Cheating on Chili and I Owe You a Plank

So I owe you all a plank!  I didn’t forget about the plank challenge but I was so tired after Saturday’s race that I wanted to rest a day in order to give this 4 minute plank a fighting chance. 




My longest plank to date was 3:45 and it was brutally tough…everything hurt.  I knew there was no way I’d make it to 4 minutes with a tired body.  I wasn’t even sure if I could do it with a totally fresh body, but knew I needed to try.  So after dropping by aunt off at the airport this morning (so sad to see her go, but super excited to see her again in 3 weeks!), I came home for my last plank trial.




And…success!  Somehow, I just did a 4 minute plank. I think that day off of really helped!  And now I can call that my exercise for the day as I am off to get my full body massage and don’t plan on moving much after that : )


Yesterday, I tried to convince the BOY to go to the grocery store with me.  He was having none of it, and didn’t have much to add to this week’s meal planning.  When he headed off to the library, I took some time to flip through cookbooks, blogs, and my recipe binder to come up with some new ideas.  It’s no surprise that we make chili, like every fall weekend.  I was thinking it would be fun to try something different but just as warm and comforting.  I decided on Chicken Tortilla Soup, which is so thick and hearty it is a meal on its own.  This recipe had so many amazing spices that I knew it had to be awesome!




I have been having some chicken issues lately.  I spoiled myself all summer by buying my chicken at Costco.  I spent a little more than at the grocery, but the quality was well worth it.  Recently, I haven’t been making it to Costco as often.  I picked up chicken at a local grocery store last week for my Chicken Parmesan and the BOY and I both noticed a difference.  For today’s soup, I purchased an organic brand at a different supermarket.  I liked it, but it just doesn’t compare to Costco.  Does this happen to anyone else?




Luckily, the vegetables in this soup are so fresh and delicious that the chicken is just a compliment.  Another easy compliment is home made tortilla strips.  You can buy corn tortillas for about 30 cents, and they are the perfect final touch to your meal.




I had some issues with lighting last night, so I’m not sure that the photos will do this soup any justice.




The BOY made a 3 layer bowl, complete with cheese, sour cream, scallions, and topped with tortilla strips.  He was moving so quickly, it was tough to get a clean shot!


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I poured myself a huge bowl for dinner to settle in and watch the Bear’s game.  In case you are concerned with my timing, we DVRed the noon game so the BOY could go to the library and watched it Sunday night.




It was a super exciting game, but nothing compared to this incredible soup!




I really enjoyed this recipe and wouldn’t change a thing EXCEPT, I might attempt to make it in the crockpot.  It would have been a little easier to shred up the chicken and taken less time in the kitchen.  I’m definitely adding Chicken Tortilla Soup into our weekend chili rotation.  This recipe earned a spot on the team!  Can you tell I’m in a good sporty mood after the Bear’s victory?!


Last week was so short (I worked a day and a half) so this week feels really long.  Here is a tentative plan for the week’s meals (although I stress the word tentative because I thin it’s already changed 3 times…ha ha!)


Sunday Night: Chicken Tortilla Soup (see recipe below)

For a similar vegetarian soup, I recommend this Taco Soup.


Monday Night: Coconut Shrimp


Tuesday Night: Leftovers


Wednesday Night: Chicken Marsala


Thursday Night: Pork Tenderloin


Friday Night: Surprise!  Which basically means it’s a game time decision : )



So I almost didn’t have room for last night’s dinner of Chicken Tortilla Soup because I totally chowed down on Maple Banana Bread.  This might be one of the tastiest versions of banana bread that I have made in awhile.  The maple syrup adds the perfect amount of sweetness and flavor and the texture is divine.  I highly recommend trying this recipe.  It will make for wonderful holiday gifts!  And this morning, I turned it into French toast.  All I can say is…Yum!







Chicken Tortilla Soup

From Bake Your Day



1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. paprika

1 Tbs. olive oil, divided

1 large red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1 lime, juiced and zested

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (10-ounce) can green chiles

1 (14.5) ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup fresh corn

1Tbs. tomato paste

32 ounces low-sodium chicken stock

Salt & pepper to taste



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, kosher salt, oregano and paprika. Brush both sides of each chicken breast with a light coating of olive oil. Sprinkle a small amount of the spice mixture onto both sides of each chicken breast and transfer to a non-stick baking sheet. Roast the chicken in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through. Allow the chicken to cool for about 10 minutes, and then shred.

While the chicken cooks, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic, along with a pinch of salt, and saute for 3-4 minutes until the onions are very fragrant and they begin to soften. Add the bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, lime juice and cilantro and stir well. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until the peppers begin to soften. Add the remaining spice mixture, black beans, green chiles, diced tomatoes and the corn and stir well. Cook for about 6 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.

Slowly stir in the chicken stock and add the cooked & shredded chicken and bring the soup to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Burpee, Squat, Push, and Sit

I stayed up a little later than usual last night trying to cheer the Bear’s (complete with their backup quarterback) onto a comeback victory against the 49ers.  No such luck for the Bear’s!  It’s a sad turn of events after an impressive start to the season.  Oh, to be a Chicago fan : )  Moving on from football and forward to Thanksgiving…Hooray!  I should warn you ahead of time that my posts may be a little spotty this week.  I am spending some time in the city and at the P’s and have no idea if there will be any time between bites of food to blog.




My schedule has changed a bit allowing me to go in later to work on Tuesday mornings.  Typically, I have been getting in my shorter runs, but I ran 5 miles yesterday and the only run left before Saturday’s half marathon is a Thanksgiving 3 miler.  I’m not so sure when that’s going to happen, but we shall see!  I wasn’t going to run this morning and it’s too chilly to bike and I don’t currently have a gym membership and there are no early Tuesday morning yoga classes, which left me in need of a home workout.  I am not a good home exerciser.  I never have been!  I have piles and piles of workouts pulled out of magazines in hopes of one day being that girl who will bust into lunges during a commercial, but they end up covered in dust before eventually being recycled.


I know that I REALLY need to do more strength training, so I had high hopes when I discovered this easy at home workout on Jess’s Blonde Ponytail blog last night.  It looked doable, challenging, and it wasn’t going to take up space on my counter for months at a time collecting dust.  Plus, there was no equipment needed, and I had the TV to keep me entertained.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had enough time in the morning before work to watch the Today show.




The workout goes as follows:






Starting with 10 reps and then counting down…



Jess has a great graphic on her site as well as the proper form for a burpee!


After 15 minutes, I was dripping in sweat.




But I still had my plank challenge left to do and this one was for 3:45.  Yikes!  I know I say it every time, but this one really was the absolute hardest.  With one minute 20 seconds to go, I really wanted to throw in the towel. But I held in there and I did it!  It was a quick and challenging morning workout that totally got me energized for my day ahead.




Breakfast was leftover Pumpkin Cream Pie Oat Bran heated up with a sliced banana and some almond milk.

Delish!  It was really filling, and I caught the Thanks & Giving portion of the Today show just as I was finishing my breakfast.


I’d love to sit and play all day (that’s what the BOY will doing although he is supposed to be studying), but I am off to work!  Just 1 1/2 days until my 5 day Turkey Day break!



Do you exercise at home without equipment?

Please, please, please, send me some ideas!

My IT Band Tried to Sabotage my Run

Another no alarm Saturday, but this time it was planned!  I started the day with a hearty breakfast who’s purpose was to propel me through this morning’s 8 mile run.

TJ’s oatmeal + Chia Seeds + Cinnamon and a Pear = Awesome!




Another plank (because I didn’t do it yesterday).  Even with an Us Weekly in front of me, that was the toughest challenge of them all.  But I did it!  I have a feeling the jump form 3:30-4:00 minutes is going to be impossible a hard one!




Another Larabar.  You’d think I was advertising for their company (and if they’d like to send me some flavors to sample, I’d be happy to blog about them).  This one is my favorite to date.  It reminds me of the Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar which I love…only Larabars are easily available at the grocery store.  Now, I just have to figure out how to make this flavor at home!




And then yet another run.  We are 1 week away from the half marathon and I can only hope for race day weather like today.  I headed out with way too many layers, and came back in short sleeves covered in sweat. 


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I was scheduled for 8 miles and decided on an out and back along the forest preserve trail.  The trail is similar the one I will be running on next weekend, but a town over.  My trail is a lot hillier (relatively speaking, I do live in the Chicago suburbs so take hills with a grain of salt), therefore, perfect for training.  From my first step out the door, I had my stride back (the cold stole it during Tuesday’s 6 mile run) and the morning had aligned for that perfect run!  I made it to mile 1 in 7:59 feeling strong.  Somewhere along mile 3, I started to get a little twinge in my left IT band.  It is no secret that I have some of the tightest IT bands out there, but for the most part they don’t interfere with my run.  I have sneaking suspicion that this pain was also related to my quads, specifically the rectus which crosses the hip, since I really tightened up after last weekend’s rainy run.  I got stopped at a light between miles 3 and 4 and took that time to stretch, which totally did the trick.  I got right back into my stride cruising along enjoying the day and saying ‘Good Morning’ to everyone that came my way.  I hit the 6 mile mark at 49:25 which is more than 3 minutes faster than this week’s 6 mile run.  For some reason, that last mile back to my house always stretches on forever.  I wanted to finish quick with a sub 8:30 mile but came bounding in at 8:43.  Certainly my slowest mile (I think I write that every time), but thrilled with my 8 mile time of 1:06:16.  My runs have not been this fast or this strong recently and to complete my last long run at race pace (probably a little faster as I averaged 8:15 this morning) felt fantastic!

So did rolling out my legs on my foam roller after my run.


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Especially that left ITB!  My legs are definitely sore and tired.  But never too tired for a trip to the grocery store.  The BOY and I took a second go at meal planning for this holiday week.  Then returned home, quickly unloaded the groceries, and got back in the car to head out for lunch at my favorite restaurant!




This light was totally rocking my picture, but after an 8 mile run, I’m not sure there is anything better than pretzel bread, a glass of Cooper’s Hawk Barrel Reserve, and the Chef’s Special Blackened Tilapia Salad?!




Would you judge me if I told you at the entire salad AND a chocolate covered strawberry for dessert?  With exhausted legs and a full belly, it seems like the only thing left to do today is take a nap!

The Day

The Breakfast




The Plank (a day late)

The longest 3 minutes of my life…even with Law&Order on the TV!




The Weather


Nov 10

10 AM

Partly Cloudy


Party Cloudy


The Shoes




Gearing up for their longest run to date.


The Fuel




Note: I liked the Gingersnap flavor Larabar much better for a run!  This one is tasty but a little dry to eat during a workout.


The Run

12 miles along the path




My run was a little more eventful than I would have liked.  The weather was perfect, and the path was fairly crowded with runners, bikers, and dogs.  Just after mile 3, I got a sharp pain in one of the toes on my right foot.  It felt like I was running on a tack.  I made it a few more minutes to a parking lot where I sat down to check it out.  What I discovered was a sock soaked through with blood.




Yuck!  This has never happened to me before in 20 years of running.  I had a pin size cut, probably from a toe nail, but because I take Aspirin every day, this wasn’t going to stop on its own.  Luckily, I found an alcohol pad and bandaid in my running belt.  I’ve never performed ‘wound’ care on the side of the path before, but it only took a few minutes and I was back on my feet.  I was a little slow to get back in my groove.  At mile 6, I turned back around feeling strong, but was a little worried about the deep rolling thunder and quick moving clouds.  I kept moving hoping to make it home before a storm rolled in.  Somewhere after mile 7, the rain began to fall and it was coming down hard!  Since it was pretty warm, the rain drops were refreshing, but the vertical lightening made me nervous.  It only rained for about a mile, and I thought I was in the clear.  But with only a few miles to go, my legs started to cramp up.  I’m guessing that this was from the quick drop in core temperature after the rain, but I don’t typically cramp.  I guess my right quad didn’t get the memo!  I slowed down some, but kept moving putting one foot in front of the other.  And then the rain came back with big, thick, heavy drops.  At this point, I was soaked.  Like, just came out of a lake in my clothes soaked.  My socks and shoes filled with water and it felt like I was lifting a brick with each step.  I tried not to slow down (or worry about my phone which I had forgotten to wrap in a plastic bag), especially during my last mile.  Despite running through puddles with stiff legs, I finished my last mile in 9 minutes.




I came bounding in the door with a time of 1:42:32 calling to the BOY to bring me a towel.




My phone was okay!  I just hope my shoes dry quickly!


The Recovery

Look who I found!


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My trusty foam roller is back, which is good because my quads needed it today!


The Rest of the Day


Skyfall (the movie) + Bonefish Grill = the BOY’s Birthday celebration





How was your day?

Have you ever gotten stuck outside in a downpour?

Starting the Week Of Right

I guess I should thank the Day Light Savings people for helping me get up and at ‘em this morning!  Although I was exhausted last  night, I woke up fairly easily this morning.  First up on today’s agenda…VOTING!  I had big fears that there would be long lines at the polls, so I got dressed, made some tea, and drove the 1/2 mile down the road to the polling site.  There was a line for electronic but not one for paper, so I went with paper.  I caused a bit of a commotion when I submitted my ballots by trying to submit 3 instead of 2.  Apparently, 2 judges ballots stuck together and I had filled out the front of one and the back of another. (No judgment people, it was EARLY).  I fixed my mistake, but then something had to be done with the other ballot and my ballot had no initials, so it needed to be signed and stamped before I had finally voted and could take my sticker.  I felt terrible for being so high maintenance and the woman in line to vote actually asked me with concern, ‘Is it really that complicated?’  I was home by 6:30 to warm up some oatmeal for breakfast.  I do want to send out a sincere thank you to all of the volunteers working at voting booths throughout the country today!  It can’t be an easy job and we appreciate you taking the time to do it.




After breakfast, I had was scheduled for a 6 mile run.  I hit the path with plenty of sunlight although the weather was brisk.  It took me a few miles to feel warmed up and get into my flow, but my mile times were steady right around 8:40.  Typically, my last mile back home is the slowest, so I made a goal to get back to my driveway no slower than my previous miles.  I completed miles 5 and 6 in 8:29 and 8:32 respectively finishing my 6 miles in 51:49.  What a great way to start the day!




Unfortunately, my foam roller has not appeared, so I stretched my legs on the curb and made mental note to hit the foam roller at work.  That doesn’t always happen, but hopefully I can find a few minutes to roll out my legs today.




I need to hit the shower and get my lunch packed up before heading off to work.  I have some leftovers from last night’s dinner that I am excited about!


A quick update on the plank challenge

I was able to do a 2 minute 45 second plank last night.  It was brutal and I am gearing up for 3 minutes this Friday.



How is your week starting off?

Did you make anything for Peanut Butter Month yet?

New Fall Challenge

Did you have a good Halloween?




Although most of our kiddos ditched us to go Trick-or-Treating (as they should), the staff had a BLAST modeling our costumes, especially this awesome 80’s getup : )




So I don’t typically join on to exercise challenges (mostly because my follow through is poor), but I did participate in a successful push up challenge last fall.  So, I was highly motivated when I heard that Tina was arranging a PLANK challenge.  For all of the details, check out her post on Carrots N CakeThe main goal is to double your current plank time in 4 weeks.  The set up is simple…


Monday-Plank to Fatigue

Wednesday-Follow Tina’s Ab Workout (My Mom and I did the first one last week)

Friday-Plank to Fatigue (try to beat Monday’s time)




Last week, my Mom and I each did a 2 minute plank (mine on my elbows), making our goal to complete a 4 minute plank by Thanksgiving!  About half way through Tina’s first workout, my mom asked me why we were doing this?  The answer…sexy, strong abs!  Is there any other reason???

Anyone else want to join in??? Looks like a simple way to improve the core muscles that you use every day!  I’ll keep you posted!

Now, onto the month wrap up…




October has been a foodie month! 


I ate TONS of quinoa

I made 2 unbelievable chilies, Red Chicken Chili and Poblano-Turkey Sausage Chili….and

I was a Bread Baking Fool, including this Pumpkin Banana Bread and Cinnamon Delight Bread


This is what else was keeping me busy.  Plus, I went to my first BEARS game of the season!

Man, it was a busy one!



October’s Goal

Keep up the Healthy Habits with focus on drinking water, chewing, following hunger cues, and limiting processed foods

     Let’s call this a draw!  I have been drinking lots of water and working on slowing down during meals.  I have been eating more real foods, but I think WAY too much food.  Moving forward, I will be focusing on portions!


Create half marathon training plan for November race

     My plan is set, but after being sick last weekend, my runs have not been up to par.

Find the Zen!

     Yikes!  It has been a super stressful month, but I did have some quality down time with my Mom up in Door County. 


November Goals

-Healthy Habits Continued…this month’s focus is on real foods and portion control

-Half Marathon PR…seems like a reach, especially with my recent illness, but I’m going for it

-A 4 minute plank

-Feeling thankful for a happy, healthy, and family-filled Thanksgiving



How are you doing?  What are your new goals?