Friday Five: Fueling Food Favorites

A topic that is near and dear to me…FOOD!  For this Friday’s Five, I’ll share my favorite food fueling options.  These are the must haves for me while training for races.  Some of them are pretty typical, others not so much!

Mexican Food

Seriously.  It is by far my favorite meal to eat before a long run.  Some people shy away from it, for fear that it will cause tummy issues, but I have found that it is exactly the right balance of what I need for my long runs.  I usually opt for a steak burrito of some sort with a ton of rice and beans.  The mix of the protein and carbs is just right and it keeps me fueled for my long runs.  I haven’t honestly found anything else that works as well for me.  Add in the chips and salsa too!  It’s the perfect pre long run meal for me. chipsandsalsa


I just recently found out that I have a really low level of potassium and I need to make sure that I put it back into my body after my long runs.  Most people would just grab a banana, but unfortunately, I get the absolute worst heartburn from bananas.  I can’t even tell you the last time I had one.  I asked the doctor for other potassium rich foods so that I could make sure that I consciously include them.  When he said avocado, I about cheered!  They are my favorite after school snack.  I add a teeny bit of salt and will just eat it right out of the halfed shell.  It’s so good!avocado

Noosa Yoghurt

I’m addicted!  I love all types of yogurt, but this one reminds me so much of the yummy, velvety yogurt I had when we visited Sweden years ago.  I woke up every morning and headed to the breakfast in our hotel and would enjoy the creamiest, smoothest yogurt ever!  I’ve tried all kinds of yogurt for years looking for something similar but had no luck until I tried Noosa on a whim.  After that first bite, I knew I had found something similar!  I love that it’s an 8oz serving which is perfect for breakfast or a pre-run snack.  I’m fortunate that I can eat dairy before a run without having any tummy issues.  They came out with a pumpkin flavored one for Fall which I cannot wait to try!Chocolate Milk

I counted chocolate milk as one of my necessary “gear” items yesterday so it definitely makes my list for fueling options.  Chocolate milk is an absolute must have for me after a long run.  I like the kicked up chocolate milk from Shamrock Farms.  Their Rockin’ Refuel milks are awesome.  They add extra protein to chocolate milk to make it 20g and it’s the perfect 2 to 1 carb-to-protein ratio.  Post Long Run Breakfast

Whether it’s pancakes, a veggie omelet, a Mexican egg bowl and cat head biscuits from Smith Street Diner, or a bagel and cream cheese, a post long run breakfast is a must!  We often plan our runs around where we will eat breakfast after finish and will change locations depending on what we have a taste for!  It is sometimes my motivation to get in my miles.  With our recent 18 and 20 miler runs, breakfast became lunch and we headed to two of our favorite places for a brew and sandwich.  Eating something right after a long run is essential to recovery!

Happy Week!






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Eat your Veggies!

Anytime we have to bring a snack to share, I almost always bring my spinach dip!  It has become a staple at most of our parties and I took it to my parent’s cookout on Sunday.  For something that is so easy to make, it’s amazing how good it tastes.  Everyone loves it and it never sticks around very long once it’s served.

Spinach Dip

1 box of frozen chopped spinach

16oz of sour cream

1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Dip

1 can of diced water chestnuts

salt and pepper, to taste

Defrost the spinach.  The way I do that is to take a colander and place the frozen spinach block in it.  I run hot water over it, breaking it up as it defrosts.  After it’s broken apart, I gather it into a spinach ball and squeeze out as much water as I can!  Set the spinach aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream and the ranch dip.  Stir with a spoon until it completely blended together.  Add in the spinach and the diced water chestnuts.  Stir again.  I usually add a little bit of salt and a lot of pepper, more than I think I actually need.  I usually taste as I go along.  Use the salt and pepper to your taste.  I’ll chill it in the fridge until it’s served.  I usually buy Scoops to serve with it.  You definitely want a heavier chip that can hold up against this dip.  Regular thin tortilla chips usually break!spinachdip


Super easy to make!  It literally takes maybe 10 minute from start to finish.  The creaminess from the sour cream with the crunch of the water chestnuts and the mix of salt and pepper with the spinach just make this dip amazing!  I also love the simplicity of this dip.  It’s no frills, but super tasty!


As many times as I’ve made this, I can’t find one.spinachdip2


Easy Pasta Salad

I have not made pasta salad in a while and it seemed like the perfect time to make a batch this weekend for our cookout.  This recipe is seriously one of the easiest things to make, but the flavors are awesome!  It’s even better the next day once it marinates all together.

160z of corkscrew pasta (I like to use the tri color pasta just for the color)

Assorted veggies (tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and green pepper) about one cup each chopped to bite sized pieces

One small can of sliced, pitted black olives

One packet of Good Season Italian dressing (Make dressing per directions on packet)

salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as directed on package.  Once drained, set aside to cool.  While the pasta is cooking, chop all of the veggies. Mix them together in a large bowl.   Add in the pasta.  At this point, you will want to make the Italian dressing according to the directions on the packet.  I use a dressing bottle that I bought with a packet a long time ago.  It’s super handy!  Shake the dressing and pour it over the pasta and veggies.  Mix together until it is coated well.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Place in the fridge until served. pastasalad


Again another really quick and tasty recipe!  From start to finish, maybe 15 minutes.  The variety of vegetables can be changed to suit your tastes.  Add in your favorite vegetables and even cheese!  It’s also a great recipe to make ahead of time and eat throughout the week as a side dish.  It actually tastes better the more it marinates together.


Really, not a one. laborday4

What’s on your table today?  Check out other delicious dishes at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursday or Pint Sized Baker.

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Greek Food…GOOD!

Greek Style Pork Chops

I found this awesome recipe in the latest Cooking Light and I knew I instantly wanted to make it!  Add in that pork chops were on sale this week and it was a no brainer.  Nick shopped for the ingredients and we luckily had most of everything other than the fresh veggies and chops.  You all know I love a pantry recipe!

Because we made this on Sunday, we were able to prep everything up during the day until we were ready to cook.  This has made me start thinking that maybe Sundays might start becoming a prep-for-the-week day for us.  We’ll see.  It sure would help with planning and cooking meals.

I put together the marinade for the chops into two separate baggies.  I really wasn’t too specific with the measurements of the red wine vinegar and olive oil.  I did put a clove of garlic in each bag though.  I added the pork chops and let them marinate until we cooked them.  The recipe suggested 20 minutes, but we probably did at least an hour.  I quickly made the dill sauce, which was super easy.  By combining the leftover vinegar and olive oil with Greek yogurt and dill, it made a topping for the pork chops.  We chilled that until it was needed.  Nick and I tagged team cutting up the tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion to make the “salsa”.  I mixed it all into a small bowl and also threw that in the fridge.  Once it was time to grill, Nick threw the chops onto our cast iron skillet and cooked them about 6 minutes on the first side and maybe 4-5 more once he flipped them.   We topped each pork chop with some of the dill sauce and added the salsa to the side.  I also made some brown rice as a side.



This was by far one of the most flavorful dinners we’ve cooked yet!  The marinade packed a lot of zing to the pork chops and you could taste the garlic and vinegar, but it wasn’t overpowering either.  My favorite bite was one with a piece of pork covered in the creamy dill sauce and a little bit of salsa for the fresh tomato, cucumber and onion.  I honestly thought this was better than some of the food we’ve gotten at our local Greek restaurant.  This recipe would be great by using chicken, as well.  I could also see cutting it up into pieces and putting into a pita with the sauce and “salsa”.  It would be awesome!


We apparently like saltier food and with this being a Cooking Light recipe, they may limit the amount of salt, but I found that we had to salt the dill dip and the salsa a bit more than suggested.  That could just be our own personal tastes though.  Either way, that was the only suggestion I would have to improve the recipe.

2014-08-17 18.38.45-2

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Chicken Orzo Salad Revamped

I started with this recipe, but really wanted to change it a little bit and revamp it to be a bit more flavorful and pull in some Greek flavors.  So I went with spinach vs argula and substituted feta for the goat cheese.  I also added in some cucumbers and Kalamata olives.  Everything is better with some Kalamata olives!  I started the pasta water and worked on chopping all of the veggies and olives.  I heated up the chicken strips after draining the cooked pasta.  I mixed the chicken, pasta, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives into a bowl.   I added the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper tossed it just a bit to cover everything well.  Everyone topped their own bowl with a bit of crumbled feta. chickenorzo

PROS: Again, another easy recipe that requires very little prep and cooking time.  I really loved the changes I made to the original recipe.  It was very tasty and is awesome served warm or cold.  We had some leftovers too which I ate for lunch this week.  Definitely keeping this in mind for future weeks!

CONS: Not a thing!  From start to finish, easy peasy!



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It’s a 2 For!

You heard that right!  It’s a 2 for! 2 recipes for one blog post!

I got so creative this week, that I cooked dinner and a warm dessert!  Go me!  I had just planned to cook dinner, but then Cooking Light had to go and post this delicious looking berry dessert and I couldn’t resist. I just had to make it.


So to start first with dinner, Beef, Cheese, and Noodle Bake from Cooking Light also.

We bought some really good ground beef from the Fresh Market this week (on sale!) so I found this recipe while searching for something different to cook.  We usually tend to stick with spaghetti or tacos when we have beef.

I started the pasta water and then worked on sautéing the onions and carrots first, adding the garlic after a few minutes.  I added in the beef, cooking it until it started to crumble.  I added in the tomato sauce, salt and pepper and let that cook down until it just started to thicken.  I drained the macaroni once it was finished and added it to the meat mixture, mixing it all together.  Boy did it smell good!!

I spooned the pasta mix into a casserole dish and let it sit for a minute while I made a slurry with the milk, flour, nutmeg and the remaining salt, combining it into a sauce pan and letting it thicken up while I whisked it.  I added in a cup of cheese and stirred it until it was melted and smooth.  I poured cheesy goodness over the pasta in the casserole dish.  Finally topped it all with remaining shredded cheese and put it in the oven to melt and brown.  It looked awesome when I pulled it from the oven; super bubbly and cheesy.   We couldn’t wait to dig in!bake

PROS:  This was a great alternative for us instead of our usual spaghetti or tacos when we buy beef.  It was a pretty easy dish to make too!  I could see us pre-making everything on a Sunday and storing it in the fridge to cook on Monday.  It tasted awesome!  It was cheesy but not overkill.  Adding in the slurry helped to thicken it without making it heavy, actually.  A definite comfort food and would be great in the winter.  We had a ton of leftovers which became lunches for the rest of the week.  Huge plus!  This will definitely make it’s way into our rotation!

CONS: Honestly, the only thing that I’d suggest would be to add a bit more salt.  We just seasoned our dishes to taste when we served them.  I think I’d add in some red pepper flakes next time too just to add another dimension to it.bakefinished

Now onto dessert!  The good stuff!

Angel Food Cake with Berry Compote

I love when I’m scanning through Facebook and Cooking Light posts something that just makes me want to cook it right then.  That’s what happened with this recipe!  With the blueberries and blackberries being so amazingly good right now, it was the perfect thing to make.  I picked up the berries while shopping for our dinners this week.  I didn’t find raspberries, so I just opted for just the black and blueberries for the compote.  I washed all the berries and put them into our smaller sized crockpot.  I added in the orange juice (no pulp!) and sugar and placed it on high and let it cook for 2 hours.  About 15 minutes out from serving it, I mixed cornstarch and water and added that to the crockpot to help thicken up the sauce.  I let it cook until it thickened up pretty good.  We scooped out the warm yummy sauce and put it over pieces of cake.  It was scrumptious!berrycompote

PROS: Easy, so so easy!  What’s better than throwing everything in the crockpot and letting it do the work for you!  It is the perfect dessert to make anytime and would be awesome to make for guests or for an occasion where you needed to take a dessert.  We love our smaller crockpot for that reason and have taken warm dips to parties before and this would be just the right recipe for make-your-own dessert.  The gooey goodiness with the berries, with just a hint of citrus from the oj, make it just the right balance with the cake.  I wish I would have bought some whipped cream to top them with!  Seriously amazing!

CONS: We ate it all and there wasn’t any leftovers.  It was seriously that good!  Can’t wait to make it again.dessert



What’s on your table today?  Check out other delicious dishes at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursday or Pint Sized Baker.

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It’s All Greek to Me

Something about delicious Greek food and summer that just goes hand in hand.  The Greek-style Chicken Wrap (Cooking Light August 2014) is exactly the type of thing I like to eat when it’s hot out; not too heavy, fresh veggies to add a bit of coolness, and the salt from the olives and feta cheese just hits the spot.  I also like the use of hummus vs mayo to help create a creaminess without the extra heaviness.

Greek-Style Chicken Wrap

This recipe is THE easiest thing ever!  It took all of 20 minutes to prep and put the wraps together.   Using a rotisserie chicken saved a huge amount of cooking time and it’s adds so much good flavor to the “salad”.  I chopped up all the veggies, while Nick picked apart the chicken.  Perfect for a quick weeknight’s dinner!  We made a double batch so we’d have leftovers for lunches all week. greeksaladingredients

PROS:  Super easy to put together and the use of a rotisserie chicken saves time!  This can all be made in one bowl so clean-up is a breeze.  The flavor is really good.  The saltiness from the olives and feta, the freshness from the tomatoes, cucumber is nice and the lemon juice adds a bit of tang to it.  By dressing it with just olive oil and hummus kept it really light.  This would also be great with crackers vs the wrap for another meal idea.  I also used a scoop of the “salad”  in my scrambled eggs yesterday and it was awesome!

CONS:  The recipe suggests using 8 in tortilla wraps which ended up being way too small to make a decent wrap.  The next time we make it, I will use the larger sized wraps.  greekstylewrap

What’s on your table today?  Check out other delicious dishes at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursday or Pint Sized Baker.


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Dinner Becomes Lunch – Why not?!

I had all our meals figured out but we had some fun thrown our way so our dinner plans changed a bit  yesterday and that’s totally great!  So dinner yesterday got bumped to lunch today with leftovers for the rest of the week.  In the past that would have derailed our meals completely, but we just revamped our meal plan.

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomato and Cheese

This is the recipe I picked for this week, mainly because I had leftover sausage that I froze from our last Italian food night but I wanted to try something that was more along the lines of a casserole.  What better than a version of baked ziti!  This was a really easy “pantry” dish to make; we literally had everything to make this and it’s a huge plus when it comes to throwing something together for dinner.  zitiingredientsI was a solo cooker for this one since I made it during the day while Nick was at work.  I started browning the sausage, onion and garlic while the water for the pasta came to a boil.  I threw in the noodles and finished up crumbling the sausage.  Once the pasta was done cooking and drained, I transferred the sausage mix to the pasta pot (I needed something bigger than the frying pan I was using) and added in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and salt and pepper.  Once that came to a boil, I let it simmer for a bit, I added the ziti to the pot and mixed it all together.  I layered it into a casserole dish, using only half of the pasta mix and topping it with Mozzarella and Parmesan, then doing the same with the other half of the pasta. Then it was time for it to go into the oven and turn into a pan of bubbly, cheesy awesomeness. ziti


PROS: It’s super easy and with only a few ingredients, it’s one of those recipes that can easily be replicated on a weeknight quickly without making a stop at the grocery store on the way home.  This dish rocks my socks!  This is everything that I love about Italian food:  cheesy, spicy (hot Italian sausage…good!), the little bit of crunch from the cheese and pasta from baking in the oven, so good!  It’s a definite keeper in our monthly meal rotation!  You will have leftovers!  And everyone knows that pasta is so much better the day after too.  This would also make a great casserole to take to a potluck.  You could even make this completely meatless too. Definite keeper!

CONS: Not a darn one!  Seriously.  I can’t think of a thing!  Win Win!!



What’s on your table today?  Check out other delicious dishes at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursday or Pint Sized Baker.

Italian Cooking Mojo

To continue in my pursuit of summertime cooking, I added in two new recipes this week, Greek Style Chicken and Quick Rotini with Tomato Sauce and Sausage.  The Greek Chicken was a hit last night!  Could I possibly go 4 for 4 on my cooking?!  Hopefully my Italian Grandma and Grandpa were looking down on me and would grace me with some serious cooking mojo!

When I first read the recipe, I knew that I would switch out the turkey sausage for real Italian sausage. Although, I like turkey sausage, Nick isn’t a big fan of it.  I also got a mix of mild and hot sausage for the sauce.  We like a little kick in our food but didn’t want it to be too spicy for Hayden.  It ended up being a perfect blend!pastapic

Nick helped me cook the sausage.  He took off the casing before putting it in the pan and crumbled up the links as he cooked it.  While he did that, I got the salted water boiling for the rotini and chopped up the arugula and onion for the sauce.  I added them to the sausage mix and we let that cook down just a bit more until the onion started to soften up.  About this time, the pasta was finished and we transferred the sausage into the pasta pot along with the crushed tomatoes and spices.  That came up to a quick boil and we threw in the pasta, stirring it all together.

PROS: Quick pasta dish!  I loved that everything was mixed together into one big pot at the end, which helps with cleaning up along the way.  The ingredients were all pantry items for us except for the arugula and sausage.  The flavor was amazing!  It reminded me of one of my favorite spicy Italian sausage dishes at a local restaurant.  I now know I can make a dish close to that for the same cost and feed all of us.  A big win for us!

CONS: The cost of arugula was a bit expensive, granted it smelled wonderful when I was chopping it.  I could only find a tiny packet for $3.59.  Next time, I’ll probably go with the suggestion on the recipe and use spinach.  We can at least make salads with any leftover spinach. pasta2


What’s on your table today?  Check out other delicious dishes at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursday.

Summertime Melanie = Cooker Melanie!

So my goal for this summer is really to kick up the cooking at home.  Usually my husband is the cook and I’m on clean-up crew, but I figured with me being home now, I can roll up my sleeves and start preparing and cooking some meals.  We are usually pretty limited in what we cook during the school year due to time, homework, and both of us working, but with summertime here, I’m embracing my inner cooker!

Our daughter is visiting my sister with my mom for the week so we used this time to choose some recipes that she wouldn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole.  So I found Spicy Shrimp and Fettuccine while trolling through recipes on Cooking Light and knew that we’d try that this week.

I went grocery shopping today for all the ingredients.  The thing I love about this recipe is that most of the things we needed, we already had.  I love a pantry friendly recipe!  I grabbed some NC shrimp and some fresh Roma tomatoes and we had ourselves a meal waiting to be cooked!

Nick helped me out too.  It was great to spend some quality time together while we cooked.  Definitely something we need to do more of!  We washed, shelled and de-veined the shrimp, making it a contest to see who could get through his/her bowl first.  He won, of course.  All those years of visiting his grandparents in Maryland growing up, where his granddad would buy peel-and-eat shrimp by the pound for him and his brothers, came in handy.spicyshrimpfettuccine

I started the pasta water while Nick sauteed the red pepper and garlic.  After a minute or two,  he added in the shrimp and cooked it for just a bit more. I quickly chopped up the tomatoes and threw them into the pot with some dollops of sour cream, tomato paste, basil, salt and pepper.  We let that come back up to a boil.  At this point, we tasted the sauce and thought it needed just a bit more red pepper and salt, so we added more.  I made a Caesar side salad to go with the dish.  Once the pasta was done, we made our plates and sat down to enjoy this tasty meal.

PROS:  The taste!  Holy smokes!  This is awesome!  For being so easy to make and the minimal amount of ingredients, this dish would hold its own at any Italian restaurant.  The base sauce could also be used on chicken or Italian sausage. The chunks of tomato and the creaminess from adding the sour cream make a very nice sauce without being too heavy like a creamy alfredo could be.  It would also be a great base sauce for meatball subs!  The salad’s acidity with the pasta was amazing!  I would make the perfect bite on my fork with a little bit of salad and a piece of tomato and shrimp.  YUM!

CONS: We like our food a bit more spicy and we added just a bit more red pepper.  Other than that, this dish was a complete success!spicyshrimpfettuccine2I’ve linked up with Miz Helen’s Country Cottage for Full Plate Thursday.  Check out other great recipes and fill your plate this summer!


Happy eating!!

Weekly Fitness (and Meal) Plan #2- UPDATED!

I am almost on SUMMER VACATION!  I have just two days left to work for the year (Monday and Tuesday), then summer is here! And with summer, it means I can work out at different times of the day and hit some new-to-me classes at the Y.  I’m super excited!


This week’s fitness plan:

Daily:  The 30 day Ab Challenge and 30 Day Buns, Guns and Abs Challenge

Monday:  Super fun workout planned!  3 miles before a group of us hit yoga at Center City Park.  Each Monday and Wednesday they do Fitness by the Fountain.

Tuesday:  Meeting my friend to run 4-5 miles earlier in the day

Wednesday:  Early morning run with some friends and Tabata, if I can get myself up in time

Thursday: Hitting a BodyPump class at the Y and I’ll run some miles before with some friends

Friday:  Meeting Katie to do my long run for the weekend in the morning

Saturday:  I’ll log some miles in at some point, 3-5 miles

Sunday:  The same, just get some miles in

Weekly mileage goal:  25-30 miles


I’m going to work on my food plan soon!  With the extra time, I think I’m going to give it a shot next week.  Fingers crossed!


I had time to plan out some meals for the week!  I’m trying two new recipes and making one good ol’ standby.

So this week’s menu will be:

Spicy Shrimp and Fettuccine (new recipe!)

Flank Steak with Avocado and Two-Tomato Salsa (another new recipe!)

Mexican chicken and black beans (an old stand-by)  I’ll post the recipe this week.

I’m really excited to try out the first two dishes.  Trying to mix it up a bit for dinner now that I’m home.