A fresh start to 2014

Happy New Year!

Hope everyone is having a great day/year so far and starting it off on the right foot. I planned to start my day with a run, but the weather refused to cooperate, going between hard rain, drizzle and overcast breeziness looking like it could rain again all day.

Rainy day in the Sunshine State to start 2014.

Rainy day in the Sunshine State to start 2014.

Instead, I opted for a juice/smoothie (not quiet a smoothie but thicker than a juice) of frozen watermelon, cucumber, chia and flax seeds and water. It was really good. Other than that, I’ve been snacking on heirloom tomatoes from my CSA.

Heirloom tomatoes from my CSA.

Heirloom tomatoes from my CSA.

This whole holiday season has been a blur and felt the least like a holiday time of any of them, but I’m looking ahead to 2014. The past few years I have posted resolutions on my blog, but this year I will just need more time to think about them and figure out what direction I’m headed.

What are your healthy living resolutions this year?

2013 Palm Beach Turkey Trot

I haven’t posted a running update for way too long. That is because I haven’t been running regularly for way too long. (And, I’m sure you have noticed I haven’t been blogging as often — life has been way too crazy lately.)

But I really am going to make an effort to get back on track with both running and blogging. As the weather is about perfect in South Florida now, the treats and food temptations are at an all-time high and any likelihood for depression is greatest being away from my family for the holidays, I really need to focus on running and getting back into a routine. And that started today with the Town of Palm Beach United Way Turkey Trot 5k.

Supersoft T-shirt for the 2013 Town of Palm Beach United Way Turkey Trot

Supersoft T-shirt for the 2013 Town of Palm Beach United Way Turkey Trot

Sleepy Val before the race

Sleepy Val before the race

I had never done this race before, but I thought it would be great to get up, run around the Island of Palm Beach and start my day. Little did I know it wouldn’t even be 50° at race time. (I know, I know, it’s November. But it’s Florida. And I don’t have warm running clothes. And my lungs aren’t used to exercise in this weather. So there is all that.)

It was a well-organized race with a great, easy route. There were about 600 to 800 runners, so it was a nice size, not too big and not too small. And because it is the town of Palm Beach, the shirt is supersoft and nice, on par with the one I got at my Fourth of July 8k this year. Yes, this is my second holiday race this year, and I’m really digging these holiday races. Great way to start probably my two favorite holidays.

As I said, I haven’t been running much; it was two weeks since my last run, in fact! But I was really happy with my time considering the weather and my lack of preparation.

What’s next

I still have an arch ache a lot when I run. I had it about 1.5 miles into this run. ¡No bueno! So I need to stretch more every day, and I need new running shoes. This will be my third pair ever, and for my second pair I got the same I had before (Adidas Supernova), but I kind of want to try new shoes. I have overpronation and flat feet. What running shoes/brands do you love?

Also, it’s that time of year for fun runs in full effect in South Florida, and I need to find some new runs. What fun races would you recommend in South Florida?

Hearty vegetarian Thanksgiving offerings

Can you believe Thanksgiving is in two weeks? Growing up, I always loved the family and togetherness aspect of Thanksgiving. Gathering around, spending all day together, eating a meal and playing family games together.

But honestly, I love the food now more than I did a turkey growing up eating meat. Now that I”m an adult and know there is more for a vegetarian main dish beyond a fake meat patty, Thanksgiving dinner has gotten much better.

Still not sure what I will make as my main vegetarian offering, these are at the top of my list, hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main, or great as a side for the turkey-lover at the table.

Rice-stuffed acorn squash from Chow.com

Rice-stuffed acorn squash from Chow.com

I’ve made this amazing acorn squash with a wild rice stuffing. And really any stuffed squash would work, including this nut-stuffed delicata squash or eggplant stuffed with walnuts and tomatoes.

Quinoa and squash pie from Eating Well

Quinoa and squash pie from Eating Well

Or what about a great quinoa and squash casserole or (what I am leaning toward making) a savory butternut squash tart.

Mushroom roll

Mushroom roll

If you want something different from squash, something with carbs(!), a stuffed mushroom roll might hit the spot. Or a potato, onion and cheese tart. Or a portobello Wellington. And you can’t go wrong with (and it’s totally worth the effort) a stuffed seitan loaf.

Whatever you pick, it’s really about the people you spend it with. What will you serve your meat-free guests?

This week in food

This next week has so many exciting food and drink events that I have to share them with you! I am super giddy, as I think all my favorite food and drink bases are covered. Best food and drink week ever? Best food and drink week ever!

Here are all the great things going on this week. What will you participate in?

Sunday: National Coffee Day

National Coffee Day KaleAndAle.comDifferent chains are having different deals. With Dunkin, you need the app to get the free drink, but it’s worth it for coupons and the store locator alone. As is Starbucks since you can pay with your phone and find stores. Hopefully there is a chain in your area on this list.

Tuesday: World Vegetarian Day

CSA2Every Oct. 1 is World Vegetarian Day, kicking off Vegetarian Awareness Month and ending with World Vegan Day. October is my favorite month for many reasons, and this is one of them. (Bonus: My CSA returns this day!)

Wednesday: National Kale Day

National Kale Day KaleAndAle.comImagine the surprise and excitement at KaleAndAle when I learned it is National Kale Day! I have never heard of this before so I was thrilled to hear about it just in time. According to the website, National Kale celebrates kale’s incredible health benefits, highlights kale’s culinary versatility, and promotes eating, growing and sharing kale.

Various days: Oktoberfest celebrations

Oktoberfest KaleAndAle.comSold! I love going to German bars and having the limited-edition Oktoberfest or trying American beer inspired by Oktoberfest. I love the polka and oompapa music that is played, the prost and merriment. I’m not ashamed of my love for mustard, pretzels and even sauerkraut. I’m proud of my German heritage.

Do you know of any other happenings or will you participate in any events? Please share! And if you Instagram any of these events, tag @KaleAndAle or share on the KaleAndAle Facebook page.

Trip recap: Iowa

Edge of Cedar Rapids seen on a run.

Edge of Cedar Rapids seen on a run.

Last week I got back from a wonderfully relaxing eight-day trip to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was just what I needed to recharge, relax and see family before I start a new (exciting and challenging, hopefully) job at my current workplace. So I took this opportunity while the weather was (mostly) nice to catch up with friends, family, sleep and eating. (Wait, scratch eating, I”m always caught up on that!)

Having always loved the Fourth of July and having a job where I work most holidays, I decided to visit home over the Fourth and take a chance that the weather would be great. Clearly many other friends had this same hope or thought, as many hometown friends who also live far also came home. What a special treat to get to spend time with some of my favorite people I don’t often see. And I met some friends children for the first time. I felt loved and blessed to be surrounded by so many people. And because I was home for so long, as opposed to my usual long weekend trips, I got to see my grandparents more than usual as well.

I didn’t really have plans other than hanging out, catching up and relaxing. I did, however, run my hometown Fourth of July 8k, a big tradition. That was exciting as I have never done a race in the Midwest or an 8k. I’ve decided 8k to 10k is about the right distance to push me a little and keep me running more than just a couple of miles at a time. The weather was 66° and I started in a park I’m very familiar with, Green Square Park. This park is across from the church I grew up in and next to where I had my first job out of college. I was really happy with my time, as it was just slightly slower than my best 5k time, and was a longer run with slight hills. The run is from one park to another and back, through an older neighborhood with big homes and big shade trees. And I think this is so cool,  a video of everyone finishing. I’m on the left in light gray shorts and a teal tank top.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYZxX3yktO8&t=30m19s

And what have you learned about me comes after a run? Breakfast! I headed down to the pancake breakfast (a family tradition) full of Quaker Oats food (they are a big employer in Cedar Rapids) and had pancakes, cereal, granola bars and lots of coffee.

Happy after a nice 8k time, run and pancake breakfast.

Happy after a nice 8k time, run and pancake breakfast.

The running plan for the rest of the summer is pretty nonexistent. It’s crazy hot in South Florida so the goal is just to run as far and often as I can without making myself crazy, and then hope to pump up the distance and days in a few months when the heat and humidity drop.

When picking up my race packet at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (also next to the park), I noticed admission is free this summer. If you are in the area, I suggest a trip. It took my mom and me about 90 minutes to walk through, as neither of us had been there for 15 or 20 years. It was a great way to spend some time, and I was in love with the Grant Wood room right inside the first floor. Grant Wood grew up in Cedar Rapids and painted his largest murals at the Iowa State University Parks Library.

Grant Wood's Woman with Plants

Grant Wood’s Woman with Plants

Grant Wood's Corn Cob Chandelier

Grant Wood’s Corn Cob Chandelier

In addition to running, visiting people and relaxing, I ate and drank! I finally made it to NewBo City Market, where I looked at the vendors, buying fresh produce and getting a Wisconsin cheese I had never heard of, “bread cheese.” Bake it for a few minutes and the texture is like cheese bread. With the pizza flavor, it was a nice side to summer salads.

NewBo City Market scenes

NewBo City Market scenes

I also stopped at Benz Beverage Depot for some Midwest beer (my favorite was the Madhouse Belgian Golden Ale) and Red’s Ale House and Cobble Hill, both huge hits with everyone who went and highly recommended.

All in all it was a really great trip home.

Where are your summer plans taking you?