Yum.  Just Yum.  I am looking at this picture, remembering last night’s dinner, and wishing I could go back in time and be eating this.  But actually, then tomorrow would be Monday.  So maybe I just want to make this again.  Good thing it was deceptively easy!

You see, I have a slight obsession with pesto.  I love it smothering a big bowl of pasta or liberally spread on a baguette as a starter to the perfect sandwich.  But I’m pretty picky about it.  I mean, who needs all that oil and cheese when you can have all of the flavor without it, keeping your dish light enough to have room for dessert?

Last summer, Angela, who’s recipes have yet to fail me, posted this recipe for Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto which combines two of summer’s greatest gifts, tomato and fresh basil, into a beautifully flavorful summer pesto using very little oil.  I made this as much as I could before I had to say good bye to summer produce for another year.  Since then, I have literally had day dreams about this stuff.  And you know how people say literally when they don’t actually mean it?  Yeah, I mean it.   Ok I know that’s weird so lets just move on.

As this cold spell we’ve been having in the Northeast will remind me, it’s not quite summer yet.  But as I was stocking up on produce at the market, the basil plants caught my eye (who needs flowers?).  I decided that I could not wait another month to get my pesto fix so I picked up the best looking plant of the bunch (ugh, I can be so shallow) along with some of his good looking friends and got to work in the kitchen. 

My original plan was to follow Angela’s recipe.  I mean, why mess with a good thing.  But then I remembered that I’m blogging again so I thought I’d get creative.  I used her recipe as inspiration but my version adds roasted red peppers, substitutes walnuts for the almonds, and adds some acidity in the form of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar to brighten the flavors.  The end results were fabulous.  Perfect for a Sunday night dinner while you dream about summer. 

 

The Ingredients:  

 1 pint grape tomatoes

3/4 cup roasted red peppers (or one whole pepper, roasted)

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (see below)

1 1/2 cup packed basil

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1-2 tbsp olive oil plus more for tomatoes

~1/2 tsp ppaprika

Salt and Pepper to taste

Red Pepper flakes to taste

Spread tomatoes on baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning once halfway through.  When finished cooking, remove from oven and set aside.  Side note: if you accidently “taste-tested” too many tomatoes and are now left with about 3/4 of a pint, that’s ok your pesto will still be delicious.   Not that I would know firsthand or anything…

Reduce heat to 325 degrees.  Spread walnuts on baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes until they just begin to brown.  Taste-test a few of those too for good measure.

Add garlic to your food processor until finely chopped.  Then add walnuts and process until they are slightly shy of a powder-like consistency.  Add tomatoes, peppers, oil, vinegar, lemon, and seasonings and process until smooth (about 1 minute).  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 

That’s all!  Super simple, full of flavor, and it comes together in a flash thanks to the quick roasting time of the grape tomatoes.  I thought the roasted peppers might dominate the flavor profile, but they were actually quite subtle in the dish, allowing the flavor of the basil and tomatoes to take center stage while adding something extra in the background.  I also loved the earthyness and texture that the walnuts added, as well as the lemon juice and balsamic which really brought all of the flavors together. 

 

After deciding that spoonfuls of this pesto directly in my mouth probably did not constitute a meal, I made some fusilli pasta and started a pan with portobello mushrooms, spinach, and more roasted red peppers.  When the veggies were heated and the pasta was done, I added it all together in the pan with about half a cup of the pesto and tossed until everything was covered.  Then sprinkled with fresh parmesan.  Like I said, I will be repeating this dinner very soon. 

I will also be experimenting with new ways to transport the leftover pesto into my mouth.  No wrap, cracker, or spoon is safe!

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May 1, 2012 · 1:41 am

25 Things

Hi there!  So it’s been like, literally a year but I decided it was time to revisit my very neglected little blog.  I’ve been running and cooking as much (or more) than ever, so I have plenty to write about.  But today’s post is actually unrelated to exercise or food (shocking, I know). 

I recently re-read this article listing 30 things a woman should have and should know before she turns thirty.  Having recently turned 25, I was happy to already have some of these crossed off.  And as for the rest of them?  I guess I have a goal for the next five years.  So in honor of my first post since turning a quarter century old, I created a list of my own. 

25 Things a Woman Should Have by the Time She’s Twenty Five

1. A killer pair of heels that she dreamed about owning as a child

2. That person she calls when she just got the best news of her life or when her world just fell apart

3. A go-to place for her favorite happy hour and that friend she knows will join her on a moment’s notice

4. A list of places she dreams of traveling to.  (Bonus points if some are already checked off)

5. The ability to be alone without being lonely

6. A go-to beer other than bud-light, a wine other than white-zinfandel, and a cocktail that contains more alcohol than sugar, so she will fit in no matter where the night takes her.

7. A favorite book of all time

8. Something, not related to appearance, that she loves about herself and something she’s striving to improve

9. That one thing she knows will always make her feel better (alcohol, drugs, and food don’t count)

10. Mistakes and the ability to learn from them

11. A best day of her life (so far)

12. That one outfit in her closet that she wears when she wants needs to feel gorgeous

13. The confidence to go out in public without makeup

14. An appreciation for her mother’s advice

15. A life plan and the acceptance that life doesn’t usually go as planned

16. A signature dance move

17. The ability to cook something other than eggs, toast, and pasta

18. A spring jacket and a winter coat, neither of which are made of fleece, that will keep her looking classy while on-route to any destination

19. An accomplishment that, at one point in her life, she thought was impossible

20. A favorite place in the world (whether it’s her couch, her hometown, or someplace half-way around the world)

21. The ability to laugh at herself

22.  A memory that never fails to make her smile

23. A past with enough colorful stories to write a bestselling memoir in case she ever gets a book deal

24. A woman she wants to be like when she grows up and the realization that being twenty-five does not mean she’s too old for idols, or finished growing up

25.  A sense of adventure, a rough exterior, and a kind heart so she’s ready for whatever life throws at her next

How many of these do you have?  What would you add to the list?

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ODDyssey Half Marathon Race Recap

Steps to a successful half marathon:

1. Dress for Success

2. Bring a Friend

3. Keep the goal in mind.

What!? We needed to hydrate!

The morning of the ODDyssey started off as usual.  5:30AM wake-up call, smacking the snooze button, and wondering why I can’t find a hobby that lets me sleep in on weekends.  But despite my strong desire to be doing anything else, I figured if I was going to run 13 miles, running in costume with my best friend and promises of beer at the finish was about as good as it was gonna get.   I rallied, had my standard pre-run Cliff Bar and banana, grabbed Heather and our Togas and walked out the door. 

Heather and I have a nice little system going.  I come up with ideas and she figures out how to execute them.  So even though she was out of town, when I texted her days before our race suggesting we go with the Greek Oddyssey theme and “Be goddesses or wear togas or something” I knew she would pull through.  She managed to turn a few “borrowed” hotel sheets, some safety pins, and some random Christmas garland I found in a cabinet into the awesome costumes pictured above.  She’s my crafting hero.  Don’t worry, I repay her in banana bread and freshly juiced mimosas.  And with my winning personality.  Naturally.

Per my costume designer’s suggestion, we got to the race a few minutes early and assembled our sheets togas by the side of my car.  Then we made friends in the porta-potty line and headed over to the start to realize that the race had just begun.  Oops!  Luckily our times don’t register until we cross the start line.  So without the typical pre-race fanfare we looked at eachother, shrugged, and started running.

We had decided ahead of time to ditch our watches and time goals and run the race together.  Best idea ever!  Now there’s a time and a place to push yourself and go for a new PR but there’s also a time and place to spend two hours with your best friend in toga.  I almost forgot we were running!

The only disappointment of the race were obstacles.  There was “Life-sized Janga” which was actually “slightly larger than the one you’re used to Janga,” A bouncy castle fit for a child’s birthday party, and two guys throwing water balloons which we managed to avoid by putting on our best “don’t even think about it stares” (White togas and running with iPhones? No thank you!) The only diversion worth our attention was a somewhat-cool photo booth which Heather was happy to discover was located next to a porta-potty with no line. 

Luckily the company and the race course made up for it.  We ran through scenic Fairmount Park and spent a little time on Kelly drive with views of the water.  The course wasn’t too repetitive or boring and with the exception of the hill at mile 12 it was relatively painless.  We checked out the other costumes (deciding ours was the best), talked about the new apartment we found (update: we found a new apartment.  It’s awesome.  Details to follow), and motivated ourselves with thoughts of finish line beer.

I’ll spare you the mile by mile recap, mostly because the mile markers were hard to spot so the whole thing kind of ran together in my mind.  However, by mile 12 we were hungry and ready to stop running and the mile long hill that was worse than the hill at my marathon wasn’t helping.  Luckily, around 12.5 we got just the boost we needed.  A woman ran up next to us saying she wanted to thank us for motivating her through her race.  After looking confused (a look that both of us are pretty used to having) she explained that she had wanted to slow down for the past 5 miles but made a commitment to “keep the toga girls in sight” and that without us she would have run a much slower race.  (Insert something inspirational and cliché about the power of the running community and making friends out of strangers).  But on a serious note, we did think it was pretty cool and decided it was definitely blog worthy. 

Another common element of races is that there is no better sight than the finish line.  We saw it, picked up the pace, and crossed in just over 2:04.  Without a watch or any clocks at the mile markers, we had absolutely no idea what our finish time would be.  It was a fun change to run at our own pace with no regard for time.  Obviously we could (and probably would) have pushed the pace, but considering the photo-op stop and our relaxed attitude, I’d say it was a pretty successful race!  The only disappointment was that our awesome finish line pose (holding hands above us in victory) managed to go by un-captured on the photo website.  Weak!

You know what isn’t week?

In case you were wondering, beer after a half marathon IS as good as it sounds.  Not just any beer, custom brewed “Recovery Ale” by Triumph Brewery . We run in style. 

So there you go, one more medal to add to the collection!  Next race on the agenda? Philly Marathon!  But that’s not until November so I MAY get the urge to sign up for something sooner.  Any suggestions??

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I’m Back!

Have you missed me?  Actually gotten some work done in the absence of posts to distract you?  completely forgotten my little blog existed?  Well I’m BACK!  Since you’re not here for my lame excuses I’ll spare you the “I’ve been busy traveling and working 60 hour weeks” sob story.  Long story short, I’m here now and I promise not to go on another 3 month hiatus.  Just consider me the prodigal blogger. 

Luckily, I haven’t completely fallen off the face of the earth and have not been neglecting the important things in life.  Therefore, I have still been running and eating delicious food, I just haven’t been documenting it.  (Blogger question: if you do something blog worthy but no one gets to read about it, did it really happen?)

Hope the last few months have been treating you well.  Mine have been insane but generally pretty awesome.  Here are the highlights:

March: Get another year older, go out to celebrate.  Eat here and here.  Work gets crazy, adapt my gym schedule to accommodate.  Start working out in mornings.  Drink copious amounts of coffee to compensate.  Master the art of healthy takout while ordering dinners at work.  (Dressing on the side please!)  Find secret office chocolate stash.  Eat enough Snickers and Mr. Goodbars to counter any benefits obtained from gym schedule and ordering skills.

April: Remember I have a 10 mile run on May 1st.  Start to train.  Eat pizza at Zavino (I’m still dreaming about their pistascio pesto pizza.  And their butternut squash soup.  And their wine list. Duh).  Make a note as I’m typing this that I need to return ASAP and document for the blog.  Host pre-race pasta dinner.  Learn that homemade garlic bread is the easiest and most delicious way to carboload.  Consider eating leftovers for pre-race breakfast.  Decide to have a Cliff Bar instead.  Secretly regret that decision.

May: PR at Broad St 10 miler by over 4 minutes (yay me!).  Celebrate with Derek, one out of two roommates, and half priced bottles of wine.  Sign up for Philadelphia Marathon in November.  Hope I don’t do anything stupid between now and then.  Venture to Conshohocken for some Italian eats . Decide that sirracha hot sauce on salmon is pure genius.  Things calm down at work.  Suddenly remember what it’s like to have time on my hands.  Decide to direct attention towards neglected blog. 

And now you’re up to speed!

Here’s what you (and I) have to look forward to in the upcoming weeks:

This weekend:

I’m running a half marathon!  But not just any half marathon this is the ODDyssey.  Complete with obstacles, costume competitions, and custom brewed beer at the finish line.  Ummm yes, yes, and yes please!  I conned roommie Heather along for the ride too.  Costumes TBD but togas may be involved.  Then I’m engaging in some post-race festivities at my first ever Phillies game (can you believe I’ve lived in this area for 6 years and never been? Shameful). 

After this weekend:

– Marathon training!  There are people who “ran a marathon once” and then there are people who “run marathons.”  I want to be the latter and the only difference is another race registration.
 

Let’s do this.  Also, it should be nice to not have to plan training runs around winter weather advisories and not be the only one I know currently training.  Look out for a training plan and goals post soon.

– Moving!  We’ve been in our current place for two years and it’s time to move on.  Heather and I, not quite ready to part ways after 7 years of living together are in apartment hunting mode!  I’m already dreaming of the brand new kitchens in apartments I’ve been coveting on CraigsList in a trendy neighborhood conveniently located to my favorite running routes and running group meet up spots.  Look out for updates on the apartment search and my summer quest to find our new favorite neighborhood restaurants and bars.

Alright kids.  This catchup sesh has been refreshing.  I’m off to find actual work to do for an hour and then dig into some leftovers from last night’s dinner (Wild rice, zucchini, and portabella stuffed peppers.  Man I missed cooking after all these weeks of travel).  Since I have no pictures of peppers to share with you I’ll leave you with Zumba having an artsy moment:

Talk to you soon!

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I Ran a Marathon! (Part II)

Alright I’m back.  Lets get to it!

The first mile of every race is the same.  Trying to manage the sudden adrenaline rush, dodging in and out of packs of other runners, and hoping that I don’t pull a Diana and trip on a pothole before the real race even starts.  That, along with some random shin pain (which thankfully went away) is how the first ten minutes of the race went.  Luckily, I’m no stranger to the awkward first mile and didn’t let it phase me too much.

Miles 2-6 coasted by.  I waved to spectators, read funny signs (my fave read “In our minds you’re Kenyan”), and started settling into my groove.  I was shocked to realize that I’d been keeping around an 8:45 mi pace and was significantly ahead of the 4 hour pace group.  Since I had planned on running a 9:30 pace, I wondered if I should slow down but was feeling great and decided to keep it up and face the consequences later. 

Before I knew it we were at mile 6 and entering the beach portion of the run.  Yup, I ran two of my 26 miles on the sand.  Luckily, it wasn’t too bad.  All of those super speedy Kenyans who had already reached the beach really helped pack the sand down.  I mean, I easily could have been in the front of the pack but I just didn’t feel like dealing with the sand myself.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it😉

At mile 6.5 the half marathoners turned around to head back to the finish.  With 1 quarter down, I was feeling good, although happy to be leaving the beach soon.  I had been promised lots of spectators in the next part of the course which would be a welcome distraction from the relatively quiet beach.  Although the breast cancer ribbons drawn in the sand were pretty cute. 

This is when the race started to get really fun!  We ran throughout the beach town of Jacksonville and it seemed like the whole town was out to cheer us on.  People were decked out in pink, holding signs, handing out water, fruit, M&M’s and everything in between.  They were cheering us on by name (gotta love the name on the race bib trick) and thanking us.  I couldn’t believe it.   These people were spending all day pushing me and thousands of other runners towards our personal goals and they were thanking us.  It gave me just the reminder that I needed that this wasn’t just about my first marathon, this was about the bigger picture, about 13,000 runners and countless spectators and supporters working together to do something amazing.  Pretty serious stuff.  But don’t worry, there were also plenty of drunk guys offering their support by toasting us with bloody marys.  It’s all about balance right🙂

Besides, it was time to start looking out for the most important spectator of all. 

I mean, she’s kind of the reason I wanted to run this marathon in the first place. 

Just as planned, Tone was waiting for me at Mile 9.  Luckily I saw her because I had arrived faster than expected and she hadn’t even started looking for me yet.  No problem!  I waved, she saw me, I got my much welcomed morale boost, threw her my jacket, and was on my way.  See you at mile 17 Mom!  Hope I’m still smiling when I get there. 

This is where things started to get tough.  I was still keeping pace with the 4 hour group but they kept getting closer and finally started to pass me around Mile 13.  The pace groups followed the “walk-run” method where they would run for a given period of time and then stop to walk.  Since I wasn’t planning on staying with a specific pace group and since I came here to run a marathon not walk it (I’m proud to say I never stopped to walk), I had just been focused on keeping with or ahead of them during the first half.  Between miles 10 and 13 the group started passing me.  It wasn’t too bad at first.  They would get ahead of me, then stop to walk, and I would pass them.  But as the miles went on, they started getting farther ahead of me and with 13 miles left to go, I was starting to think that keeping up wasn’t worth the risk. 

Mile 14: reality check.  I let the pace group go and decided to reassess my plan.  Afterall, this whole sub-4 hour thing had only become a goal about 2 hours ago when I looked down at my garmin and thought “Look at me, I’m going fast!”  Now it was time to trust my training.  I had planned on a 4:15 marathon and trained at a 9:30 pace.  I decided to readjust my focus for the next half and stick to my most important goal- to cross the finish line smiling. 

I wouldn’t say I ever actually “hit a wall”  I never had that feeling that my body just wouldn’t go on.  But those next few miles were some of the toughest.  I was still a little bummed that I had to slow down and I was worried about the repercussions of going out to fast for so long.  But any concern I had in my mind apparently didn’t reflect on my face.  I didn’t even realize I was still smiling until spectators kept pointing me out in the crowd and saying things like “Look at that smile!” and “Look at you- you look awesome!” I thought I was inventing these people in my mind at first.  I’m smiling?  I look good? Why thank you!  I figured as long as I still looked good I might as well keep giving it all I had.  Plus, it was almost time for Mile 17 and I knew my favorite spectator would be ready with the camera.

Hi Mom!

Seeing Tone was just the boost I needed.  Before I knew it, I had reached the 20 mile mark and was in the home stretch.  I had always heard that the “real” marathon doesn’t begin until mile 20 and I was worried that this alleged wall would come at me in full force.  But the last six miles were actually better than the six before it.  Every step was a new distance record for me and was getting me closer to the finish line.  I broke the end of the race down into two-mile segments, focusing on getting to 22, then 24.  And this hill I was so worried about? Really not that bad! The mile 25 marker was right in the middle so I focused on getting there and then gave it all I had to get to the top, knowing that it was literally all downhill from there. 

At the top of the hill we made a turn and I could see the finish.  I was overcome with emotion and disbelief.  Training runs, doubts, and injuries were behind me and all that was left to do was finish a marathon.  Four hours and five minutes after I started this thing I was back, hearing an announcer call my name, and crossing the finish line with a victory fist pump and the biggest smile I could manage. 

And the icing on the cake?  Tone managed to make her way from her viewing post to see me finish! 

Running a marathon was everything I hoped it would be and so much more.  I tested my physical and mental limits, and far exceeded my expectations.  I’m already thinking about my next one (and how I’m going to do it in less than 4 hours).  I think I see a marathon addiction coming on🙂

But there are other, more immediate plans.  I have a 10-mile race in early May followed by a half marathon a few weeks later, both of which I’m running with friends and roommates.  The weather is getting nicer, ice is finally melting, and soon I’ll be able to safely return to some of my favorite trails.  Plus, cutting back on 20 mile training runs will leave more time for speedwork, cross training, cooking, and eating. 

Don’t worry.  I’ll be documenting as much as I can! 

Thats all for now.  Gatta run!

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I Ran a Marathon! (Part One)

I’m back and you know what that means.  It’s marathon recap time!!

Last weekend was easily one of the best weekends of my life and will probably have a permanent spot on my “Top 5 Life Moments” list.  It was great even before the race.  I met my mom in Jacksonville on Friday night and we spent Saturday eating and attending the expo (Food, running, shopping and mother-daughter catch up time? Does it get any better?).  If I wasn’t already excited to run a marathon for breast cancer, the expo sure did the trick.  Between the excitement of all the runners, checking out my SWAG bag and meeting Donna Deegan (The “Donna” in 26.2 with Donna) and Joan Benoit, marathoner extraordinaire, (who both signed my race bib BTW), I was ready to just put on my sneakers right there and get on with the damn thing. 

Ready to go!

 

Me and Mom (aka "Tone") with Donna

(Sidenote: my mom’s name is Toni and sometimes a lot of times we call her Tone.  Tone is the Joan Benoit of mothers.  Be jealous.)

But there was one more thing that needed to be done before marathon time:

Much better!

After dinner, the nerves started setting in.  We went back to the hotel and I spent the next 2 hours (this is not an exaggeration) pacing around the room, lining up my supplies for the morning, trying on my race outfit, and determining whether to pin my bib to my shirt or clip it on my belt while Tone, the one with the working brain, studied the race map and determined the ideal spot for optimal spectator performance.  When I had finally solved my race bib debacle (I went for the shirt) and Tone had determined her plan (see me at mile 9 and 17 and wear red and pink to optimally stand out in the crowd.  The woman will even clash for me- told you she was awesome) it was time for bed. 

I was so exhausted from my day that I fell magically asleep and dreamed about running as soon as my head hit the fluffy pillow.  FALSE.  Instead, I spent about 6 hours wide awake, thinking about the next day, and finally giving up and texting my friends about the Villanova game (which we lost, boo) and looking up Runner’s World articles about pacing on my Blackberry.  I may have gotten a combined total of 1 hour of sleep before my alarm buzzed at 4:45 in the morning. 

I jumped for joy  dragged myself out of bed and put the three functioning brain cells I had to work while I got dressed, grabbed my banana and Peanut Butter Cliff Bar, and headed downstairs to get on a race shuttle. 

This is what a runner looks like at 5 in the morning before her first marathon when it’s 38 degrees out:

Side note: how adorable is the race logo in the background that the hotel put on the door for the weekend?!  Probably the only reason I’m managing a smile.  That, or the coffee I’m clutching for dear life. 

Despite my secret hope that the bus I was on would break down and we could call it a day and go to brunch, we arrived at the start around 6, leaving me approximately an hour and a half alone with my thoughts.  I walked around, grabbed more coffee from a nearby tent, and talked to a runner who ran last year about the hill at mile 25 (her words of wisdom? “It sucks”) Glad I asked.  Oh! I also ran into a guy at the start who was from Philadelphia and was sitting in the row in front of me on the plane ride here.  As my roommate Heather would say (or unfortunately sing) “It’s a small world afterall!!!”

Just as the sun was coming up, the announcers had all the runners make their way to the start.  Finally, after months of training, planning, and anticipation, it was time to do this!

Maybe it was Donna’s pep talk, or her words on the importance of the cause and why she started The National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer, but suddenly, I wasn’t nervous any more.  I thought back to October and the reasons I hit “register” on my computer screen: because I loved running and cared so much about this cause.  I thought back to those moments before time goals and doubts had entered my mind when I wanted nothing more than to run a marathon.  In those last moments before the start, I made a promise to myself that I would cross that finish line and that I would embrace every moment along the way.  Sarcasm and witty word cross-outs aside, these were my honest thoughts, corny as they may be. 

About a minute after the official start, I had crossed the starting line and was running in my first marathon!  Was it everything I hoped it would be? Did I get to that hill at the end and decide to call it a day and drive to the finish? Did I win the marathon?  Well, I hate to leave you hanging (really, I do) but you’ll just have to wait to find out!  Unfortunately (fortunately?) I have a life outside blogging and it’s calling my name.  

To be continued…

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26.2 and Done!

 

I’m a Marathoner!!!

And I demolished by goal time by 10 minutes.  Just sayin😉

I’ll be back with more pictures and a full recap soon.  But for now I’m getting some much deserved rest and brainstorming my next marathon.  Oh, and enjoying some of this:

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