Looking forward to lunchtime


Turkey and salad

If your lunchtime salad looked like that, wouldn’t you be pretty excited too?

I’ll divulge what’s in the mix in a second, but let’s back up a bit. We haven’t talked about workouts at all this week, and they definitely deserve a mention as I head into peak marathon training season! After an unexpected rest day on Monday, I knew I needed to be ready to hit the gym Tuesday morning. I had a six-mile speed session on the agenda for the day, but knew before I even got on the treadmill that it was going to be a rough workout. It was.

I struggled through a five mile speed workout…I hit the “Stop” button not once but TWICE during the workout, which I absolutely hate. Restarting the treadmill makes me feel like I’ve made no progress at all. Anyone else? After finish hitting that coveted 5.0 mark, I finished off the morning with a 10-minute lower ab circuit workout. Rough but I made it!

Yesterday morning was much better! I jumped on the elliptical for 20 minutes and then completed three rounds of this plyometrics/leg circuit…

  • 30 squats with exercise ball 
  • 15 flying lunges
  • 30 sec. wall sit
  • 30 step-ups
  • 30 box jumps
  • 30 sec. high knees
  • 15 lunges to front kick (both legs)

In between each circuit, I completed a two-minute plank workout that looked like this: (I did each exercise for 20 sec.)

  • Plank jacks
  • Reptile jacks
  • Straight arm plank
  • Elbow plank
  • Up-downs
  • Knee to elbow (alternating legs)

After I had finished three rounds of the above circuits, I hopped on the treadmill for ten minutes of incline walking/jogging. I set the incline at 10 and alternated speeds between 4.0 (fast walking) and 5.0 (jogging). Bam! I hit a lot of different machines, got in a lot of different exercises, and really enjoyed my time away from straight running!

This morning, it was back to the gym for a run. I’m increasing my mid-week mileage, so I had seven miles on the agenda today, which looked like this…

  • Miles 0-2: 7.0
  • Mile 2-3: 7.1
  • Mile 3-4: 7.2
  • Miles 4-6: 7.3
  • Mile 6-7: 7.0

I finished in about 58:30, which isn’t bad for a seven miler. (Just over 8:30/mile) It felt pretty easy overall and nothing like Tuesday’s five miler. Crazy how that can happen!

Okay, did you skip all that just so you could get to the goods about that amazing salad? I don’t blame you. Here’s what was in the mix:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Shredded red cabbage (I picked this up on a whim at the store the other day, and I really enjoyed it! It added some good crunch and didn’t alter the flavor much.)
  • Chopped red onion
  • Yellow pepper
  • Cucumbers
  • Deli turkey
  • Sliced almonds (I had sunflower seeds yesterday which were also good!)

I topped it off with some Trader Joe’s Fat-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette and crushed two crisp & light Wasa crisps over top. (I love how they’re like 25 calories each!) Delicious!

Did you look forward to your lunchtime today? What did you enjoy?


What I Ate…Tuesday!


It’s Wednesday…which means it’s time for our weekly What I Ate Wednesday party!

My eats came from yesterday. It was a really busy day, but thanks to prepping some yummy food ahead of time, I had no problem getting in some good meals!

Chocolate Chia Proatmeal_FinalAs usual, my day started off which 1/4 steel cut oats, water, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, chia seeds, and a scoop of peanut butter.

WIAW227_appleI had a busy morning and didn’t get a chance to eat my “morning” snack until almost 12:30! Regardless, my pink lady apple was delicious 🙂

Coconut Shrimp & Broccoli QuinoaFor lunch, I enjoyed some leftover coconut shrimp & broccoli quinoa with baby carrots on the side.

WIAW227_afternoon snackBefore I left work, I had a second cup of coffee and some cashews…I love the “Just a handful” pack from Trader Joe’s. So convenient when you need a quick snack!

After work, we headed over to help a friend move. Unfortunately, it was pouring so moving everything from her third floor apartment into her second floor apartment wasn’t all that fun! She bought dinner for everyone, which was so nice, but since I’m trying to get back on track after being sick, I waited it out and enjoyed a late dinner…

WIAW227_dinnerI warmed up a Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burrito (I made a big batch over the weekend and wrapped each one individually for a quick meal) along side some cucumbers (multiply those by 2!).

WIAW227_ChoTo top off my late dinner, I enjoyed a new-to-me Chobani: Passion Fruit! I topped it with some puffed wheat and raw oats. What’s the best Chobani you had lately? My go-favorites are pomegranate, mango, and black cherry!

An unexpected rest day + experimenting with coconut milk


After Saturday’s 12-miler in the rain, I inevitably ended up with a cold. Besides painting at my church on Sunday afternoon, I took it pretty easy — did some laundry, caught up on emails, and watched a few episodes of Downton Abbey.

Although I was pretty stuffy when I headed to bed on Sunday night, I had every intention of heading to the gym before work…until I woke up at 3 a.m. with a horrible nose bleed. Blech. When my alarm went off at 5:40 a.m., I did something I rarely do — I reset it for 6:30 and got myself another precious hour of sleep. It was so worth it! (Side note: It made it 5x harder to get to the gym this morning…I had the roughest time completing a  five mile speed workout on the treadmill! Oh well, I made up for it by making myself plank for 3+ minutes afterwards.)

I started feeling better throughout the day and had a quick window between two meetings to run home last night and whip up dinner, which is how I ended up with this delicious concoction!

Coconut Shrimp & Broccoli Quinoa

While Andy & I were in our honeymoon in Jamaica, I went to a cooking demonstration where made these amazing coconut shrimp. I’ve wanted to try something similar ever since, so I finally picked up a carton and coconut milk and attempted it myself! This is a super easy dinner and the coconut milk really binds the dish and adds great flavor with a dose of healthy fats.

Coconut Shrimp & Broccoli Quinoa
Serves 2

  • 1/2 c. quinoa, cooked
  • About 16 small shrimp, thawed and divined
  • 2 c. broccoli (I used frozen florets)
  • 1 clove garlic (or equivalent canned, minced garlic)
  • 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Begin by cooking quinoa in a small saucepan.
  2. Spray a large pan with cooking oil (or melted coconut oil, if you prefer). Add shrimp and begin to cook for about 90 seconds. Season with garlic, salt, and pepper.
  3. Next, add your broccoli. (I used frozen, so I actually microwaved mine for two minutes and then added it to the pan to speed up cooking time.) Let cook for about two minutes or until shrimp are opaque and broccoli is tender.
  4. Pour your coconut milk over shrimp and broccoli and let stand for another three minutes or so.
  5. Take quinoa, pour over coconut milk mixture, stir, and enjoy!

How to “level up” this recipe:

  • It’s essentially a stir fry…so add more veggies! I think water chestnuts would be great in this (I don’t know why, but I’m obsessed with water chestnuts!), as would some sugar snap peas or even red pepper strips.

How to “level down” this recipe:

  • If you’re not a fan of quinoa, you can easily substitute a brown or whole grain rice medley. 

Long, hard, and wet…


There are three words to describe yesterday’s 12-miler: long, hard, and wet.

But, so worth it! (Even if I now have a cold. Boo.)

After procrastinating my morning away yesterday, I finally put on my running clothes around 11:45 a.m. and decided I was going to go out and get a run in. Since it was raining, I was trying to decide between running outside and running on the treadmill, and my husband made a good point: you can’t control weather on race day, so you might as well get outside. So outside I went!

Within about 0.2 miles, I was wet…but happy! As soon as I started pounding that pavement, I felt instantly better. I stopped at miles 5 1/2 and 9 1/2 to grab water and stretch out. I had grabbed a change of clothes before I left my house in case I wanted to finish the run on the treadmill, and although I considered it multiple times (especially between miles 6-8!), I figured I needed to just finish it out. And finish it I did…with no splits over 8:55/mile! My goal pace is about 8:45 for the marathon, and I did a pretty good job on yesterday’s training run…

12 miles

I was incredibly sore and tired when I got home yesterday, and ended up laying on the couch watching Downton Abbey (so good!) for a few hours and trying to eat. Does anyone else completely lose their appetite when they do long runs?! After church, I was finally hungry at about 7:30 and whipped up a coconut shrimp & broccoli quinoa (recipe coming soon!) and then headed out to frozen yogurt with some friends. Always a fun way to end a Saturday!

This morning, I woke up and made some amazing cinnamon apple pancakes…definitely a great addition to my Sunday morning pancake lineup!

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
Serves 1

  • 1/3 c. flour (I used half oat flour, half whole wheat flour)
  • 2 Tbsp. rolled oats
  • 2/3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 apple, finely chopped (I used a Pink Lady with skins on…you can remove if you prefer!)
  • A few shakes of cinnamon
  • 1/3 c. milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. agave
  1. Mix all of your dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and apple) in one bowl. Mix all of your wet ingredients in another bowl.
  2. Slowly combine wet ingredients into dry, mixing well. (Batter will be thick.) 
  3. Spray a pan with cooking spray (or melted coconut oil) and pour batter into pan into three pancakes. Flip each one once until browned on both sides.
  4. Top with you favorite toppings and enjoy! I melted some peanut butter and topped mine with the PB, maple agave syrup, and flax seed.

How to “level up” this recipe:

  • For added fiber and protein, add chia seed or ground flax to the batter. 
  • You can also substitute a different fruit (such as blueberries or peaches) if you desire.

How to “level down” this recipe:

  • You can use regular white flour (or pretty much any other flour) rather than the whole wheat or oat. 
  • For some added sweetness, add 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar rather than the agave or even top with powdered sugar.

Saturday morning procrastination


Ever have those Saturday mornings when you have a big to-do list to tackle but barely feel like getting out of bed? That’s certainly the type of day I’m having! On the agenda for today is completing a 12-miler, cleaning my kitchen, doing some wash, and church later tonight.

Since I don’t want to run, clean, or do wash yet, I’m coming your way with an early morning post! I made this recipe when we had friends over last weekend, and it was a hit. It’s super easy and a great appetizer or part of dinner.

Pepperoni pizza balls

Pepperoni Pizza Balls
Makes 24 balls
Adapted from Lick the Bowl Good

  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning (I used Tastefully Simple’s Italian Garlic Bread seasoning)
  • 3/4 c. skim or 1% milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c. part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. cubed pepperoni
  • 1/2 c. marinara sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 375, and grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix your flours, baking powder, and Italian season. Next, add milk and egg, and mix well.
  3. Stir in your pepperoni and cheeses, mix, and let stand for 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon evenly into mini muffin tins. Put in oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until pizza bites are browned and cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, warm up marinara sauce and serve bites with sauce. Enjoy!

How to “level up” this recipe:

  • Use turkey pepperoni instead of regular.
  • For an extra punch of flavor, add in 1/2 c. chopped red pepper.

How to “level down” this recipe:

  • Use all all-purpose flour instead of wheat. 

A trend I just can’t do


If you’re a food blog junkie like me, you’ve seen the recipe everywhere: overnight oats.

Don’t get me wrong. I. love. oats. But, I love a big bowl of oats served piping hot so that my nut butter melts just right and makes the whole bowl taste amazing.

But cold oats? I just wasn’t feeling it. However, I’ll try anything once and since I had an empty jar of peanut butter staring me in the face, I felt obligated to throw together my own version of overnight oats.

But before we get into the recipe, it’s time for a few truths…

Truth #1:  This picture is horrible. I was lazy and snapped it with my iPhone right before digging in. If you want pretty pictures of overnight oats, try this, this, or this. These people show their overnight oats some lovin’ I just can’t muster…

Truth #2: I got about halfway through breakfast when I threw in the towel, dumped out my oats into a bowl, and warmed them up in the microwave. I am officially Team Warm Oats!

Overnight oats jar

Overnight oats
Serves 1

  • 1/3 c. oats
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1/3 scoop protein powder (Optional; I used vanilla)
  1. Mix together all ingredients.
  2. Pour into empty nut butter jar and place in refrigerator overnight.
  3. In the morning, add another scoop of nut butter (if desired), mix, and enjoy!

How to “level up” this recipe:

  • Add some chopped fruit, such as apples or strawberries, or mash half of a banana and stir in.
  • Substitute 1/3 c. greek yogurt for the water.

How to “level down” this recipe:

  • Omit the chia seeds. The seeds help with liquid absorption and add a punch of protein and fiber, but if you don’t have any on hand, it’s okay to leave them out!
  • To sweeten your oats, add 1/2 Tbsp. maple or agave syrup, a few chocolate chips, or a splash of vanilla.

Happy 100th, Levels!


Today is the 100th post on Levels…and it just so happens that it’s Wednesday, which is my favorite food blogger day thanks to Peas & Crayons!

But before we jump into WIAW, let’s take a quick look back at the top posts on Levels in the past few months. A big thank you to all of my readers and subscribers as I launch Levels off the ground!

And it’s all in my head (plus a colorful WIAW!)
WIAW Highlights
Saturday Morning Miles & Meals

And, now for your regularly scheduled programming…What I Ate Wednesday Tuesday!

Banana Oat Flour PancakesThe day started off with the last of my banana oat flour pancakes, topped with homemade cashew butter, maple agave syrup, and a sprinkle of coconut and whole flax seeds.

WIAW220_bananaI guess I was feeling the bananas that day because my morning snack was a banana!

WIAW220_lunchFor lunch, I enjoyed one of my fall apple salads with grilled chicken. Truthfully, it wasn’t as good as it normally is…I was in a rush when I made it, so I think that had something to do with it! (I forgot the parm cheese & walnuts…my favorite part!)

WIAW220_snackRight before I left work, I fixed myself a quick snack: the other half of my apple from lunch + a handful of roasted cashews. Mmm!

WIAW220_dinnerI helped to babysit right after work, so that left little time for dinner. I prepared this quick plate which was actually pretty awesome! I enjoyed a whole wheat bagel that I had leftover from brunch this weekend, topped with some natural peanut butter, fat-free cottage cheese, and a few shakes of cinnamon…with lots of veggies on the side!

WIAW220_oatmealI finished the day with a little bowl of Cashew Coconut Oatmeal! In the mix: 1/4 c. oats, 1/3 c. unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a scoop of cashew butter, a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut, and a few dark chocolate chips.

For a busy day, it wasn’t too bad! What are your favorite on-the-go meals?