
  2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans. Toss to coat.
  3. Chill beans in the refrigerator for several hours, to allow the beans to soak up the flavor of the dressing.



Also while visiting, Richard gave me a tutorial on my camera. I have manual settings and I have no idea how to use them. One of the pictures I took from our friends’ wedding last weekend came out very bright and I didn’t know why. I learned how to use the aperture feature and control the shutter speed, so I took many practice pictures.


Too bright!

A little better

Way too bright and too slow of a shutter speed

Ok I just really liked this picture.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

11 hours and finally refreshed

Happy Saturday everyone!

I don’t know what came over me but I slept for 11 hours last night! I had a half day at work and by 3 p.m. I had made my way upstairs for a nap. I don’t know why but I was feeling exhausted and figured a quick nap would help get me through the rest of the evening.

I woke up refreshed and at around 5 we headed out to get some dinner and run a few errands. (or dinner was nothing to blog about…..we were both very disappointed) We got home around 8:30 and watched a couple of episodes of Family Guy (I have a love/hate relationship with that show) and by 10:30 we were both ready for bed. (lame-os, we know) I woke up at 6 to feed the cats and thought about going for a run. Negative. I woke up again at 7:30 and thought about going for a run again. Before I even had the chance to argue with myself, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up again until 9:30. I don’t know why I would have been so tired! Maybe last weekend’s craziness caught up to me?

I finally was able to get my green tea latte down to a science:


Ohhh yeah. I am very lucky to have this magic bullet type blender that whips this up for me in no time.

  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk (or whatever kind you wish to use)
  • 2 tsp. green tea matcha powder
  • cinnamon sprinkles
  • dash of vanilla
  • if you’re feeling it, a sweetener of your choice. Today I used Stevia in the Raw but I usually don’t use anything.

Warm your milk up to lukewarm and add to your blender with the tea sweetener. Blend blend blend (about 30 seconds) and pour back into your mug. I microwave it for about 30-40 seconds more to get it nice and warm.


The very first time I tried the matcha green tea was at Starbucks. It doesn’t taste the same because the tea is a little bit different grade (more green if you will) and I don’t use vanilla soymilk, but damn, this is pretty freaking good. I had a really hard time finding Matcha green tea and had to give in and order it from here.

The health benefits of matcha green tea are amazing too. And the author of that piece is also pretty amazing.

Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

It is a gorgeous day here in Northern VA and I am so very happy to be spending it today with a good friend from home who lives near Baltimore, MD. Directions to Hanover, MD according to Google Maps: 38.1 mi – about 52 mins – up to 1 hour 30 mins in traffic. Boy do I love traffic.

Have a great day!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Do what you can

I had it all planned out to run 4 miles today with a little bit of strength training. I went down to the gym with full intentions of completing my workout in around 50 minutes. I had some extra time today since my boss was in meetings all afternoon and I got into work early so I thought why not?

I got to the gym around 1:30 and started pounding it out on the treadmill. The first mile started off slow and hard but I started feeling better around the 10 minute mark, so I picked up the pace with the intention of running 4 x 800s at different race pace speeds. Fartleks, if you will, with the first 800 at a 10K pace, slowed back to a jog for 800, then an 800 at a 5K pace, then back to 10K pace, then back to a jog. However, after the first set, I got such bad cramps I had no choice but to stop.

I thought I was going to pass out and I had only run 2 miles! What’s that all about?

I decided it was better to listen to my body than to push myself through any more. I actually woke up with really bad cramps too (yes, we’re talking THOSE kind of cramps) and I won’t lie, I was a little concerned. They hit me out of nowhere and they lasted about 10 minutes or so, then they went away. I’ve never had cramps this bad before, and I’m not sure if it’s the PCOS (even though I’m back on the pill) but it was not normal.

After the failed 4 mile attempt, I did a couple of planks and called it a day. Then I told myself that a 25 minute workout is better than nothing.

That’s ok, my dinner made up for it.


I was in the mood for grilled cheese. This hit the spot.


Steamed asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil and garlic, sliced tomatoes and grilled swiss cheese with homemade hummus and sprouts on GF bread. Yum.

Do you feel like you set goals that are too high for yourself?

I am notorious for biting off more than I can chew, and it’s hard not to feel bad when the result is not what I’d hoped for. I’m getting better with my feeling of failure, and today is a good example of that. Normally I’d get down on myself for not finishing what I set out to do, but I walked away from the gym feeling satisfied that I did what I could. It’s a step in the right direction!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Impromptu dinner

Well, hello there September! I am happy to see you, even though it’s always a bittersweet time of year for me. I love the fall but as you know, with fall comes shorter days and inevitably, winter. However, fall is still my favorite season, and with this new month I will be bringing my running game back.

I have to. I’m signed up for the Army 10 miler and I need to get my butt in gear. I haven’t run more than 5 miles since 4th of July weekend. After my first half marathon I got burned out and lost my love for running. I started walking more, doing shorter interval type workouts and have included a lot more strength training over these past few months and I’m really satisfied with the way I’ve been feeling. Honestly, I haven’t missed being in pain and stressing out over run times either. However, I need to cross that finish line pain and injury free, so my mileage will be increasing again starting this weekend, slowly and steady.

Ok … on to dinner.

We didn’t do any shopping since we were away this past weekend so our kitchen is a little sparse. I called Dennis on my way home and did the whole “What do you wanna do for dinner?” thing, but when I got home, I realized all we had were a bunch of sides. So I threw a few things together to make this:


1/4 red quinoa, 1/4 can white tuna, 1T homemade hummus, 2 handfuls of spinach (slightly cooked) and some onions. It actually turned out to be a great dinner.


After this yummy dinner I made my green tea latte


Which wasn’t as green as I’d hoped, but I’m experimenting with this new matcha tea. I think I need to use 2 tsp instead of one. 


It just stinks because this stuff is not cheap! But it’s so worth the splurge!

Dennis would say that I splurge on everything since I buy mostly natural whole and organic foods, but I’d say besides the matcha tea I splurge on Sunshine burgers and Greek yogurt.

What types of food do you splurge on?