Birthday Wrap Up and Thank You!

Last week was my birthday. It was on a Wednesday, a day I happened to be in Toledo for work … so it should have been a normal, ordinary day/week/etc. not worth mentioning. But I have so many awesome friends, family members, and so on, that I have to blog about it.

I have to start by saying I don’t think I’ve ever been one of those people who declares a “birthday month” or “birthday week.” A birthday celebration, to me, always happens on your birthday – or the weekend around it. So, having my birthday on a Wednesday shouldn’t have meant much … but boy, what a birthday!

It started out with dinner at L’Albatros and tickets to see Joshua Bell perform with the Cleveland Orchestra. Joshua Bell. Yes, he really is as amazing as they say in real life (this was my first time seeing him perform) and he really does look 25 years old. AND L’Albatros was amazing as always. B and I started with a cheese plate (you MUST try the epoisses cheese!! My new fave) and fois gras (B’s favorite). For dinner, I enjoyed the vegetarian cassoulet  – I’d definitely recommend it if you like beans … and goat cheese!

Cleveland Orchestra and Post Fridays @ 7 Joshua Bell Performance

joshua bell post joshua bell fridays at 7 cleveland orchestra

I also was treated to quite a few more birthday dinners from friends and coworkers. I enjoyed a fabulous meal at one of the most underrated restaurants in Cleveland (and one of my favorite restaurants) Pura Vida, where I had a lentil pot pie and goat cheese & beet salad (I’m still drooling over them!) and another great meal at Bonefish with drinks, bang bang shrimp, awesome seafood and a surprise dessert. I can’t resist a birthday meal … or two! 🙂

That wasn’t all though. A few of you have been asking about my “Birthday Surprise.”  Well, life has been insane lately. I thought things would get less busy in the New Year, but with work and my other “extracurriculars,” they haven’t … and B has been witness to much of the stress I’ve been under. He convinced me to take the Fri after my birthday off for a Birthday Surprise. Now, in my head, I imagined sleeping in, working out, going shopping, seeing a movie, maybe getting a mani/pedi and then some froyo. OR even driving to Grandpa’s Cheesebarn. Those would have all been a welcome surprise for my day off. So naturally, what followed, was not only SUPER surprising, but pretty awesome.

just your normal January weather

just your normal January weather

B woke me up at 4:30 on my Friday off. Yes, 4:30 in the morning, his alarm went off. Let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled about waking up so early – but definitely intrigued. He told me to shower, put on jeans and sneakers, and we were leaving in 30 minutes. We got in the car around 5 a.m. and he gave me his winter hat to put over my eyes so “I wouldn’t see where we were going.” (Yes, this sounded like an episode of CSI to me!) When the car stopped a little while later, I heard the trunk open (cueing CSI music) and he told me to remove my makeshift blindfold. We were at the airport. I was speechless, not sure where we were going, why were at the airport, or what to do next. “Leave your coat in the car, you won’t need that where we’re going,” was all B said as he led me to security. FINALLY in line for security, he gave me my ticket – CLE to MIA. We were going to Miami. For my birthday.  

no big deal, just standing on the beach in January!

fruity birthday drink!

fruity birthday drinks

more fruity birthday drinks … our hotel may have had a free happy hour

I don’t usually use this blog to gush about B, but seriously – he deserves major husband points. He had packed a bag with all the essentials for a beach vacation, booked us a room just off the beach in South Beach, and planned a complete beach weekend getaway behind my back, because I’d been complaining how cold it was, how I wanted to change my birthday to July, etc.  We had a great trip, stayed at an awesome hotel, and I came back from my birthday weekend with a slight tan.

mandatory selfie on the beach

mandatory selfie on the beach

SO thanks again to all of you who called (yes, real live phone calls and messages!), tweeted, Facebooked, took me out to dinner, sent me cards and gifts for my birthday.  I feel so special! And of course I now have high expectations for my 30th in a few years 🙂

Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

My friend Alisa was in town from Finland (yes, the country) last week for a few days. She’s a friend from high school – and was one of my bridesmaids – and I hadn’t seen her since my wedding more than a year ago! Trips back from Finland are hard to make – it’s expensive and long – so Alisa doesn’t get to make it back to the U.S.  to see her family in NY often. That’s why I was excited to hear she was going to make the trip not only to the U.S., but also from NY to Cleveland with her boyfriend to see me!

It was a quick trip – and during the week, so I was working during the day – but I’m so glad I got to see Alisa and meet her boyfriend Jiri. We planned a few fun Cleveland activities for them – local food, visiting the lake, checking out the public library, taking the bus to University Circle to see the art museum – to see the city. We ate dinner at Greenhouse Tavern one night (Alisa and Jiri are very into Farm to Fork, local food, etc.), but the second night Jiri requested something American – steak! So I tried to think of a fun side dish to serve with our steak and mashed potato dinner that B was making, that was also gluten free, since Jiri had just started a GF diet.

I found it! This recipe had shown up in one of my daily Real Simple emails and I had printed it out to try sometime – and although it doesn’t shout “serve me with steak and potatoes,” I did. And it was great! It was also great leftover with my lunch the next day.

quinoa stuffed zucchini (gluten free and vegetarian)

Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini (slightly modified from Real Simple)

The original recipe says one serving is one zucchini – if this is your meal, I’d agree, otherwise a half a zucchini will serve perfectly as an accompaniment to a main dish. Yields 8 half stuffed zucchinis.

Here’s what you need:

  • ½ cup quinoa
  •  4 medium zucchini
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans or chick peas
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ c pine nuts (original recipe called for chopped almonds, but I only had pine nuts on hand) 
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ c diced onion
  • ¾ c grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 tbs olive oil

Here’s what you do:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400° F.
  2. Cook quinoa according to directions. (you’ll probably need to combine quinoa with 1 c. water and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiled, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 13-15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is soft. 
  3. While quinoa is cooking, cut zucchini in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Assemble zucchini halves in a large baking dish, skin side down and cut side up.
  4. Quarter cherry tomatoes, chop garlic and dice onion.
  5. After the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork. Mix in the canned beans, cut tomatoes, pine nuts, chopped garlic and diced onion.
  6. Add in ½ c of the parmesan cheese and 3 tbs of the oil.
  7. Spoon the quinoa mixture into the zucchini.
  8. Top the zucchini with the rest of the oil and parmesan cheese.
  9. Cover baking dish with foil and bake 25-30 minutes, or until zucchini is tender to a fork. Remove foil and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until the top is slightly golden. 
ALISA

Alisa and I cooked dinner together!

coring zucchini

Alisa cut the zucchini and removed their seeds, making little zucchini boats

I made the quinoa and chopped the veggies to mix in

I made the quinoa and chopped the veggies to mix in

zucchini mixing filling

yummy quinoa/bean/vegetable mixture

Serving suggestion: two halves (one whole zucchini) for vegetarian meal, or as a side to a meat-friendly meal

More Than Halfway Through January … On My Way to 1,000 miles

It’s January 21! You know what that means? That my birthday is in two days? Well … yes … but not what I was going for – it means that  we’re more than halfway through the first month of the year. And for those of you wondering, I’m still pounding the pavement and keeping up with my goal for this year: 1,000 miles. Well, it’s been closer to pounding the treadmill due to the cold/wintry weather we’ve been having … which makes it even more difficult for me to motivate myself.

That’s right, I’m still tracking my miles and getting in just above my goal of 21 miles/week. The past few weeks I’ve gotten even more than 21, mostly because I’m prepping for what’s ahead – cold days and some work trips that interfere with my routine and will likely keep me inside or not running at all (like this week – I’m only in the office 1.5 days!).

Since I forgot to provide a recap last week, here are the past two weeks:

(image via my dailymile account)

(image via my dailymile account)

January – Week #2:

  • January 7: 6.3 mi
  • January 8: 5.1 mi
  • January 9: 5.5 mi
  • January 10: 4.5 mi
  • January 12: 5.1 mi
  • January 13: 5.5 mi

Weekly total : 32 miles!

january week 3 from dailymile

January – Week #3:

  • January 14: 5.7 mi
  • January 15: 5.6 mi
  • January 16: 6.4 mi
  • January 17: 4.3 mi
  • January 19: 6.0 mi
  • January 20: 6.0 mi

Weekly total: 34 miles!

I don’t plan on keeping up this mileage pace the next few months – or even this week when I’m traveling sans gym two days this week (and the HIGH temp is in the teens … low in single digits!), but we’ll see what I can do!), which is why I aimed so high the past few weeks. With 11 days left in the month, I’d just like to get 20 more in. I hope that’s doable!

How are your 2013 goals coming along?

DCA City Advocate Applications Now Available!

Love Cleveland? Wanna Do Something About It?  Want to meet others who love Cleveland? I highly recommend you apply for the DCA City Advocate program. It’s a two year program that fosters civic engagement among individuals who love living in, working in, or just visiting Cleveland.

I may be biased – because I’m in their current class – but I definitely recommend you apply. What’s cool about it? Each month, we meet for an hour as a large group, either for a working session or to hear from a local Cleveland speaker. We’ve heard from LAND studio about all the cool projects they’re working on in the community, Councilman Cimperman, and more. Not only has it proven to be educational (just ask my coworkers, I always know what’s going on in Cleveland!), but it’s also been great to meet so many other people passionate about Cleveland and doing something about it!

A two year program, the DCA City Advocate program also encourages its participants to work on a project with a small group. The project can be anything – that’s right, anything – that somewhat helps better our community. Stay tuned for more details on my project – I’m almost ready to share it with you and I hope you’ll be as excited as I am when it’s ready!

Got questions about the program? Visit the website OR ask me! Deadline to apply is February 3rd.

Hope to see you in the program with me this year!

PS – I also just learned the applications for the Class of 2014 Bridge Builders are coming out in early February! I’m also a member of the CBB Class of 2013 and doing some great things as part of the program. If it sounds like something you may be interested in, keep checking the website for the application.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

You may have noticed I’ve been on a veggie burger and vegetable-kick lately. I have have been looking for new recipes for my meat-loving husband to try and challenging myself to find the occasional meatless (or semi-meatless) recipe for him and I to enjoy! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not becoming a vegetarian (far from it), but am trying to learn to cook veggies in ways that I don’t normally try to. And these burgers take the cake – they’re B’s favorite vegetarian thing I’ve made this year so far.

homemade spicy black bean burgers

Spicy Black Bean Burgers (adapted from Eat Live Run)

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp flaxseed meal
  • ½ medium red onion
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • ½ fresh tomato, diced
  • ½ c panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ c canned corn

Here’s what you do:

  1. Chop jalapenos in half and remove seeds. 
  2. Add de-seeded jalapeno and garlic cloves to a food processor and mince finely. 
  3. Add chopped onion to food processor and continue to dice.
  4. Add one of the cans of beans and flaxseed to the food processor and combine with jalapeno and garlic mixture.
  5. Add cumin and mix until the mixture is has a texture that is similar to that of an oatmeal cookie.
  6. Using a spatula, stir in panko bread crumbs and mix well. 
  7. Stir in chopped tomato, canned corn and remaining can of beans. 
  8. Form mixture into small burger patties. Mine made about 10 patties.
  9. OPTIONAL PRE-COOKING STEP: Pop in the freezer for a little while to help patties harden. This isn’t necessary but definitely helps the texture since the patties are very mushy and crumbly when they cook. Since they made 10 patties, I made mine over the weekend and froze them ahead of time and only took out 4 to cook the evening of (2 for B, 1 for me for dinner and 1 for me for lunch the next day).
  10. Spray a pan with nonstick cooking spray and heat on medium. Fry black bean burgers on each side: if fresh, 5 min per side will do, if frozen you will want to cook longer, 10 min on each side or until completely defrosted and crusty and golden on each side.
  11. Enjoy how you like your burgers! I enjoyed mine with avocado and sriracha on an English muffin.

For me the recipe made 10 medium size burgers.

blackbeanburgerfrozen

Make ahead and freeze! I wrapped mine in plastic wrap and foil and put in tupperware.

black bean burger patties

burgers before cooking

black bean burger meal

How I ate my burger – with a side salad, cooked spinach and topped with avocado and sriracha

Spicy Kale with Lentils and Sweet Potato

Looking for a filling and satisfying vegetarian dinner one night? Or a comforting vegetable side dish, perfect for this winter? Then this is for you! Again, B is a pretty serious meat eater, but he somehow agreed to try this (along with some chicken). I’m not sure how much he liked it, but I really enjoyed the dish. I got it from Eat Live Run and made a few modifications.

Spicy Kale with Lentils and Sweet Potato

 

Spicy Kale with Lentils and Sweet Potato (modified from Eat Live Run)

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 c diced onion
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 serrano peppers, chopped finely
  • 6 baby carrots (or 2 large carrots), diced
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • one bunch kale, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 c chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c lentils (dry)
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper

Here’s what you do: 

  1. Dice the onion, celery, serrano peppers and carrots. Chop up the sweet potato into 1/2 inch cubes.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium sized pot.
  3. Add the onion, celery, carrot, peppers and sweet potato and cook for about six minutes, until softened.
  4. While the onion, celery, peppers and potato cooks, dice the garlic and chop up the kale. When cooked, add the garlic and kale and continue cooking until kale wilts.
  5. Add the lentils, dried rosemary, cracked red pepper and broth (use vegetable broth if you want a vegetarian recipe). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until lentils are tender and have absorbed most of the liquid.
  6. Enjoy!
chopped veggies look so pretty don't they?

chopped veggies look so pretty don’t they?

Spicy Kale with Lentils and Sweet Potato

A new year … A new running goal

Last year, if you recall, I trained completely for and nearly ran the Cleveland marathon (if you must know what happened, read this post) … but after getting two stress fractures just two days before the race, I had to back out and take a month off from running. I haven’t signed up for a marathon since (but am looking into a few half marathons) but have a new goal for 2013 – to run more than 1,000 miles.

If you’re a runner, you know that 1,000 miles is nothing. Twentyish miles a week. Heck, a runner I follow on Twitter had more than 2,000 last year! Still, I haven’t yet been able to accomplish this goal. Two years ago I was at 820ish. Last year, even with all the running during marathon training, I was at 860ish. So this year, I’m going to try to get to 1,000.

2011 vs 2012 thanks to Dailymile

2011 vs 2012 thanks to Dailymile

I’m only one week into the new year, but I’m already feeling slightly discouraged. What if I go on vacation for a few weeks and don’t run? What if I get injured again and can’t run for another month or so? What if I don’t make it?  What if I don’t have enough time – between Bridge Builders, DCA City Advocates, a few other projects and of course work, the next few months are pretty crazy.

I’ll have to remember this when I think I don’t have enough time

Thank goodness for Dailymile … I already have words of encouragement from a few other runners:

running

So how did week 1 go? I did each workout on my beloved dreadmill at the gym (the treadmill in my building is broken) and got to the goal of 20 miles.

  • January 1: 5.6 mi
  • January 2: 5.1 mi
  • January 3: 5.5 mi
  • January 5: 6.1 mi
  • January 6: 4 mi

So in total,  I got in about 26 miles! If I can keep up this pace, I’ll definitely make it. Sure, some weeks will be hard, but it will only get better as the weather improves.

What are your goals for 2013?