Scrunchy shorts

Apparently, I have oddly shaped legs that don’t get along with certain pairs of shorts. I have one pair of short tights from Lululemon Athletica that work well for running. I wanted to buy a few more pairs, but the company no longer makes the style.

So I started trying other options. I have a pair from Nike and one from Oiselle. They are good shorts—for other activities like spinning or cross training. Unfortunately, they both ride up when I run, and I spend the whole workout yanking them down, which is rather unattractive. In addition, it’s difficult to clock fast splits on tempo runs while tugging on your shorts.

I’m not the only one with this problem. A quick Google search revealed threads on running forums entirely devoted to this topic.

I want to buy another pair of shorts. I’m debating purchasing another pair from Lululemon, but I’m worried I won’t like them, and, frankly, my overstuffed workout drawer can’t handle another pair of shorts that are only used for cross training.

Have you discovered an awesome pair of compression shorts or short tights? I want to know about it! Weigh in by taking the quiz below or write me a note in the comments.

Stay-put compression shorts

  1. Have you found the perfect pair of compression shorts? If so, who makes them?

  2. Nike

Sick and tired

For a runner, needing to skip workouts because of illness or injury is frustrating. I used to be the athlete who rarely blew off a workout. Nagging pain? No problem. Runny nose and hacking cough? I’d tell myself to toughen up and get out there.

Often, that attitude is fine. Sometimes, though, a tiny twinge snowballs into a major injury that derails months of training. Recently, I’ve tried to be better about listening to my body, but sometimes I don’t like to hear what it is saying.

I caught a cold in the beginning of March. At first, it seemed like a typical head cold, but the congestion, aches, and coughing stuck around for more than two weeks. When determining whether to run with an illness, I evaluate my symptoms using the neck rule: Congestion, runny nose, and other above-the-neck symptoms? Head out for a run. Chest congestion and body aches mean that instead of lacing up, I force myself to stay on the couch with tea, a blanket, and a book or favorite TV show.  
This strategy usually works. After a couple of days of R&R, I feel much better and pick up where I left off. During this stretch of training, though, I took a couple of days off, felt a little better, went for an easy run, and then woke up the next morning feeling sick again. When I attempted more difficult workouts, I either couldn’t complete them because of exhaustion or coughing fits.

After fighting with my body day after day, I decided it was necessary to take a break until I felt 100 percent better. As a result, my Shamrock Shuffle time was slow. In fact, I didn’t even beat last year’s result. Still, I had fun; it’s one of my favorite races of the year, and I’m trying not to dwell on the outcome. Instead, I’m focusing on the miles ahead.

Here are the results from the 2014 Shamrock Shuffle (left) and the 2015 race (right). I was hoping to post better numbers this year, but illness derailed my training.

Here are the results from the 2014 Shamrock Shuffle (left) and the 2015 race (right). I was hoping to post better numbers this year, but illness derailed my training.

I’ve drafted a training program that culminates with the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon on July 19. I’m happy with it for now, but I plan to make adjustments during the weeks ahead. The plan has a good amount of work at target race pace as well as distance, speed, and hill workouts to prepare my body for the stress of 13.1 miles.

My runner friends and I talk about the role luck plays in a PR. We all work hard, but staying well and injury-free are huge contributors to success. And then, you can get less-than-ideal conditions on race day. Cold, wind, heat, and precipitation all can affect times. Wish me luck during the next couple of months. I’ll need a hefty dose of it to meet my goal.

Do you have any tips on keeping training on track while sick or injured?


Week 29: Thinking inside the farmbox

The Wednesday before Christmas was the last pickup. Looking back, it was a fun season. I always enjoy receiving the vegetables I typically don’t buy (or can’t find) in the store—fava beans, garlic scapes, green garlic, cardoons, and crowder peas. But I also like receiving a box full of my favorites, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, hot peppers, collards, beets, corn, and shishito peppers.

The final box contained golden beets, red onions, celery root, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green cabbage, apples, popcorn, and daikon radishes.

I have a confession to make: I love the barbecued meatloaf from the Weber Grill in downtown Chicago. The restaurant is located in an area with loads of shopping and hotels, and, as a result, it’s typically filled with out-of-towners, which usually is kind of a turn-off for me. However, in the winter, I'd often leave work, walk to the train, pass the restaurant and immediately start dreaming about meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

For a long time, I never deviated from my basic meatloaf recipe. However, recently I’ve begun trying new ones, such as the chicken apple meatloaf with tarragon tomato gravy from the Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook, and the creole meatloaf from the Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook. This week, I decided to try to make the Weber Grill’s barbecued meatloaf at home. It was so good. On the side were mashed potatoes and celery root and spicy carrots.

I also made my favorite smothered pork chop recipe, shrimp and sweet potato grits, and a beef and vegetable soup, which was chock-full of cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and bell peppers. I have a couple sweet potatoes left, and I plan to use them in a sweet potato and plantain soup.

The popcorn is going to be used for caramel corn. It’s the recipe my mom always makes for the holidays, and it’s amazing. I caught a nasty cold while I was visiting my family in North Carolina for Christmas, so I didn’t get to spend enough quality time on the couch with a huge bag of caramel corn next to me. I’m going to have to make my own so I can get my fix.

As the season wound to a close, I started thinking about when I first joined Nichols Farm's CSA. I was worried about variety. I had spoken with friends who participated in the CSA program with other farms, and they noted that some weeks their boxes contained a lot of one item and little else. I decided to subscribe to Nichols Farm’s CSA because of the diverse crops they grow. Although it is a challenge to figure out how to use the box, the variety helps a lot—and stops me from eating salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because I received an overabundance of lettuce.

If you’re interested in becoming a CSA shareholder, check out Local Harvest or Nichols Farm’s CSA page for more information.


Weeks 27 and 28: Thinking inside the farmbox

The last few shares were hearty. The farmers at Nichols Farm noted in the week 27 email that the leafy greens are almost gone, and they’re planning for next year. I enjoy picking out plants, herbs, and vegetables for the five or six pots that sit on my small balcony, so I think it would be a lot of fun to be able to choose a wide variety of plants to grow in acres of fields.

Week 27 brought garlic, Russian Blue potatoes, watermelon radishes, rutabaga, onions, carnival squash, red beets, cabbage, and apples.

The Russian Blue potatoes are pretty, and they are great either boiled or roasted. This particular batch was boiled, sliced, and drizzled with olive oil and salt. I put them on the plate under roasted salmon, which was topped with herby Greek yogurt and radishes.

Although, they typically are not part of a winter harvest, I wanted some greens for a side dish, so I purchased some mixed baby lettuce and tossed it with roasted beets, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola. Beets and blue cheese is a delicious combination—one that I could never get tired of eating.

I also made a salad with the watermelon radishes. I’m not sure I have ever eaten a watermelon radish before this year, although I know I’ve seen them on menus. However I’ve discovered the pretty pink sliced radishes are delicious with lemon, chives, olive oil, and burrata. I’ve made this particular salad twice, and honestly, I’m not sure I want to eat my watermelon radishes any other way.

I’m getting a little better at using the cabbage. It pairs well with pork, so this week, we had sautéed pork chops with sweet and sour red cabbage and oven-roasted apples.

Week 28 brought the second-to-last pickup, and the box contained some large, freshly harvested leeks. According to the farmers at Nichols Farm, winter leeks are “incredibly sweet” because they have been well frozen.

This particular share contained the leeks, fingerling potatoes, radishes, purple carrots, sunchokes, cabbage, and butternut squash.

I wanted to be sure I used the winter leeks quickly before they went bad, so I made a leek and butternut squash soup. I had made some pimiento cheese to take to a holiday party. There were leftovers, so I used the extra cheese to make grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches for dipping into the soup. It was a perfect meal for a cold day.

I saw a recipe in the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appétit for balsamic-glazed sunchokes that I wanted to try. I’ve also made this twice, and I think it would be a great dinner-party dish because it’s easy to make and impressively easy and tasty.

Balsamic-glazed sunchokes

Balsamic-glazed sunchokes

As I’ve worked through the potatoes in this year’s CSA, I’ve decided that next year, I’m going to do a little more research regarding the best ways to prepare the different types of potatoes. Sometimes, I hit the nail on the head with a recipe, and other times, it would be just ok. Fingerlings are great roasted. I never have to try to scrape them off the pan, and they get crispy and golden brown.

I braised the cabbage with bacon and onions. It was tasty, but I thought it was a rich side dish. I’m still figuring out what to do with the radishes and purple carrots, and I’ll post an update in the next post, which will feature the last box of the year. The final box always brings mixed emotions. I’m sad my weekly delivery of fresh vegetables has come to an end, but I’m excited to have at least a small break from cooking almost every night. I’ll make some wintry favorites and become reacquainted with my favorite takeout restaurants. I’m sure they have forgotten who I am.

Week 26: Thinking inside the farmbox

This week was Thanksgiving—my favorite holiday. The CSA reflected the bounty of the season. It contained acorn squash, celery root, sweet potatoes, potatoes, napa cabbage, shallots, popcorn on the cob, collard greens, and apples.

For your Thanksgiving meal, do you make the same dishes every year or try new ones? After I moved out of my mom’s house (and about 800 miles away), I began to prepare my own Thanksgiving dinners. Every year, I would try different recipes for turkey, dressing, and vegetables. However, I always made the simple cranberry sauce my mom made—just cranberries, sugar and water. It’s the recipe on the bag.

Then, as time passed, I started finding recipes I loved. I now make Tom Colicchio’s Herb Butter Turkey every year, and last Thanksgiving, I finally found what I consider to be a perfect recipe for dressing. It has crisp cornbread, sausage, herbs, and pears.

In addition to the delicious turkey and dressing, we also feasted on cranberries, mashed potatoes with leek cream, and collards. It was a great meal and a great day, although we would have enjoyed it a bit more if the Bears had won their game.

And that everything-crusted cheese ball I teased in last week’s post? It was fantastic. Two of my party standbys are a Hungarian cheese ball, körözött, and pimiento cheese, but this one will now enter the rotation. All who attended my small Thanksgiving loved it, and I can’t wait to share it with a larger group.

I used the sweet potatoes and some of the celery root in a vegan curry I saw in the December issue of Bon Appétit while perusing recipes for Christmas cookies. I will make this again; it was hearty and delicious.

Sweet potato curry

Sweet potato curry

I liked the spicy southwestern-stuffed acorn squash from the week 18 post, so I decided to make it again. Last time, I couldn’t find the grated Swiss cheese, so I substituted pepper jack, and this time around, I did have the Swiss, but I substituted chicken chorizo for the turkey sausage. It turned out great both times. I may riff on it again by adding rice or substituting tofu for the sausage.

This week’s apple dessert was an apple galette with salted vanilla brown butter. It was beautiful and simple. I’ll be baking Christmas cookies soon. I’m trying to decide what to make. Do you have any favorites?

Apple galette

Apple galette

Week 25: Thinking inside the farmbox

Turkey-pesto meatballs are one of my cold-weather staples. They are easy to make on busy weekday nights and are equally delicious over pasta or stuffed into sub rolls with giardiniera and melted mozzarella or provolone cheese. This week they were accompanied by Parmesan-roasted cauliflower and a simple apple crisp.

Cauliflower roasted with lemon and Parmesan

Cauliflower roasted with lemon and Parmesan

In addition to the cauliflower and apples, the week 25 box included daikon radishes, cabbage, German butterball potatoes, sunchokes, yellow onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and white beets.

Clearly, I love roasted beets, but this week, I finally managed to come up with a different way to prepare them—a pickled beet salad from my Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook. I thinly sliced the beets along with an onion and put them in a bowl with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, and crushed garlic. Once refrigerated overnight, it was a great quick pickle to serve alongside cheeseburgers and baked sweet potatoes with tons of toppings.

I’ll be honest, carrots are not one of my favorite vegetables. But being part of a CSA has allowed me to find a couple of carrot recipes that I really enjoy. One is roasted carrots with a spicy crust, and the other is honey-glazed carrots, also from the Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook.

Honey-glazed carrots

Honey-glazed carrots

The honey-glazed carrots, mashed potatoes with chives, and pork chops and roasted apples were a perfectly comforting cold weather meal.

The next box will be filled with good things for Thanksgiving. In addition to the usual Thanksgiving staples—turkey, dressing, and cranberries, I’m excited to try a recipe for an everything-spice coated cheddar cheese ball. After all, I need something to munch on while I’m preparing the big meal.


Week 24: Thinking inside the farmbox

November temperatures in Chicago typically start out in the 50s and dip into the low 40s by the end of the month. This week, however, was extremely chilly with temperatures in the teens and even colder wind chills. According to the farmers at Nichols Farm, this unseasonable cold will bring a premature ending to some of the crops in the field, but their coolers are packed with storage crops, so there will be plenty of delicious things to come.

I made a couple more recipes from my new Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook. Both were fantastic. I received sweet potatoes and spinach in the week 24 share, and I used both in a hash, which I served with bourbon and chili glazed salmon.

Sweet potato and spinach hash

Sweet potato and spinach hash

I got lucky this week at my local Whole Foods. I wanted to purchase pork chops to make a recipe with the kabocha squash, and the butcher had just cut some thick chops with the tenderloin. This recipe was easy—just roast the squash and cook the pork in a skillet and drizzle with an extremely flavorful pumpkin seed vinaigrette.

Kabocha squash with pumpkin seed vinaigrette

Kabocha squash with pumpkin seed vinaigrette

In addition to the sweet potatoes, spinach, and kabocha squash, the share contained mixed lettuce, leeks, arugula, turnips, and broccoli.

I love garlicky roasted tomatoes, and they were delicious on top of an arugula salad with balsamic vinaigrette. I picked up a dry-rubbed strip steak at Whole Foods, and it was tasty with the salad and some glazed turnips. The steak was even better cold the next day on top of leftover salad and tomatoes.

Roasted tomatoes and arugula

Roasted tomatoes and arugula

I've been using the same apple pie recipe for years. It's from the Joy of Cooking, and my mom taught me how to make it. It has a double crust and apples seasoned with sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

However, I decided I wanted to try something different and settled on a pie that had a thick layer of crumble on top instead of crust. As I was patting the crumble on top of a large pile of apples and trying to keep it from sliding off, I was a little unsure of how the finished pie was going to turn out. It was delicious, and I will definitely make it again in the near future.


Week 23: Thinking inside the farmbox

Although, I’m calling it week 23, technically this was the first official week of the fall CSA. By the time the fall CSA rolls around, almost all the farmer’s markets in Chicago have ended for the season, so being a shareholder is a great way to continue to get fresh, local produce.

The box contained mixed lettuce, spinach, French breakfast radishes, Chioggia beets, collards, rutabaga, butternut squash, red potatoes, red onions, cauliflower, and Red Chief and Empire apples.

French breakfast radishes

French breakfast radishes

Typically, I simmer collards with smoked meat until they are tender. This week, however, I decided to try the collards recipe in Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook, which my husband got me for my birthday. The forward to the book is written by Michael Chabon, the author of one of my favorite books—The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

These collards were sautéed in olive oil and then seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes. They were spicy, crunchy, and a great accompaniment to the Creole meatloaf recipe from the same book.

Sautéed collard greens

Sautéed collard greens

I made my favorite roasted butternut squash soup, referenced in the week 15 post. However, on a whim, I added the rutabaga to it. It was so delicious, and I think I may have to permanently modify the recipe. I also made Gruyere grilled cheese for dipping. I really enjoy the saltiness of grilled cheese with the subtle sweetness of the soup.

Speaking of grilled cheese, as the weather turns colder, I begin to crave comfort foods: chicken and dumplings, stews, and pasta, which all are worth a few extra miles on the treadmill. This week, there was garlicky pasta with spinach and salads with mixed greens and radishes.

Almost all of the fall shares contain apples. Apple desserts are some of my favorites, so I’m looking forward to indulging during the next few weeks.

Do you have a favorite dessert recipe that contains apples?


Week 22: Thinking inside the farmbox

This was the last week for the summer CSA share. I am a fall share subscriber, however, so I’ll be receiving boxes filled with tasty vegetables like sunchokes, beets, carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, and kale until just before Christmas. Then, I get a little break during which I will order pizza on Fridays and make huge pots of chili and spaghetti to get me through the cold winter days in January and February.

The most interesting item in the week 22 share was the cardoons, which taste a little bit like artichokes. However, they’re a thistle, and as a result, they are spiny and will prick your fingers. Wielding a peeler, I approached the pile of celery-like stalks with careful trepidation. I was following the recipe for cardoon gratin in Hugh Acheson’s cookbook, “A New Turn in the South,“ which boiled the cardoons and then layered them with a leek cream, thyme, and breadcrumbs before putting the whole baking dish into the oven for 30 minutes. It smelled and tasted amazing, and it was worth the effort.

Cardoon gratin

Cardoon gratin

I was looking forward to preparing the cardoons, but my husband practically jumped for joy when he heard we were getting a spaghetti squash. Two years ago, we received several spaghetti squash in our CSA. With the first, I made a recipe for spaghetti squash with sausage filling, and I made it again with the second because he liked it so much. Apparently, he’s been waiting for a spaghetti squash to show up so he could request it. I was happy to oblige.

Stuffed spaghetti squash and salad

Stuffed spaghetti squash and salad

I’ve made many roasted chickens over the years, and I still can’t get it right. The end result is usually tasty, and they often end up with delicious crisp skin and moist meat, but it somehow takes far longer than I expect, and I’m always trying to keep sides warm while waiting for the chicken to finish cooking.

This particular chicken was rubbed with a lemon herb butter; stuffed with herbs and lemon; and roasted amid vegetables, including golden beets, fingerling potatoes, purple carrots, and kohlrabi. Because it was dinner on Sunday, and I have a little more time, there also were homemade biscuits, gravy, and lemony chard.

Finally, I received a huge napa cabbage. After much brainstorming, I decided to make hot-and-sour soup with shrimp, napa, and shiitake mushrooms. Although I increased the amount of curry paste, I thought it needed to be spicier. A small dime-size drop of the ghost chili hot sauce in my cupboard was a simple solution to the problem.



Week 21: Thinking inside the farmbox

I’m always trying new recipes in my home kitchen. But I'm not very adventurous when I order takeout. I rotate through several restaurants and choose the same dishes every time. One of my standbys is the panang curry, with either chicken or tofu, from the Thai restaurant down the street.

While searching for a recipe for bok choy, I stumbled upon one for roasted salmon and bok choy with a Thai red curry sauce. I added more curry paste because I like my sauces spicy, and I stir-fried broccoli along with the bok choy. Then, I stacked everything on top of brown rice and poured the delicious curry sauce over it. Instead of ordering in, I might instead be inspired to make it again the next time I have a craving for panang curry.

The week 21 box also contained Brussels sprouts; potatoes; arugula; kohlrabi; daikon radishes; carnival acorn squash (which are so pretty with their white, orange, yellow, and green exteriors); and candy onions.

Carnival acorn squash

Carnival acorn squash

I roasted the acorn squash with a little brown sugar and butter and then stuffed it with a wild rice, cranberry, and pecan mixture. Although it was similar, I thought it was a bit tastier than the recipe in the week 16 post. I tossed the arugula and thinly sliced radishes with a vinaigrette that included mustard, honey, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and served it alongside the squash.

The acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

The acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

The Brussels sprouts were sautéed with cranberries and chicken broth, and when paired with turkey cutlets and mashed potatoes, provided a preview for the big meal later in the month. I always get excited about Thanksgiving. In my house we eat, drink, and watch football in our sweatpants. It’s a fantastic day.

Brussels sprouts and cranberries

Brussels sprouts and cranberries

Week 20: Thinking inside the farmbox

I subscribe to a CSA not only because it’s fun to receive a box of fresh, local produce every week but it also helps me understand what’s in season throughout the summer and fall. This week, I received some beautiful mixed baby lettuce that prompted me to do some research. I didn’t know lettuce is a cool-season crop that grows best in spring and fall, and many varieties are even able to tolerate frost.

I also learned lettuce can be grown in a container. I’ve had some luck in the past with vegetables in my container garden, and this knowledge inspired me to consider planting lettuce in the spring next year and see how it does out on my balcony.

This week’s lettuce made fantastic salads—one with a honey dressing and the other with a mustard dressing.

The Week 20 box contained rapini, red beets, red radishes, green cabbage, sunchokes, fingerling potatoes, Japanese sweet potatoes, Italian garlic, and Romanesco cauliflower.

I love to eat both radishes and cabbage, but I have to confess that I often am stumped when trying to figure out what to prepare with them. If you have any favorite recipes for either of these, please let me know. I’d love to try them. I sliced the cabbage thinly and sautéed it with onions and then stirred in chopped prosciutto, salt, and pepper. I’m planning to use the radishes in a salad with next week’s arugula.

The Japanese sweet potatoes had purple skins and beige insides. In addition, they had a drier texture than the the sweet potatoes typically available in grocery stores. I roasted them with olive oil and sage. They were starchy like a plantain, although they were nowhere near as sweet.

Per last week’s post, I tried to come up with another method for preparing the beets. I considered eating them raw, but I thought that was similar to the previous salad recipes. As a result, I did end up roasting them, but then they were diced and stirred into a creamy horseradish dressing. And those horseradish beets were a perfect pairing for ribeye steaks. I want them to accompany every future steak on my plate.

I’ll end with a tidbit I learned from Twitter. October 21 is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Although, I was unaware of this on Sunday when I made a pumpkin ginger cheesecake pie with a gingersnap crumb crust, we were able to eat leftover pie on Tuesday and participate in the celebration. I have enough puree left over from the pie pumpkin to make some pumpkin bread—one of my seasonal favorites.

Only two weeks left for the summer share. I’ve already subscribed to the fall share, though, which will keep my boxes of vegetables coming until just before Christmas.

Week 19: Thinking inside the farmbox

Although I pick up my share on Tuesdays, some of the other shareholders pick up on Saturdays. As a result, the farmers at Nichols Farm send out an email with details about what will likely appear in the share the Friday before my pickup.

The three-day wait gives me plenty of time to get excited about the box’s contents. So, when the Week 19 email indicated the share would contain watermelon radishes, I immediately knew I wanted to use them in a recipe I saw when brainstorming what to prepare with the Week 18 items.

Then I received the box. As I was putting it away, I couldn’t hide my disappointment as I sorted through the vegetables and didn't find any radishes. Little did I know that the three round globes I thought were turnips actually were radishes. A quick Google search of what a watermelon radish looks like set me straight, and I was able to make the recipe for radishes and burrata, which tasted amazing—the salty cheese, the olive oil, and the tangy lemon and chives were a great combination.

Watermelon radishes, both fresh out of the box and sliced.

Watermelon radishes, both fresh out of the box and sliced.

I also received celeriac, German butterball potatoes, kale, Vidalia-type onions, purple cauliflower, Romanesco, carrots, mustard greens, kale, and, much to my delight, a pie pumpkin.

Other than the confusion about the radishes, I’m afraid this week’s blog might be a little boring. I used the celery root, carrots, onions, and most of the potatoes in one dish—pot roast, accompanied by wilted greens.

I roasted the Romanesco and purple cauliflower, tossing it halfway through the cooking time with a mustard dressing. It, the radishes and burrata, and roasted salmon with herbs were a delicious dinner.

Next week, there will be a pumpkin dessert (and hopefully pumpkin bread as well), made with fresh pumpkin puree. My first experience with a pie pumpkin was two years ago as a result of my CSA. And that pumpkin made the best pumpkin pie I have ever tasted.