Wrap it Up

I was super excited to be selected for YouCopia’s campaign to review some new kitchen products. My kitchen cabinets and drawers are always a mess so it was exciting to get a chance to use something that could help me get organized.

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I chose the StoreMore WrapStand for all my rolls of wraps and boxes of baggies. When it arrived I immediately put it together and got it set up on my kitchen counter. Right now, that is where it is living because it is a little too tall in its conventional position for my upper kitchen cabinets.

I’m deciding now if I’m going to keep it on its side or use it in one of lower cabinets (which would require a little reorganization). But, for now, I’m really enjoying it. I even had enough slots to store by box of gallon bags on its side. It makes it super easy to grab one without having to wrestle with a box in the bottom drawer of my cabinets.

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Now, here is the best part. I didn’t just get to try one, I get to give away a YouCopia product so you can give it a try for yourself.

Enter below for your chance!

Win one Youcopia product of your choice #4

How do you tackle your disorganized kitchen? I would love to hear about what you do!

Training Update – 4 Weeks

Since today marks four weeks since I was officially cleared to resume running, it is time for another update.

I feel like things are going well so far. After 6 months off, I’ve lost a bit on my previously tortoise-like pace, but I know that will come back over time. In addition, my run/walk intervals have been going fairly well. Most of the time I don’t feel like I have to add in any extra walking, but some of the hills in my area definitely give me challenges at time. Finally, I’m starting to monitor my heart rate more closely. I was heart rate training before my pregnancy and I do want to resume that, but restoring base mileage to my legs is my big priority right now. Once I feel good about where I am with mileage, then I will look back at my heart rate data and go from there.

On Monday, I begin week 5 of this rebuilding journey. I’m planning to continue running by time and pushing my intervals in increments of one minute or less based on how I felt during the previous week. Here is my plan:

  • Monday – 35 minute run/walk
  • Wednesday – 45 minute run/walk
  • Friday – 30 minute continuous run
  • Saturday – 60 minute run/walk

I’m hoping to be able to keep up with this schedule now that my maternity leave is over. It means getting up and going out at 4:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays and just hoping the baby sleeps so that she isn’t crying to eat the majority of the time I’m gone. Fortunately, I’m on Fridays for the summer and can run a little later on Fridays and Saturdays.

I’m not really doing any strength work right now. I know I need to work it in, but again, I’m giving higher priority to getting back in the swing of things at work and spending time getting a few extra baby snuggles while I can. When my work schedule changes again in August, I will work on figuring that out.

So, overall I’m happy with how things are going! I know I have some areas for growth, but I’m prioritizing and moving forward with my goal of running a half in December!

Dorky Mom Moment

Just a quick pop-in to say today has felt like a success. I mean, it isn’t even 5 PM yet, so anything could happen, but today, I feel like we killed the eat, play, sleep cycle. We are still working on the whole self-soothing so I can put her down while she is sleepy and not sleeping, but I have a feeling we will get there eventually. 


Let’s hope this trend continues!

Training Update – 2 weeks

I was officially cleared to resume “normal activities” almost two weeks ago. First and foremost, I double-checked with my doctor to be sure that meant running, too! Since she said, “Absolutely!” I’ve literally been off and running.

That being said, I’m coming back very slowly. I actually had to quit running back in December after a bout with a nasty cold. After that, I couldn’t keep my heart rate down even doing my run/walk intervals, and I knew that wasn’t good for my pregnancy. So, I kept up with walking about 3-4 days each week throughout the rest of my pregnancy. After that long away from running, I decided I shouldn’t just jump back in and risk injury, so I set some entry points for myself.

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I decided to start with some very short running intervals and increase the time I spend running in those intervals a little bit each week. I’m “running” four days each week and running based on time, not distance. Everyday, I include walking to warm-up and cool down as part of the workout. I am gradually decreasing the amount of time I spend walking for warm-up and cool down as I increase the length of my intervals. Here is what my weeks look like:

  • Monday – 35 minute workout – 5 short intervals, 1 longer
  • Wednesday – 45 minute workout – 8 short intervals, 1 longer
  • Friday – 30 minute workout – continuous running between warm-up and cool down
  • Saturday or Sunday – 60 minute workout – 2 sets of 5 short intervals, 1 longer

During my first few days back, I stuck with a 1:1 run/walk ratio for my workouts. I knew I could increase a little bit after those first few days so I increased my running intervals to 1:30 for short, and 2:30 for longer.

This week, I’m doing 3:00 for my short intervals and 4:00 for my longer intervals. I will continue to increase this by 1:00 each week as long as I continue to feel healthy and strong. Coming back like this is an exercise in patience, but I know I’m doing what is right for my body.

I’m also starting to do some core work. I found a great YouTube video for those recovering from abdominal surgery. I do it on the days I run and give myself a full rest day in between those workouts for now. Eventually, I’ll be adding some more toning and more  difficult core work at least one day each week, but I don’t want to run into any issues with diastasis recti while I’m getting my strength back.

So, that is where I am right now. Like I said, it is an exercise in patience, but I know I’m doing what is right for my body as I work my way back. In two more weeks, I’m going to assess where I am and determine whether or not I am ready to register for a race or not. My hope is that I’ll be able to do a slow 5K in mid-to-late August and I kind of have my eyes on the Growler Gallop.

We’ll see!

Just Messing Around

This week, we decided to put one of our favorite year round dishes on the menu, Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce. However, considering that it is summer, we decided to deviate from the tried and true recipe and cook both the chicken and brussels sprouts on the grill. I thought we shouldn’t stop there, so I decided to play around with the mustard sauce as well. I browsed around a bit and then I remembered a time when we made a mustard and shallot sauce to put over poached eggs that was divine. Since we are trying to eat a little healthier I decided not to go with that recipe, which contains a cup of heavy cream, but I was inspired. And that was all I needed!

I thought about the shallots a bit and knew that using them raw or even cooking them on the stove top wasn’t the way I wanted to go for this sauce. As such, I decided that roasting the shallots might be the best preparation this time. I also did some looking around at some different mustard sauce recipes and was most intrigued by recipes that mixed varieties of mustard. We always have both dijon and whole grain on hand, so I decided I would use equal parts of each. Finally, I thought about what would complement the mustard and shallot and settled on white wine, lemon juice, and butter as my final ingredients.

Here is what I ended up using, but note that my quantities are estimates because, after all, I was making this up as I went along.

  • 2 large (really large) shallots
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp butter
  • salt & pepper

I began by roasting the shallots in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes. Trim the ends of the shallots and stand them on end. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. After 15 minutes or so, I turned the shallots so they stood on the other end. I used my small cast iron skillet so I would have the goodness left in the pan to add more depth to my sauce.

I let the shallots cool until they could be handled, then I chopped them roughly.

Next, I heated the cast iron skillet on a burner at medium to medium-high heat. When it was good and hot again, I added the wine and deglazed the pan. Then, I added the shallots to the liquid and brought that all to a boil.

Once the shallot and wine had boiled for a couple of minutes, I added the mustards and stirred until they were well incorporated. Then, I let the mixture heat until it began to thicken just slightly.

Just before I was ready to serve the sauce, I turned the heat off and added the lemon juice and butter. Then, I added just a touch more salt and pepper to suit my taste.

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All in all, I was really happy with the way the flavors worked in this experiment. It accompanied both the chicken and the brussels sprouts well. The only thing  I wasn’t particularly happy with was the final consistency. It definitely came out more like a topping than a sauce.

I’m definitely going to be trying this again with the ingredients in the same proportions. However, the next time, I think I will combine about half of the shallot with about half of the wine and use my immersion blender to puree it all and add the puree to the sauce with the rest of the wine after I have deglazed my pan. Then, I will more finely chop the rest of the shallot to add back into everything. That should definitely leave me with more of a liquid consistency.

What have you been trying out in your kitchen lately?

Weekly Preview – June 12

It seems like now is a good time to link up with one of my favorite blogs, which I’ve been following for several years, Mommy Run Fast, to talk about what I’m doing for fitness and diet since my cesarean in the form of my plans for the week ahead.

During my pregnancy, I tried to keep up with my running and I was successful for a while. Then, right around Christmas I ended up with a horrible cold. After that, I just couldn’t manage to keep my heart rate down, so I ended up switching over to walking. I resumed walking about 5 days after my surgery at about a 30 minute pace with a quarter mile. Now, I’m walking up to 3 miles between a 15 and 16 minute pace. I’m happy with that progress i less than 5 weeks time, but that still means I haven’t run for 6 months. UGH!

On Thursday of this week, I have my 6 week postpartum visit with my doctor and I’m hoping that means I’ll be cleared to start running again. I won’t technically be at 6 weeks until next Monday, so I’m not planning to start mixing running in until that day, but this week I will continue my brisk walks to prepare my body for running when I get the all clear. I am still taking a rest day very frequently because a cesarean is major surgery and I want to make sure I am treating my body kindly to allow it to properly heal. I’m also leaving out strength training because I am not cleared for core work yet and I get enough upper body work carrying around the baby and pushing the stroller.

Here is how my week will look:

Monday: 35 minute walk

Tuesday: REST

Wednesday: 45 minute walk

Thursday: REST

Friday: 30 minute walk

Saturday: 1 hour walk

Sunday: REST

I’ve also been taking a bit of a break from meal-planning while I’ve been recovering. I have an amazing husband who has been meal-planning, grocery shopping, and doing most of the cooking since the beginning of my third trimester. I’m working on starting to make that more of a collaborative process again now that I’m feeling more recovered and have another month at home before the end of my maternity leave.

We can also plan some slightly higher maintenance mid-week meals right now, because I can typically get a some prep done during the day. If something happens and I have less time, we just switch the planned meal to something a little easier. What has made our meal planning much easier is buying a small dry erase board for the refrigerator. I picked up this days of the week dry erase board by Quartet days of the week dry erase board by Quartet from Amazon for less than $10. It is heavy duty and is magnetized so the dry erase marker sticks directly to it rather than having to stick it on the refrigerator next to it. We tend to stay much more organized with our meals when we use it. We also add when we have special things going on so it helps us to keep track of when we don’t need to plan meals or we need to make some other type of special arrangement. I only wish that the week on the board ran from Sunday to Saturday instead of Monday to Sunday as that is how we plan our meals.

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For this week we are planning to have a real mix of things:

Sunday: Summer Vegetable Risotto

Monday: Big Salad with Tuna Medallions ($6.99/lb at Harris Teeter this week)

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken & Brussels Sprouts with a Shallot Mustard Sauce

Wednesday: Pork Tacos

Thursday: Skillet Gnocchi with Spinach and White Beans

Friday: Cookout with friends

Saturday: Eat out or get takeout

Cake Challenge

I read a great article published by Food & Wine back in January about cake baking. The theory behind the article is that if you want to get really good at baking cake, you need to bake cakes on a regular basis. That way, you learn how cake baking really works and learn important lessons to help you improve your cake baking craft over time.

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Now, I don’t know about you, but when there is cake in the house, the cake goes into my mouth. So, while this is great in theory, it does pose some challenges for someone trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, I’ve been baking cakes when I have an occasion to attend, as most of our friend gatherings tend to be of the “bring something to share” variety.

For Superbowl Sunday, which was actually in February, I made the January cake, Citrusy Angel Food Cake. While I have baked cakes before, I had never attempted Angel Food. This one came out just a little more dense than I would have liked, but the important lesson I learned was to be careful about how long you beat your egg whites. I believe mine were just slightly overbeaten and that is what caused the cake to be slightly more dense. The other issue that may have given me some challenges is that I chose to use orange zest instead of lemon zest for this recipe. As I looked at the zest, it occurred to me that the orange zest was more wet than I typically see with lemon zest. Perhaps I should have modified my wet ingredients just slightly. Nonetheless, everyone raved about it, so it wasn’t a tragedy.

In February, I ended up skipping the cake of the month. My husband and I bought a blow torch and we tackled creme brûlée instead. He has made it again since our Valentine’s Day attempt, and we still feel like the consistency isn’t quite right. It tends to come out more like a pudding than a firm custard. So, it is still a work in progress. I, however, still want to come back to the February cake recipe, because who wouldn’t love a Molten Chocolate Cake as the conclusion to an intimate dinner party?

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I made my March cake for a gathering of the same group of friends who were together for the Superbowl party. There was a beer tasting party, so it seemed the perfect time to make a Porter Bundt Cake with Whiskey-Caramel Sauce. OMG, this cake was amazing, but definitely not kid-friendly! The Whiskey-Caramel Sauce packs a real punch. If I hadn’t been pregnant at the time you might have found me eating the sauce with a spoon instead of just drizzling it over the slice I ate. I had never baked a bundt cake before this attempt, and I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out. I will make this cake again around the holidays!

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April was a crazy month, I was miserably pregnant, so even though I had plans to make April’s Carrot Cake for a birthday party, I ended up skipping the party and sleeping instead. So, no cake. However, after the baby came, my sister decided to bring my nieces down to visit over Memorial Day weekend. My youngest niece adores carrot cake, so I decided it was time to break out the recipe. However, my older niece and my husband are not huge carrot cake fans so I needed a backup plan. Since the older niece loves chocolate, I settled on the chocolate cake recipe I grew up on. Now, in my family, we call this Grandma’s Chocolate Cake; truth be told, it is really the chocolate cake recipe from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa can. And, it is amazing. So, with a nearly 3 week old baby, I decided to tackle making two cakes in one day.

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I was kind of surprised that I managed to pull it off with only a little bit of support from my mom. She ended up having to take the chocolate cake layers out of the oven for me while I fed the baby. But, other than that, I did it! Important lesson learned from this cake baking day, however. My frosting for both cakes was so soft that I had trouble icing the cakes. It was a very warm day, and I had left the butter out for quite some time. While room temperature butter ensures a smooth icing, I may have let it get a little too soft. In the future, when I have an icing that feels soft after mixing, I will be sure to throw it in the refrigerator for a short rest before I put it on a cake!

Another important lesson I learned from this cake baking adventure is that the quality of your ingredients really matters! I grew up eating this chocolate cake made with Hershey’s cocoa. However, I had a good supply of Dutch process cocoa already in my kitchen cabinet so I decided to use that instead. Holy cow! It made the cake the regularly decadent cake truly unbelievable. I’ll never go back to using regular Hershey’s cocoa for baking again!

The cake on the calendar for May was Tres Leches. This is my mom’s favorite, so I’m looking forward to making it for her next visit. June is a white cake with chocolate ganache icing. I’m looking forward to finding an event for making that one.

I do feel like I am learning a lot from participating in a cake baking process on a more regular basis. And, now that I have a little one, I think it is safe to say that making cakes might become a regular thing even after these 12 months! As for the rest of this year, I’m looking forward to sharing my monthly cake adventures with all of you!

Have you ever set out to practice a skill that you wanted to improve by engaging in it on a regular basis? What do you think I should take on next?