Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Weekend Adventures: Snowy Trail Running

What I had planned to do and what I actually ended up doing this past weekend were quite different. The original plan was to head to my hometown for a much overdue visit with my parents and to run in a 25k race. But then a snow and ice storm rolled through Virginia on Friday afternoon, the race we'd planned on running was cancelled and thus we opted to stay in town. Sorry Mom & Dad!

That was ok though, because we were then able to take advantage of another "race" going on locally: The VT Ultra Team hosted a 50k trail run within a local trail system of the Jefferson Forest. It was a very low-key event: no entry, no support, no goodies... just a course and an invitation to cover the distance with others. With it being a two loop course, there was also the option to run either the first or second loop only. My husband ran the entire distance (he's still crazier than I am) while I opted to sleep in and run the 2nd loop only (~13 miles).

At the start of the 2nd loop, near Pandapas Pond.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Celebrate YOU

You may not have known (I didn't until yesterday), but this past week was Healthy Weight Awareness Week. The mission and goal of Healthy Weight Awareness Week, as stated by its sponsor The Healthy Weight Network is: 

“A time to celebrate healthy diet-free living habits that last a lifetime and prevent eating and weight problems.”

Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a world where numbers on scales weren't a source of frustration and body image was not an issue? Not to say that we should eat junk liberally with the notion that weight, health and well-being don't matter but I think it would be refreshing if we chose our foods each day with the intention of fueling our bodies with quality, tasteful and health-promoting foods. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Happy National Peanut Butter Day!

I've been saving this post for the right moment... and today's the day!

Why? Because today may just be my favorite holiday...

It's National Peanut Butter Day!

A few days back while playing around in the kitchen, I decided to experiment with some delicious peanuts I recieved for christmas. I finally opened this beautiful canister of honey roasted gourmet Hokie Nuts =)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

First Snow of 2013!

Being a native Virginia Beach, I did not get to enjoy much snow as a kid. I've seen pictures of a blizzard from when I was two years old, but that's about it when it comes to significant snow storms! Naturally, since we moved back to the mountains of southwest virginia, I've been eagerly awaiting that first significant snow fall. Luckily, the weather did not disappoint! Only 4 days after our warm weather hiking adventure, our backyard looked like this:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Food Focus Friday: Chickpeas


Chickpeas are a member of the legume family may have originated as far back as 7,500 years ago in the Middle East. Also formally known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are high in protein & fiber and are most commonly used in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food dishes (and especially in hummus). However, as this legume has grown more popular the opportunities are endless!

Nutrition Facts: 1 cup chickpeas
270 kcal
14.5g protein
45g carbohydrate, 12.5g fiber
4.2g fat (unsaturated healthy fat)

These legumes are rich in Folate (71% daily value), B6 (11%) and Thiamin (13%), Iron (26%), Phosphorus (28%), Copper (29%) and Manganese (84%). One cup also provides 1824mg omega-6 fatty acids and 70.5 omega-3 fatty acids. These tiny gems are a great source of slow burning complex carbohydrate and their fiber content will leave you feeling satisfied and full for hours.

Of course, we can't talk about chickpeas without a hummus recipe! I made this yesterday and it took about 5 minutes to whip up with a food processor. Very easy and much cheaper than the store bought version (and richer in taste in you ask me). I made mine spicy but you can personalize it any way you want.

Easy Chickpea Spicy Hummus

1 (14.5oz) can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon

For spicy hummus, add salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and Sriracha sauce to taste. You can also adjust the consistency of the hummus by adding more or less lemon juice and olive oil.

Enjoy on a wrap, with sliced pita or with veggies!

For the avocado lovers out there, here's another favorite chickpea recipe I've been enjoying lately. It takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and makes for a great snack or lunch:

Chickpea & Avocado Salad 

Pictured with arugula lettuce on Ezeikel bread

And finally, a crock pot recipe to enjoy on cold winter days:

Rustic Chickpea Stew w/ Apricots

Pairs best with couscous and I made mine with sweet potatoes instead of turnips.

Some additional recipes to consider:

Other than in hummus, have you ever tried chickpeas? Do you have any different recipes to share with me!?



Monday, January 14, 2013

Weekend Adventures: Hiking & Learning to Love Hills

After a long and stressful work week, I needed some serious R&R this past weekend. That definitely did happen, but in the context of our crazy need-to-move especially when it's 70 degrees in January lives. With the warmer temps and my first ultra of the year quickly approaching (4 weeks!), I knew it was time for this flatlander to get to know the mountains a little better. But I digress, post-lifting at the gym, my weekend started with a gathering of friends at our place and this delicious breakfast:

Whole Wheat Apple Nut Pancakes

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

Here's my (vegan) version of the recipe:

2 med apple (golden delicious), cored + diced (~2 cups)
1 c. whole wheat flour + 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 c. plain soymilk + 1 tbsp white vinegar
3/4 c. plain soymilk
2 tsp agave nectar

Combine wet & dry ingredients into separate bowls (excluding apples). Mix wet ingredients into the dry just until mixed. Cook on a griddle @ 200-300 F, adding 1 spoonful of apples to each pancake. Enjoy!

After relaxing most of Saturday morning, we packed our overnight trail bags for a quick hiking trip on the Appalachian trail to one of Roanoke's more popular views, McAfee's Knob. Our plan was to go for a quick trail run, then hike to the top of the mountain and enjoy the sunrise the next morning.

Oh hey warm weather! Let's celebrate by getting lost on the trails in the mountains.

On my run, I learned that it's not such a great idea to attempt to run up mountains after killing your legs at the gym. Oh well. It was slow yet so wonderful! Post-run, we refueled, grabbed our gear and hit the trail again, this time in the opposite direction and straight up. It was a brisk trek as we were fighting off the darkness. Our backpacks were heavy (NOT the best at packing light) and well... my glutes certainly got a good workout this past weekend. 

Our dog is awesome and has her own backpack too!
At the top, Jordan set up camp while I used our jet boil to cook dinner. Dinner was a PBJ for him (that's all he wanted), but I brought along some frozen tofu-quinoa stir fry and a packet of miso soup. I ended up combining the two for a hearty, warm and delicious soupy dinner! Afterwards, we almost immediately fell asleep (around 7:30pm... pretty early I know!) It was quite peaceful at the top of the mountain and we ended up sleeping a total of 10-11 hours!

The next morning, we woke around 6:30am and headed to the cliff to watch the sunrise. Jordan took pictures while I attempted to make coffee to enjoy with our energy balls. I decided to make the energy bars I featured in my post about quinoa earlier this week, though I made them vegan by excluding the egg and adding a little extra applesauce. I give this recipe an A++. They were delicious!!

Quinoa "Energy" Bars by The Lean Green Bean
(and not so great instant coffee)
Kenya enjoyed the energy bars too.
The sunrise was incredible! Being there, up on top of the mountain and witnessing such a spectacle of God's beauty, it made me feel so small yet loved too. Adventures like this are a major reason why we decided to move back to the mountains and southwest Virginia, so I'm glad we were able to take advantage of this rare, warm weekend in January!

Foggy sunrise in the clouds
Looking west was all fog, but I figured you'd like to see our faces.
We returned home exhausted but happy. Yet, I still had one thing left to do before wrapping up the weekend: my scheduled long run. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but the very thing I knew I needed to do: run long on tired legs. Lucky for me, I have a husband that runs and can be coaxed into 22 slow miles with his tired wife. [Reality: we made a deal where I would see a movie with him post-run if he joined me]. Compromise suits our marriage well ;-D

Total weekend miles were around 34, with an elevation gain of ~5,000 feet. Yet in two months I'll be running the Terrapin Mountain 50k followed by the Promise Land 50k, both featuring ~7,500 feet of gain within that distance. This weekend was a good start, but I still have a long ways to go before I'm ready to conquer the mountains!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Food Focus Friday: Quin...what?!?

Quinoa. What exactly is it??!

Did you know that 2013 has been officially declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Quinoa (IYQ)?? That's right, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared this to be the IYQ with the goal of having quinoa "recognized and accepted around the world as a natural food resource with high nutritive value of Andean origin becoming a high quality food for health and food security, for present and future generations."

I think a lot of people have heard about quinoa but aren't quite sure what it is, why they should incorporate it into their diet or how. As my office-mate said the other other day, after looking at my chili and I told her in contained quinoa : "Quin-what??!"

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is an ancient seed (not grain) that originated in Peru. Benefits of quinoa include it being the only plant food to contain all essential amino acids, it's a naturally high source of protein and a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, fiber and other trace minerals. Even more so, quinoa is naturally gluten free. Currently the top producers of quinoa are Bolivia, Peru and the United States, though this crop is quickly spreading throughout Europe and Asia too.

There are three types of quinoa to choose from: white, red and black. White is the most mainstream variety with it having the softest texture, meanwhile the black/red varieties have a more "nutty" in taste and texture.

You can easily substitute quinoa for rice in chilies, soups or stir fry or use it to makes veggie burgers. Even better, quinoa can be substituted in baked goods for some extra protein and fiber without compromising flavor.

Without further ado, here are four of my favorite quinoa recipes:

This is made with white quinoa. We omit the shrimp since we are vegetarian, but it tastes great either way. I made this for the first time last summer and my husband is constantly requesting it!

Sweet Potato & Quinoa Chili by Ambitious Kitchen

I recommend making with red quinoa, and you'll want to double this one for leftovers!

Southwestern Quinoa Black Bean Salad

Features sauteed black beans, zucchini and squash over a bed of fresh greens. Garnish with avocado, spicy hummus, salsa and lime juice! My mom and I ate this almost every day for lunch last summer. It's quick to throw together and travels well. (Full recipe to come soon!)

Simple Tofu Quinoa Veggie Stir Fry

Sauteed broccoli, zucchini/squash and peppers w/ tofu and red quinoa (Full recipe to come soon!)

Some additional recipes to consider:

The Loaded Bowl - originally from Clean Eating Magazine

Quinoa Breakfast Bars by The Lean Green Bean

How do you plan to add quinoa to your weekly menu? Do you have any different recipes to share with me!?


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When the Going Gets Rough...

The tough get going! Or so they say!

Today is all about overcoming mental obstacles. When it comes to our health, we all have them. Building healthy habits is not easy. You're going to fail, and probably more than once. That's where perseverance comes into play.

You see, I'm coming off of a particularly tough training cycle of 2-3 weeks. I've pushed the workouts and the mileage, all while navigating holidays, parties and working a relatively new full-time job. These past few days, I've hit a wall for multiple reasons:

(1) My body is tired and my muscles aching. I've had a few flare ups that are leaving me injury paranoid.

Using the foam roller to work out some hot spots.

(2) Work has been particularly strenuous catching up after the holidays.

Molly the cat likes to get in my way while I work. I don't mind. :)
(3) I am stricken with anxiety in waiting to hear about a potential job offer, about the potential for catching the flu (Virginia is a particularly bad state right now for it), about whether I'm adequately performing at my current job... Really, the list could go on.

After giving my body two much needed days of full-rest (from running), I was scheduled for a long, hard workout today. I went to work early with the expectation that I would get off early with plenty of time to get it in. Even better, the weather outside couldn't be more perfect (sunny and 55 degrees). Yet, I came home from work and immediately fell into bed, exhausted, knowing it wasn't going to happen. When I woke up, I tried to get out the door for an easy run and that too failed to happen.

Ya know what? It's completely OK.

Somedays I think it's a greater sign of strength to surrender and realize I CANNOT do it all. Nor should I. I am only human! Having high expectations is one thing, but it's also important to have realistic ones. I know from experience that real results come from consistency hard work over time. 2-3 off days at this point will not ruin my progress or my fitness (and probably help more than anything). Life happens. The more we learn from our "failures," the more successful we are in making forward progress. The key is to not let these bumps in the road discourage you. Don't Give Up!!

The same goes with New Years Resolutions and the thousands of people who are aiming to eat better or exercise more in 2013. Case in point:

A co-worker approached me the other day with some personal diet questions. She said she had been eating healthier all week yet the scale showed no progress and she was discouraged. She wanted to know what she was doing wrong. I smiled and simply said, "Just be patient. Believe in yourself, make your healthier choices a habit and focus on the journey rather than the destination. Don't give up that quickly and I promise you will see results."

What healthy habits are you working towards? How do you keep making progress when the going gets rough?

Working hard and enjoying the journey.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Weekend Adventures: Sweet Potato Chips

This past weekend was a rare one in the Chang household. We had absolutely no plans (other than running of course) and enjoyed every moment of it! Saturday we woke up late, took a leisurely stroll with the dogs through downtown, enjoyed some soy lattes via a Starbuck gift card we received at Christmas and then came home to lounge around/ clean. 

Lazy days around the house also mean a great opportunity to experiment with food! Usually these experiments arise by the husband saying he wants something and me contriving a way to actually make it. So, Sunday after church he asked for some sweet potato chips on a whim. Luckily, we had some sweet potatoes sitting around and it worked out well!

That would be me, still in church attire playing around with food.

Look at any list of "top ten foods you should include in your diet" and sweet potatoes will be on it. They're a nutritional powerhouse packing more than 250% of your daily value of Vitamin A in a single serving, mainly in the form of Beta-Carotene.  They also serve as a source of complex carbohydrate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Iron, Manganese and Copper. Not to mention they're delicious too!

Sweet potato chips are a cinch to whip up and make a delicious snack. They're especially a smart alternative to commercial brand potato chips (or even store-bought sweet potato chips). Don't they look bright and beautiful??

Here's my simple recipe:

Sweet Potato Chips
Take 2 sweet potatoes, wash the outer skin and let dry (do not peel... the skin is full of nutrients!)
Slice thin (1/8 inch thick)
Toss in a bowl w/ 1 tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with salt to taste.

Spread thinly on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tbsp additional olive oil.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Be sure to take them out and flip them halfway for a more even bake.
When they're done, let them cool slightly, sprinkle with cinnamon (optional) and enjoy!!

So good the husband already asked for a 2nd batch!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Real Eats - Fuel Yourself for Fitness & Health

Christmas and New Years have come and gone. Goodbye 2012, hello 2013! Where has the time gone??

January should be a pretty laid back month for our household. No trips planned, just working and training for some upcoming races in the following months. Right now my "marathon" training is in full gear - I've been putting in a lot of miles and some tough workouts along the way. I only just wish I had a marathon on my schedule! Right now I only have trail ultras on my schedule with a 50k in February, March and April. I've also been focusing more on cross training - mainly lifting for strength, but I also want to start swimming and biking again. Even if only occasionally because I really miss triathlon training!!

That's me in pink at a recent local 5k, the Frosty 5k. Came away w/ a $25 giftcard for 3rd overall female and a new long-sleeve running shirt. Not bad!
With all this training, my appetite has been in full gear as well. I'm pretty sure my officemate thinks I eat constantly (which I'm ok with, because I love to eat). One of my goals for 2013 is to experiment with more vegan recipes, so hopefully I'll be featuring more here!!

So anyways, back to the food! Here in Blacksburg our favorite restaurant to eat at is undoubtably Gillies. It features vegetarian cuisine, all very delicious and unique recipes with a very simplistic feel. Back in early December my in-laws visited and I took them there after the tree- lighting in town. It's been a while since I've dined there for dinner, so I decided to try their special, Tofu Gado Gado:

Tofu Gado Gado from Gillies in Blacksburg, VA

It was a smooth blend of zucchini, squash, broccoli, and red peppers served over a bed of spinach and rice with a creamy red thai peanut sauce. I liked it so much I recreated it a home a few days later, hopefully I can get my version of the recipe up on here soon!

Another popular dish in our house is tofu vegetable curry. Again, I don't have a specific recipe for you, so I'll have to add one soon! This curry features red potatoes, carrots, celery, zucchini, squash, onions & broccoli over rice.
Tofu Vegetable Curry over Warm Rice
Breakfast in our house is always in a hurry and often times my husband takes his to work. These egg sandwiches have been popular because they're quick to put together and easy to carry. After frying an egg over med-hard I add a slice of provolone and let it melt. I then spread the bread with spicy hummus, top with the egg and cheese, mesclun mix or spinach, tomato and mustard (optional):
Egg & Cheese Breakfast Sandwich on Foccacia Bread
For a bite-sized splurge, we enjoyed these mini fruit pizza cookies on Christmas Day. They too are simple to throw together: Take sugar cookie dough, roll into balls and bake. Top with cream cheese mixture (whip 4oz cream cheese, 1/2 container whipped topping and 1/2 cup sugar). Garnish with your favorite fresh fruit (kiwi and strawberry were the main feature on ours in honor of Christmas, but blueberries, raspberries and bananas also work well!).

Fruit Pizza Cookies
When my both sets of family were visiting for Christmas, I needed a quick meal to feed 10 people without a mess. I love this Spinach Tomato Orzo Soup and paired it with homemade bread and salad:
Spinach Orzo Soup via . and fresh homemade bread via my bread maker!

Christmas Tree Salad via Lunchboxbunch.com
When my husband makes rice, he typically makes pounds of it. I used the leftovers to make up some lunches for him. This Chipotle, Black Bean & Corn Rice Bowl via Naturally Ella was a cinch to put together and went over well:

Finally, I leave you with my favorite recipe from this past month: Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Chili via Ambitious Kitchen. Hearty, warm and full of fiber and protein. Easily a vegan recipe if you omit the yogurt/sour cream topping. Let's just say I'm glad I doubled this recipe for later!!

Do your New Year's goals include making healthier food choices? Plan ahead to make better choices when life gets busy (because it does). Double your portions and freeze half for lunches or the next week.

Have a great weekend and happy eating!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Ahead to 2013

2012 was a pretty AWESOME year. I really have no complaints. Here's a quick review:

In February Jordan and I ran the Holiday Lake 50k. I set a 75 min PR to finish 8th overall female, he was 10th overall male.

In March I ran the Rock n' Roll DC Marathon. I bonked hard, injured my foot and didn't achieve my goal of Boston qualifying. But I did still set a 20 minute PR.

In May I celebrated my 25th birthday (w/ a 25 mile run), graduated from my Dietetic Internship and we moved back to Virginia Beach for the summer.

In June I ran the Eastern Divide 50k and finished 3rd overall female.

August brought Joni & Friends Family Retreats, Jordan graduating from PT school and landing a job, followed closely by us moving back to Blacksburg. Running wise, I took the majority of August off (covering only 33 miles total for the month) while rehabbing some nagging hip pain, taking refuge from the unrelenting heat and figuring out our next direction in life.

In November I ran the Richmond Marathon, setting another PR and finally achieving my goal of Boston qualifying. Even better, one week later my dad qualified and two weeks later my husband qualified!! (We will look to run in 2014). I started a new job as a dietitian and we have been settling into life in a town we love.

In 2012 I also worked 25+ triathlons across Virginia and Maryland, moved 3 times, became a vegetarian and logged a record ~1700 miles of running (including 202 in December!). Needless to say, it's been a busy year!!!

What's in Store for 2013??

Since Richmond, I've continued with long-distance training and am feeling stronger than ever. I've also been working to rebuild my leg strength and rehab some chronic hip issues I've been battling since May. Looking ahead to 2013, Jordan and I recently decided (read: He convinced me) to complete a series of ultra-marathons known as the Lynchburg Ultra Series (me) and Beast Series (Jordan). For me, it will mean three 50k races in the spring months (Feb, Mar, Apr) and a 50 Miler in November. Jordan will run an additional 100 miler (Oct) and 100k (Dec). It'll be a unique experience, so we plan to chronicle our adventure through a different blog called 452 Miles & Counting. Hope you will check it out!!

I'm sure there will be a few other adventures along the way (maybe a triathlon or two??) In terms of "resolutions," I don't really have any set in stone. I do, however, have a few thoughts on what I'd like to do "more" and "less" of in 2013:


- Quality time with God, my husband and family. Because it's important to keep my priorities straight.

- Stretching & lifting - to improve my strength/flexibility and prevent injuries.

- Drinking water - because I am notoriously bad about this.

- Vegan meals - I'm not ready to be a strict vegan, but I love the idea of it and definitely want to incorporate more vegan meals into my everyday rotation.

- Sleep - this will mean spending less time in front of the computer at night and hitting the sack early!

- Focus on overall wellness!


- Traveling & eating out - because it's expensive!!

- Grazing - because somedays I feel like I am eating constantly. I'd love to kick this habit to the curb.

- "Doing" in general- my focus in 2013 is to do less but with greater commitment and intention.

2012 has been a great year and I'm continuously thankful for the blessed life I live. I can only hope that 2013 will be another year of loving life, working hard, living passionately and following my dreams. And THANK YOU to those that have continuously supported my endeavors. You are the best!!

What are your major athletic or health goals for 2013?? 

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