Easy Mediterranean Summer Pasta Salad

Summer may be slowly creeping towards fall, but I’m embracing all the fresh flavors and vegetables I can still get! Just in time for Labor Day parties, I have your perfect go-to dish.

Easy Mediterranean Summer Pasta Salad

With gorgeous and crisp colors like this, how can you go wrong?

Easy Mediterranean Summer Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is super simple but incredibly tasty. The zingy, slightly sweet dressing is the perfect accompaniment to the veggies, beans and pasta. Even for someone like me who doesn’t always love vegetables, it’s a sneaky way to get something healthy on my plate.

With lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals, plus protein and carbs, this Easy Mediterranean Summer Pasta Salad is sneaky-healthy indeed. At just over 200 calories per cup, you can eat this as a snack, or even a mini-meal itself. Or, pair it with lean meat like grilled chicken or turkey burgers for a delicious, rounded out, diet-friendly meal.

Salad Ingredients:
• ¾ cup dry mini farfalle pasta
• ½ small red onion, sliced
• 3 small roma tomatoes, chopped
• 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
• 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
• 1 – 15oz. can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed
• Feta cheese (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• ½ cup red wine vinegar
• juice of ½ lemon (about 1/8 cup)
• 1 tbsp. minced red onion
• 1 tsp. oregano
• ¼ tsp. garlic powder
• 1 tsp. sugar
• salt & pepper to taste

Bring water to boil to cook your mini farfalle pasta.
(Psst, I like these mini guys because it seems like there’s more pasta than there really is. I can get a piece with every bite of veggies!)

While pasta is cooking, start to chop—chop—chop!

Slice up your red onion, tomatoes, cucumber and orange bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. You don’t want to cut the veggies too small, or your leftover salad could get soggy.

Easy Mediterranean Summer Pasta Salad

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans, then combine with veggies.

Make your salad dressing: Combine all ingredients in a shaker (I use an old-fashioned mason jar) and mix well.

Once pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water until it’s cool. Combine with veggies, pour dressing over top, and mix to combine everything.

Easy Mediterranean Summer Pasta Salad

You can eat this right away, but the longer you let the pasta salad sit, the better the flavors meld together.

Top with a sprinkling of feta cheese, if desired.

Easy Mediterranean Summer Pasta Salad

Enjoy!

Yields about 7 cups, 215 calories per cup (without cheese)

Pig Wings & Comedy Clubs

This weekend was a whirlwind!

I kicked it off with my usual exciting Friday night routine.

Saturday, I woke up at 5:25am to go run my 17-miler. It was an okay run, besides my knee hurting me for the last ten miles, and I’m proud I finished it.

After my run, an ice bath, scarfing down some eggs, and a 45-minute nap, Matt and I headed out for the farmer’s market. My weekend is incomplete without stopping by there! This week’s haul was light because I have a lot of veggies left from last week (I’ve been lazy on the cooking front), but we got: sweet corn on the cob, heirloom onions, peaches, apples and…a coconut turtle cookie bar. I thought 17 miles deserved a sweet treat, no?

After that, we met some friends at a local BBQ cook-off. I love me some BBQ but I was hot and tired, so I didn’t feel like chowing down too much. However, I did enjoy a “pig wing.” What is a pig wing, you ask? I asked too: It’s made from the shank of the pig, so it’s just one bone with a big hunk of tender, tasty meat on the end—thus looking like a chicken wing, but tasting like a BBQ pork rib.

Matt was eager once again to take a flattering picture of me eating a pig wing:

eating pig wings

Verdict—DEEEElicious!

I tried a few bites of pork from several competitors, and left feeling pretty full and sleepy.

When we got home, the food coma took over and I took another nap for 30 minutes. I was trying to bank some rest, because we had plans for the night, and I did NOT want to conk out before 10pm like I have the last two weekends.

We went to a good friend’s house in Milwaukee for some grilling out & drinks around dinnertime, and then hit up Comedy Sportz Club in downtown Milwaukee at 10pm. We had a BLAST! It was a lot of fun and we were constantly laughing. It was only $10 for the show, and the drinks there were relatively inexpensive too. I definitely recommend it for a fun night out, any local people out there. 🙂

We had such a good time at the 10 o’clock show that we stayed for the midnight “adult” show, but it was kind of a letdown compared to the first show. I think they relied too much on crude humor, so it wasn’t actually that funny (to me), but still, we had fun.

We didn’t get to bed until almost 3am—YAWN—so Sunday was a sleepy day. I went to my running club’s summer family picnic, where I ate some yummy food, had a beer & just chatted with everyone about running, life & fun stuff for a couple hours. When I got home, I must have been tired, because I conked out on the couch for 45 minutes. Ha! I never nap, but this weekend was full of them.

We topped off the weekend with a cheese plate to much on in the early afternoon:

cheese plate

Dill Havarti, Sweet Smoked Swiss, Aged Vermont Cheddar (I forget the fourth kind, but it was tasty!). We paired the cheese with some whole grain crackers, honey (so good with the cheddar), and apple slices. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs!

We followed that up with Matt’s special lasagna a few hours later—complete with homemade family recipe sauce. Mmm. It is my favorite meal in the world. We finished out the night with two of our favorite TV shows right now: Breaking Bad and The Newsroom.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Did you do anything fun? What’s your favorite way to end the weekend? Any favorite TV shows?

Chicago Marathon Training, Week 10 recap

Wow, week 10 is done already?! The weeks have really flown by, so I guess that means my training’s been going well. This week has had its ups and downs, though, as did my long run of 17 miles…and I might be dealing with a slight injury. 😦

Sunday, August 18th: rest

Monday: 4 miles • 9:55/mile
I took some frustrations out on this run, so it was great to push it hard and feel accomplished when I finished. I ran the four miles progressively faster, with splits of 10:46, 10;33, 9:36 and 8:42. That last mile was fast!

Tuesday: cross train – biking
Met up with some lovely ladies for a medium-effort bike ride for an hour along the lake. Good time!

Wednesday: 4 miles • DNR
I wasn’t feeling a run and my legs were tired. I decided I’d run an easy couple miles on Friday to loosen up, but…See Friday’s recap.

Thursday: 8 miles  10:43/mile
This run really pushed me. I met up with a couple people and we ran on trails for all 8 miles, which was fun. Trails are my favorite! Plus, it was great to give the legs a break from pounding pavement. The small hills and different muscles you use for trail running were really challenging, so by the end I was spent and glad to be done. Considering this was on trails, my pace per mile was quite fast; usually, I run around 11:15/mile pace for trails.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have pushed it so hard, because later that night my left knee started to ache a little. Usually my right knee gives me pain due to IT band issues, so it was weird that my left knee was yellin’ at me. I iced my knee, took some ibuprofen and figured it’d be fine, but it came back to haunt me Saturday…

Friday: rest
That trail run kicked my butt, and I was psyching myself out for Saturday’s long run, so I didn’t make up any miles from Wednesday’s missed run. I thought the more rest for my legs, the better!

Saturday: 17 miles • 10:38/mile
Well, I did it! In exactly 3 hours, I ran 17 miles.

I still can’t believe I actually ran that far!!!

My friend Jess ran with me, and thank goodness, because I don’t know if I could have done it without the support of another runner. I felt pretty good starting off, but by mile 6 or so my left knee started to ache again. I’m not sure how to even describe the pain, as it’s not the typical pain I feel from IT band issues in my other knee. This pain was on the side of the knee, on the outside, and sort of felt like what I’d imagine arthritis feels like? Sometimes it just felt achy, but then sometimes (especially after stopping for a minute to stretch) it was really painful. A few times it felt like my knee was going to simply give out. My left lower back was also tight and started to hurt, so I have to figure it’s probably all connected…

By mile 7, I could tell that the pain wasn’t going to go away, despite stopping to stretch, so I hoped for the best and gritted my teeth.

For 10 more miles.

I have to say, I kind of feel like a badass since I could deal with that pain for 10 miles. But, maybe I could also be called a dumbass for continuing to run with the pain, as afterwards my knee hurt so bad I was pretty much hobbling around all day.

I got in a [really wimpy] ice bath for 10 minutes when I got home, which I think helped all of my muscles. Matt thought the whole concept of the ice bath was pretty funny I guess, because he was quite eager to help pour all of the ice in and then take pictures of my reaction…

post-run ice bath

Brr.

The ice bath must have helped, because today (Sunday) I’m not sore and my knee is barely hurting at all when I walk, go up & down stairs, etc. Nonetheless, I think I’ll just be cross-training for a few days, and doing some detective work on what might be going on and how I can help it.

This week’s schedule:

  • Sunday: rest/PT
  • Monday: 60 minutes cross-train
  • Tuesday: 5 miles/PT – will substitute biking
  • Wednesday: 8 miles – will substitute biking
  • Thursday: 5 miles/PT – will probably run a very easy 3-4 miles to see how my knee feels
  • Friday: rest
  • Saturday: 18 miles

Any ideas on what might be wrong with my knee? How do you deal with injuries during and after your runs? Any advice? 

Friday Routines

Every Friday, I kind of feel…totally lame.

You see, as a young twenty-something, Friday nights used to be my time to go out, let loose and kick off the weekend. Go out for drinks and dancing with girlfriends; take advantage of happy hour with co-workers; go out for [a usually over-indulgent] dinner & drinks with Matt. That’s how Friday nights used to roll around here.

Now that I’ve dived headfirst into marathon training, however, my Fridays take on quite a different spin.

These Fridays, I usually come home and make my own dinner. I need to make sure I’m putting good food—good fuel—into my body. No fake, pumped up meats; minimal fats and oils; no artificial preservatives and chemicals—just good, filling, wholesome food. Don’t get me wrong: I do like to cook, especially on the grill during these summer months, and I usually have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner… Maybe even one more after dinner. But, that’s it. Followed by lots of water. Hydration, hydration, hydration!

Then, I say hello to my little sadistic friend, the foam roller. It hurts so good, and I have to admit that I often wonder what the heck the neighbors think, if they can hear me while I’m using it in the middle of the living room. It helps loosen up any knots and tight muscles in preparation for the many miles I’ll be running on Saturday morning, but I sure wish it didn’t make me whine and grunt in pain so much.

Next, I assemble the troops. A 5:30am wake-up call on Saturday means I need to get everything ready to go the night before: Check the weather and pick out my running outfit; fill my water bottles; decide what fuel I need to take with me and put into the fuel belt; pack a bag with extra clothes for post-run coffee time with the running club. Oh yeah, better check the Garmin and make sure it’s charged. And, where is my inhaler and that extra hair tie?! [Commence digging through bottomless purse pit.]

After all of this is done, it’s time to relax. Half the time, I’ve already said goodbye to my fiancé, who decides to live Friday nights like a normal 20-something and head out to play darts with some buddies. I settle in on the couch with a movie or some DVR’ed TV shows (or, this is embarrassing, maybe some Dateline). Then I call it a night…usually by 10 o’clock. Sweet life.

Honestly, I say that it’s oh-so-lame, but…I kind of like it. I have to give up Friday nights so I can get up early Saturday mornings on top of my game. But, the feeling after getting in a looong run before 9am Saturday morning has a way of kicking off the weekend to feel like anything’s possible.

After all, who needs Friday night out…when you have all day Saturday and Saturday night to celebrate? 🙂

(I just better make sure to get a little nap time in, first!)

What’s your pre-long run routine? Do you find yourself staying in more and tempering old habits to help your training, or have you found a balance?  

Rando Dinner + I Need Fuel Advice

Do guacamole & chips count as dinner?

guacamole and chips

What about if you round it out with some cherries?

cherries!

And gobble down some teddy grahams, like a child…

teddy grahams

Gosh, how do you forget how tasty those little teddy grahams are?

Today was supposed to be a 4-mile run day, but the temps have spiked this week to the 90s (despite feeling like fall the last couple weeks), so I decided to take the day off. I think I’m going to (sort of) make up for it with a 2-3 mile easy run Friday, instead. Should be cooled down by then!

In the meantime, I will be doing some PT for my knees & core while I catch up on my many-DVRed TV shows…

I have to admit, I’m getting nervous for the 17-mile run I have this weekend. I don’t know why. I guess for 15 miles I thought, “Oh, that’s just over a half marathon, no biggie.”

But 17?! It seems sooo farrrr. I felt great after my 15-miler a couple weeks ago, so I’m trying to keep that in mind.

I definitely need to get some more fuel before the long run this weekend. I eat Shot Bloks (yummy, like giant fruit snack gummies) all the time, but I haven’t tried anything new during training yet. Since I’ll be running almost 3 hours, I’ll need more than a pack of Shot Bloks to keep me going. I tried a couple Jelly Belly Sport Beans from a runner friend a few weeks ago and liked them, but feel like I’d have to eat a LOT of them to stay fueled, which might be annoying. Gu and other gels kinda gross me out; I think the texture will be a problem for me. Any recommendations out there?

Maybe I can bring some teddy grahams… Ha!

How do you fuel during your long runs? Help! 

Beating Monday

There’s nothing better than kicking the crap outta your Monday with a hard, fast run.

I’m not sure why, but today was just frustrating and confusing. It was a Monday.

So, after work, I headed out for an out-and-back 4-mile run. As I started, I felt like I was light on my feet and movin’ well, but when I looked at my watch, I was chugging along at a super speedy 11-minute pace. HA. Usually, I don’t mind the old slow-and-steady approach, but after the blah day I had, I needed something more.

Mile 1 passed me by. I clocked in at 10:46. Okay, that’s my normal easy pace. I can live with that.

But I picked it up a little. Beep. My watch informed me I ran mile 2 in 10:33.

I turned around for the 2 miles back to where I started. A song came on, the beat felt good. I turned it up. I didn’t want to think. Didn’t want to hear my breathing, the slap of my feet on the pavement. I didn’t really want to feel anything besides the harsh breath forcing its way in & out of my chest, the pump of my arms like pistons, the turnover of my legs like spinning wheels.

Mile three flew by in 9:36.

But it still wasn’t enough. I had to push it further, faster. Push myself forward, and leave everything else behind.

Beep.

8:42. Mile 4. I was done.

8:42? I didn’t even know that was possible. I can run that fast?

It felt good.

I felt good.

Nothing can turn a day around like a kick-ass run.

Top that off with coming home…

To a glass of chocolate milk.

I love chocolate milk.

And now for an embarrassing post-run picture.

A steak, potato and corn on the cob, made by the man of the house. My favorite.

081913-steak

Not a bad recovery dinner.

How do YOU beat Mondays? 

Hope your week is off to a speedy & happy start!

This Weekend: Farmer’s Market & Fantasy Football

This weekend has been a fun one! Let’s rewind to Friday.

I got out of work at lunchtime and kicked off the weekend with…a trip to the dentist, followed by a couple hours of cleaning house! Woohoo. Not the most fun things, but things that need to be done. Now we’ll move on to the fun stuff.

After my chores, I spent an hour or two under the willow trees on the back porch.

Willows

The leaves may be a pain in the ass, but I love these giant, old trees!

Enjoying a beer on the porch

I enjoyed a beer, and made some progress on the book “Wool” by Hugh Howey. Matt has been hounding me to finish it, because it’s on his Kindle and I’ve hijacked it from him for a few weeks. Whoops. I did finish the book this weekend, though. Overall, it was slow to start but the plot is quite good, and the last quarter of the book made it hard to put down. It’s the first book in a series called the “Silo Saga,” so once Matt lets me steal his Kindle again, I’ll be continuing. He’s obsessed with the series himself.

I spent Friday evening helping Matt get some food made for Saturday’s party (4 pounds of sloppy joes), watching a movie & heading to bed early. The 5:30AM wake-up call on Saturday mornings for long runs = early bedtimes. Every Saturday morning, I question myself when I wake up on Saturday earlier than I normally wake up for work. Blah. But, getting the run done early & in the cool hours makes it worth it.

I got my 13.1 mile run in, came home, chowed down some eggs, then hit up the farmer’s market.

cherries & cucumbers

I love getting all that fresh, local food! This week’s haul included some giant cucumbers, broccoli, romaine lettuce, peaches, cherries, a homemade chocolate brownie, smoked salmon and a giant cinnamon bun. Yum.

081813-flowers1

I also picked up these gorgeous flowers for $5! In love with them.

081813-flowers2

I didn’t have long before all the guys started to trickle in and Fantasy Football Draft day began.

MANY beers were consumed by the guys. I enjoyed a couple mimosas early on & a few beers and sloppy joes later.

081813-sloppyjoe

A beer pong tournament for draft pick order ensued. It was fun to hang out with everyone, but when they finally started the actual draft, I was quickly bored… I escaped upstairs to watch a movie and was falling asleep by 9:30. Lame-O Amanda. I guess that’s what happens when you wake up at 5:30 in the morning and run 13 miles, though. At that point in the night, I don’t think anyone really missed me. 😉

Now I’m just looking forward to a relaxing Sunday, grilling up some steaks and having some down time before another crazy week begins.

How was your weekend? Do you like to take it easy on Sundays, or make the most of the weekend with a Sunday Funday?

I’m very much a take-it-easy person myself, after working hard and running around all week!