Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Outside the Box Challenge: Where Does My Food Come From?

As part of the Outside the Box Challenge, I set out to research where some of my food comes from.  The challenge, sponsored by Stonyfield, is intended to inspire people to educate themselves on the sources of their food, and to think about whether their food represents their philosophy.

After reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, I've been pretty sensitive to this issue already, and have recently switched to grass-fed beef instead of the beef I had been buying.  Below is the information for the Wegmans Grass-Fed Beef I have been getting:


Organic Food You Feel Good About Grass-Fed Beef

Grass-Fed BeefOur grass-fed beef comes from Angus-Hereford cattle that spend their entire lives roaming open pastures of fresh, lush native grassland. This certified organic beef is raised on small family farms in Uruguay and packaged in the US. Why not buy American? Our merchants looked for the best-tasting, sustainable source of grass-fed and certified organic beef. In the US, supplies are limited and taste was not up to par— probably because during winter, cattle here are fed dried grasses (hay).


I love that instead of simply "grass fed," the label explicitly tells people that the cows spend their entire lives eating grass.  With these labels, we have to be very careful, because sometimes even "grass fed" just means that at some point the cows were given grass (often before being moved to feedlots).  This label is pretty clear, and that does make me feel pretty good!

Of course, if I'm going to think about where my food comes from, I really should be examining more how I feel about eating meat in general.  I'm still not sure how I feel, and I definitely have more thinking to do - but for now, if I'm going to eat meat, I am happy knowing that the animals were humanely treated and fed their natural diet.

Along the same lines, I have been working hard to change the way I eat produce.  I've been reading the stickers to try to buy local more often, and am making an effort to buy food when it's in season.  An easy way to do that, for me at least, is to join a CSA - so as of April, I will be a proud CSA member!

Some benefits of CSA, or Community-Supported Agriculture, are (from the Local Harvest website):

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown 

The CSA I signed up for provides food exclusively from local farms that use organic farming practices, which is great - that way, it's a no-brainer for me to eat local, fresh, organic, and in-season food.  They also deliver their shares to the building I work in, making it super convenient.  I am looking forward to a new food challenge every week when I get my share - it should help me eat more veggies and be more creative in my cooking.  For more info on CSAs and to find one near you, visit Local Harvest.

This was definitely a challenge that was in line with the way I've been thinking lately - I'm happy to have a chance to really think about the way I eat, and to share with you all!

5K Results!

So, the official results are up for the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K, and I came somewhere between my first and second goals, with an official time of 38:45!  That's a PR by about 3 minutes - and I'm really happy about it.

The race started off slow - most of the walkers didn't seem to realize not to stand up front, so I did a lot of dodging at first.  I made a conscious effort not to go out too fast, but ended up with an 11:30 pace for the first half of the first mile.  I slowed it down a bit after that and ended up with splits of:

Mile 1 - 12:15
Mile 2 - 12:30
Mile 3 - 12:38
Last 0.14 (with all that dodging, the course was a bit long for me) - 1:24 ( a 10:19 pace!)

I wanted to post negative splits, but my heart rate would NOT slow down after the middle of the race, and knowing that I needed to run 3 more miles afterwards, I didn't want to make myself too tired or get the headache I usually get when I stay above 176 or so.

All of the challenges I faced were crowd-related: the walkers in front of me at the beginning, the giant crowd of walkers at the water station going the other way when I was running back, and all of the teams of people who seemed to have turned around at the water station instead of doing the whole course (how else would there be hundreds of walkers in front of me at mile 2.4?).  Really, a crowd of walkers next to you when you're almost finished is the least motivating thing ever - all I wanted to do was just walk, just for a second.  But I didn't - I ran the whole thing!  All in all, with all of those factors, I think I did a great job to keep it under 13:00, not get too tired, and rock the end.

After the 5K I walked and ran 3 more miles for a total of 7 (I walked a mile to get to the race).  I am really happy with my progress on my long runs and know that if I stick it out with this training, I'll have no trouble with Broad Street or the half!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First 5K of the Season - Goals

Tonight I'm getting ready for my first race of the season, the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K.

In preparation for my upcoming half marathon, and for running the Broad Street Run, I wanted to sign up for another smaller, shorter race to kick off the race season.  It seems to be very well run - they have a pre-race packet pickup, a nice tech tee, and D-chip tags - I might be able to actually look up my pictures and official time!  I know some places have running communities that are always this organized - but the two events I've been to so far have been lacking in the preparation department.

My running schedule has 7 miles planned for tomorrow, so I will be doing a 1-mile warmup, then the 5K, then 3 more miles.  I really want to do my best at the 5K, though, so if I need to walk quite a bit after the race before I finish up, I'm ok with that.  Here are my goals for the 5K:

1. Reach-for-the-Stars Goal:  37:30 -- this is a tiny bit over a 12:00/mile pace, and is probably not going to happen.  I'd need to run the whole thing at a decent pace (for me), so I'd really need to be feeling good!  If I don't make this this time, it will be my 5K goal for the fall - I should be a bit faster by then.

2. Reasonable Goal: 40:30 -- this would still be a PR (my last two race times were 41:30 and 42:00), and would be slightly over a 13:00/mile pace.  This would either be a slow run for the whole race, or a good pace with a few walk breaks.  Unless I'm overly tired or something, I should be able to do this.

3. No Matter What: Finish, have fun, and have the energy to do the rest of my 7-mile training for the day!

Now, I did manage a 2-mile run at a 12:01 pace last week, but I was wiped out afterward - so I'm not sure if I can do the same for 3.1 miles.  Hopefully the adrenaline of the race will help a bit!  The best part is, after the 5K I should be able to grab a snack and drink, refresh a bit, then finish up the 7 miles for the day.

Wish me luck!

Outside the Box Challenge: Corned Beef and Cabbage in Pictures

This week's Outside the Box Challenge required us to make a make-ahead meal, and mine was Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Here, the meal in pictures:


And later, Corned Beef Tacos:

Mega yum :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi(e) Day!

There are so many food-related "National ___ Days" out there that it's hard to keep recent memory I've celebrated National Bundt Day and National Peanut Butter Day, but I just couldn't let Pi Day go unnoticed.  I know, I'm a nerd - but Pi Day is a favorite of many a student, and perhaps it's due to the commemorative pie more than the love of the number.

Pi Day is always held on March 14, as the date version of the number 3.14, which is a rounded-down version of the infinite number pi.  Things you may or may not already know about pi, some from The Pi Day Website:

- Pi represents the relationship between a circle's diameter and its circumference
- Probably the most common equation used that contains pi is (Area) = (pi)(radius^2), for the area of a circle
- Pi is an irrational and transcendental number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating - it has been calculated to over a trillion digits by computer, but will go on forever (so why bother calculating it?)

Pie is a particularly cool thing to use to celebrate Pi Day, because in addition to a similar name, it's also (typically) a circle.

This mini pie was made from a recipe on Novel Eats.  I used a pre-made crust since I'm both lazy and currently in need of more time in the day to get what I need to do done (after the time change, aren't we all?).  The pie, which was particularly nerdy since it has the pi symbol on top, was absolutely delicious.

So happy Pi Day, everyone - and hope you get some rest tonight to make up for the lost Daylight Savings hour!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Outside the Box....and back into my skinny jeans?

As part of the Outside the Box Challenge this week, I decided to do the Two Hundred Situps Challenge.  I really wanted to do something more ambitious (and interesting), like hot yoga or spinning, but this week has been so busy that I haven't even had time to find a class.  As a side note: I'm thinking of joining a local gym on a trial membership, so that I can start spinning and swimming again :)

I did the initial test for the situps challenge earlier this week, and could only do 25 "good form" situps before I was too tired/sore to finish.  That's pathetic, I know, but that's exactly why I want to do the challenge - my ab strength is absolute crap, and I'm going to need to get better core strength to continue doing my long runs for training.

Today I finished Day 1 of the challenge, which is 15, 18, 10, and 10 situps with breaks in between.  I could definitely feel it, but in a good way!  This challenge is here to stay - I am ready to have better abs, and willing to do the work to get there.

Also in queue as part of the challenge is the Ab Ripper X from P90X - I'm going to try that tomorrow.  I think it may be too tough for me right now, but I'm going to try!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Things to Try: Mushroom Pasta & Chocolate Spread

I'm having a super-busy week, so I apologize for not posting more, but here are two things I tried this week that are awesome:

Whole Wheat Rotini with Mushrooms and Cannelini Beans

(picture from cookthink)

I made this for dinner last night and it was AMAZING.  Modifications: Barilla Piccolini wheel pasta instead of whole wheat rotini (love this stuff - the wheels remind me of being a kid!), no green onions (didn't have any), no jalapeno, and diced tomato instead of the paste or the crushed tomato.  I also added some garlic powder, and didn't add any parmesan - it tasted rich and delicious, so I didn't think it needed the cheese.


Love Street Living Foods Chocolate Coconut Spread

(picture from Love Street)

 I got this as a free sample with an order a few weeks ago, and just ordered a jar this week.  This stuff is really, really delicious - you would definitely have no idea that it's raw and vegan.  This morning I had some with my oat bran (along with bananas and coconut), and it was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a while.

There you have it!  These should keep you busy until I come back from work hell this weekend.  I plan on writing a post on running gear, so stay tuned!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Outside the Box Challenge: Frontier Girl Test

So far, this year has been all about trying new things and working hard at the things that I feel passionate about.  So when I saw the Outside the Box Challenge, created by Shedding It and Getting It and Nutritionista, I knew this was the perfect challenge for me.

This week's challenge is the Frontier Girl Test, and the goal was to create something from scratch that you would usually just buy pre-made from the store.  I chose to make hot fudge sauce - because let's face it, on a busy week like this week has been, a girl just needs some chocolate.

I found this recipe online, and went with it, with only one modification: I added about half a teaspoon of coconut butter to give a unique flavor.  The sauce was super easy to make, and so much more delicious than regular chocolate sauce.  Yet another food that I'm not sure why I ever bought in the store!  My favorite food to make from scratch is frosting - so I guess this is pretty similar.

Here it is bubbling away on the stove:

And here's the finished product, served over some Starbucks Caramel Macchiato ice cream:

Yum!!  Definitely making this one again.

Quick running update:  I ran a full 3.1 miles (5K) outside without stopping today!  It's the first time I've ever done that - and I honestly didn't think I would be in the shape to pull that off for quite a while still.  What I really love about running is that when you put in the hard work, you see the results pretty fast - easy runs are easier, long runs aren't painful, and I'm getting faster all the time.  This weekend is a 5-miler up at the boyfriend's, and then I have a long run scheduled for next Tuesday - let's hope the 7 miles go as smoothly as the 3 today!