Recipe for Nourishment: Reunite Friends

Tonight, I got to be a part of bringing my sister and two of her best friends together for a very special reason.  They both live out-of-town, and arrived in town this week to surprise my sister and attend her baby shower, which takes place tomorrow.  The reveal of our special guests happened tonight, after her baby class.  My sister was caught completely off guard (we did a great job keeping the secret!) when two of her girlfriends she has known since grade school came around the corner.  There were squeals of surprise, happiness that melted into tears, and joyful laughter.

What an incredible way to end the week!

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So much love; such deep friendship.  Love these ladies.

with joy and gratefulness for the besties in my life,
~Alaina

(PS Thanks to my brother-in-law for helping to make this night happen and not letting the cat out of the bag!!!)

Gratefulness and A Delicious Recipe

Sometimes, the only thing that really matters in life is your state of mind.  At the end of the workday today, I needed a little reminder of the good, so I started going through my ‘I-am-grateful-for‘s’ and felt my body relax, my mind clear, and the smile return to my face.  Today really was a great day.

Today is day six of the 30 for 30 push-up challenge, and I already feel stronger.  I no longer stop after ten and wait a while before going back for another ten, and then another ten.  Instead, I am completing two sets of 15 with a short break in the middle.  Makes a girl wonder why she didn’t take on a challenge like this earlier…?

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My morning runs are short and sweet this week – 5 miles: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in preparation of the 20 mile long run this weekend. Due to my sister’s Baby shower (omigodImgoingtobeanauntie!) Saturday, I will be modifying my schedule to do the run on Sunday.  I haven’t covered this much distance since last year’s training prep for St. George in September, and although I am a little nervous about the distance, I no longer harbor any fear of not finishing.  I know I can, and that mind game is finally over.

In the interest of getting a little more sleep tonight than I have in the last five (consequences of starting a blog post at 10:45pm), I am here to share my absolute favorite made-up (Baked!) dish.

As the Farmer’s Markets return to the neighborhood parking lots, I find myself craving the end of summer already, if only to have some lovely yellow squash again!  You are getting this recipe (well, a list of guidelines to create a dish – recipes are more scientific and precise than the list that will follow below) well in advance of the availability of the vegetable, so you have plenty of time to prepare.

Squash Dish

Baked Delicata Squash:

– De-seed and cut 2-3 delicata squash into small pieces
(seeds may be soaked in sea salt & water and baked for a great crunchy snack!)
– Place squash pieces in baking dish
– Chop onion (to your desired amount – maybe 1/3 onion?) Spread over squash
– Sprinkle a handful of raisins (plus or minus) over squash
– Sprinkle with a handful of almonds
– Sprinkle with cinnamon (as desired)
– Dash of Nutmeg
– cut butter into slim tabs and place on top of the squash (this may be substituted with EarthBalance or other oil substitute)

Cover dish with foil and bake in oven at 350 degrees until squash is soft.
I kid you not, this will taste like dessert.  So.  Good.  This squash is so naturally sweet, no sugar is needed.

What is your favorite way to prepare Delicata Squash?

Happy eating, training, and nourishing – I am so grateful to be able to write this and share with like-minded people.  🙂
~Alaina

Nourishment: The Food We Make vs. The Food We Eat

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Today, I made a point to eat only food purchased at a grocery store for my meals.  Living downtown, and working in a location with a convenient café, it is easy to form habits around buying lunch (and maybe even breakfast… and coffee…) after stepping out the door.  Coffee shops abound, lining the streets, restaurants are everywhere, and food can be purchased at all hours of the day – prepared by someone else.  Not only does this drain the pocketbook more quickly, but there is no guarantee that the “healthy” meal you are eating is, in fact, nutritious and delicious.

Truthfully, Portland is quickly becoming a hub of all kinds of healthy-style, organic, gluten-free, free-range, locally grown, sustainable restaurant food markets in the Northwest.  (You’ve all seen Portlandia, right?  I admit to only watching the first episode, and promptly stopped because… Well, it’s not fiction, folks.  That’s everyday life here, and it is as cliché as it looks.  And I love my city!).  Even though you know the hen’s history and where it came from, you may not know all the details of preparation, seasoning, and cooking methods.  Variables that make a big difference to the GF, diabetic, high-cholesterol, high blood-pressure, and others of the population with dietary-restricting conditions.

The only problem with cooking your own meals is that it takes timeWorking a full-time job, cooking, training for a marathon, doing the laundry, posting a blog, and maintaining a social life suddenly feels like way too much to do.  I frequently cook quick, very simple meals.  Or chop things up, throw them in a glass casserole, and put it in the oven to bake so I can continue to putter around while my dinner cooks itself.

A girl can find herself daydreaming about having a personal chef on days where she worked late, needed to do laundry, sort through the mail, and sew a couple of pillow cases… AND get up early to run the next day!

I sometimes wonder what it is like for celebrities.  I’m sure many of them have personal chefs.  And trainers.  And housekeepers, for that matter!  What do they do with all that extra time?  Read books?  I miss reading books… 

Do they work together to create a weekly meal plan?  Do they eat the same thing for breakfast every day?  Do they not get a say in any of the food they consume?  Do they secretly hate sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts?

Do they miss cooking?

love baking.  I get less excited about cooking, but I just adore baking.  I started out with cookies and desserts, but quickly learned that MANY things can be baked – sweet potatoes, squash, chicken, casserole, frittata, vegetables… Kale chips!!!   There is something about preparing the food: washing, chopping, seasoning, and placing it in the baking dish in the oven, waiting for the miracle of heat to turn the pieces of food into a warm, aromatic dish.

Baking has somehow become my stress-relief.  I don’t have to think about anything other than what I am doing with my hands, find myself singing, and just having a good ‘old time preparing delicious and nutritious food stuffs for myself.  As much as I think that it would be great to have a personal chef to give me back some of my time during the day, I don’t think I can give my pleasure of cooking my meals to someone else.

Now… If I could get a cooking coach, that I would consider!  Consultation and coaching when diving into brand new recipes, or to give you prompts when you run out of ideas…  That would be very helpful.

Do you find yourself enjoying cooking your meals?  What kind of satisfaction does it bring you?
Have you ever had a personal chef or considered hiring one?
I’d love to hear from you!

With joy in running, cooking, and nourishment…!
~Alaina

Sunday: Rest, Recovery, & Resolve

Yesterday was a very socially demanding day, and today I awoke feeling a little low on energy.  My morning was slow; I made a breakfast of eggs, kale, some prunes, and french press coffee with a touch of honey.  Taking it easy, I moved slowly through the paces of the day waking late (after eight am!), cooking, cleaning, and regaining energy and finding my balance.

Next week, another commitment heavy weekend awaits: I have a 20 mile run to complete, and we are throwing a shower for my sister – in a month she is due to have her first child, and I will officially be an auntie!  I spent time with my aunts this afternoon discussing the final details and preparations, and it was nice to see and connect with some lovely ladies in the family.  I found the time with them really grounding after yesterday’s play-day full of commitments.

I drove myself home (for the first time driving on I-205 alone in my little Smart Car!), stopped at Target (the power went out while I was in the store – there are certainly no windows – pitch blackness for about ten seconds), arrived to the quiet calm of my apartment and cooked my favorite dish for this week’s lunches: baked sweet potatoes with apple.  With all the rain coming down today it just felt like the right thing to cook.

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Sweet potatoes, fresh garlic, onion, Gala apple, a little fresh rosemary, olive oil, a dash of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of sea salt… Delish!

While prepping and baking, I noticed that after living in my apartment for three whole months, I find myself still feeling the restlessness that I experienced days after moving in and starting to settle.  I have still not completely “moved in”.  I have a few small piles – items which are organized, but I have not yet found them a home.

In order to combat the chest-constricting stress I feel when these piles come into my line of sight, I resolved today that I will have piles put away by Friday this week.  Primarily for myself – this feeling of uneasiness cannot be healthy to experience each day – but also due to family coming into town this weekend for my sister’s shower.  I really value them and their opinion, and want them to like my place if they see it!  (and I would love it to look organized and well – decorated).

How long does it take you to settle into a new home?
Do you find this takes longer than you initially desire the process to take?

Here is to Nourishing self through relaxation, recovery, and resolving to de-stress!
~Alaina

Commitments: Heart, Soul, and Feet – Time for Some Nourishment

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Over the past few months, I have found myself (finally) making commitments to do the things that are enjoyable for me on a semi-consistent … let’s say, weekly basis.  Tonight, for example, a lovely weekend-eve Friday night, I got home around 5:30pm after work, put on my Pj’s, poured a short glass of white wine, and snacked on a random assortment of foods including cheese, apple, gluten-free pretzels, carrots, prunes, and salami.  Okay, and a little ice cream.  I was relaxed, comfortable, and just enjoying the peace of being home.  

To be honest, I knew I wanted to write tonight, and I did not want to spend time cooking… and in the end, did not eat a very healthy meal by my standards.  (Can I even call it a meal?)

Truthfully, I eat this way frequently.  Although, generally in a more organized “here is the pu-pu platter” kind of assorted fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses manner.  Chopping and not cooking is easy, delicious, and I have to say, I think there is something to eating raw that I might like to explore.  I have so much energy when I snack on whole foods!

I do not know when or how it happened, but at some point in my young adult life, I started fantasizing about eating healthy foods.  I was terrible at it in my teens, and my early 20’s.  Dorm food and low budgets do not make for choice selections in the grocery aisle.  I find myself now, reading the ingredients on any food that comes pre-packaged (or on any health and beauty item – there are so many unrecognizable items in face cream!  I mean, really! Do you want …. “whateverthatis” on your face and in your body???)

My turning point came in 2009, when I signed up with a trainer at my local 24 Hour Fitness.  I was relieved when I found out I would be training with a woman – a girl, in fact someone my age.  She had spunk, was super cute, strong, funny, and knew just what to say to get me to do what she wanted.  In less than two weeks, I was on a very regimented work-out schedule, keeping a food (and “how are you feeling”) journal, and pushing physical boundaries I never thought I would be touching.

It’s true, in two months I had lost a significant amount of body fat, gained 7 pounds of lean muscle and I was working out with such focus and intensity, the only time I was approached by a man at the gym it went like this:  Him  – “You look like you’re working hard.” (slight smile on his mouth).  Me – “Yes, I am.” (Matter-of-factly)  Him – ” . . . (crickets) . . . ” (turns and leaves).  I scared him away.  …Must learn how to appropriately engage in conversation with interested men… oh, well.

Over time, I lost my enthusiasm for the gym.  The things I really kept in practice are in regards to food.  Portion size, variety, the importance of having lots of colors in your food, frequency of meals to keep up the metabolism… all of these have had a tremendous impact on my energy level, how I feel in my body, and combating tiredness.  The greatest impact was unintentional – I was instructed not to eat carbs (ie: bread and wheat) except in the morning. Oatmeal or sprouted wheat toast were ok in the early hours when you are kick-starting your body.  By following this advice, I learned how much my body dislikes wheat, and I am so grateful to have been given this knowledge before any number of physical consequences reared their ugly heads.

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Despite all my training and the lessons I have learned, I am constantly striving to eat better.  I want to eat more vegetables.  I want to eat less sugar, in fact, perhaps eliminate all processed sugar from my diet.  I want to cook more of my meals.  I want to eat local foods that I purchase at the farmer’s market to support local business, and make Earth-healthy choices (closer food equals less fossil fuel consumption in shipping goods).      Making these changes takes time, energy, planning, prepping, and spending time at home cooking rather than choosing social occasions eating out.  Lifestyle change – difficult, important, and definitely possible.

So this month, I am choosing to Nourish my heart, soul, and continue to honor and nourish my feet and legs with running (especially with a Marathon and a 50K coming up in the near future).  For my heart, I am participating in a 30 push-ups/day for 30 days challenge inspired by a couple of very cool ladies over at It’s A Marathon AND A Sprint, Colby and Tina (arm and core strength are good for the heart, right?).  For my soul, I am committing to writing every day for the month of May, following the BlogHer prompts for “Nourish” NaBloPoMo.  I love that they have put together a “Write Your Heart Out” theme for every month!  Whenever you decide to pick up the pen, you can find support of other writers, getting their Blog on.

Here’s to writing, running, pushing-up for dynamite shoulders, and eating like we’ve always dreamed so we can feel that good.

Happy Nourish-ing…
~Alaina