Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hearty Pasta e Fagioli

As the days get shorter and the temperatures cooler, I find myself craving comfort food.  This heartier version of a familiar dish hits the spot!!

 This recipe is a twist on the Pasta e Fagioli soup you may have had at Olive Garden.  The twist is adding less liquid to make it more hearty and less soupy. This is a homemade version with the same great flavors and it can be made with or without meat. This makes a great weeknight dinner.

 Most of the prep involves opening cans and dicing vegetables. You can substitute kidney beans and cannellini beans for the pinto and great white northern beans if you prefer. Don't leave out the Frank's RedHot sauce it adds some great flavor, without much heat. You can find it in the condiment aisle of the grocery store.

 This recipe makes enough for 6-8 people, and can't be easily reduced so we had some leftover.  I take my lunch to work everyday and most days it's a pb and j sandwich or a frozen 
diet meal ....unless we have leftovers.  So this gave me a few days of yummy lunches!

Pasta e Fagioli
1 teaspoon oil
1 lb. ground beef
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (16 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (16 oz) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups broth, vegetable or beef
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Frank's RedHot sauce
1 jar (24 oz) spaghetti sauce
8 ounces dry pasta, ditalini or shell

Heat oil in large pot.  Add beef and cook until browned. Add carrots, onion, celery and tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients to the pot (beans, broth, Italian herbs, pepper, parsley, Frank's sauce, spaghetti sauce and noodles).  

Simmer for about 45 minutes.  Until pasta is cooked, carrots and celery are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.

Serves 6-8

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Candy

 I love this time of year, cooler temps, pumpkin flavored treats, apple cider and Halloween.  It's great having a child with an October birthday - we had a Halloween themed party every year!  Of course candy is an important part of the holiday.

Growing up my brother, best friend and I would map out our route for the 2 hour trick-or-treating window.  We wanted to hit as many houses as possible and of course hit all the houses we knew gave out the best stuff like full size candy bars or homemade cider doughnuts or had the best decorated house.  Our goal was to collect as much candy as we could in our paper grocery bags before we had to be home.   Once home, we sorted, traded and stuffed our faces with candy. ;) I have great memories of Halloween!

Since then my goal for Halloween as changed, not so much about collecting all the candy I can, in fact I try to satisfy my sweet tooth without over doing it.  If you find it hard to resist all the candy you are giving out, you don't  have to.  I find depriving myself of something only makes me want it more, and makes me miserable.  So have some candy, just be smart about what you choose.
To help you make those decisions here is some information about the candy you might be seeing this weekend, or sooner if you've already broken into your candy stash.

Almond Joy
snack size
Baby Ruth
fun size
fun size
Kit Kat
M&M Milk chocolate
fun size
M&M  peanut
fun size
Milky Way
fun size
Swedish fish
treat size
Sour Patch Kids
treat size
Reese’s peanut butter pumpkin
snack size
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate
snack size

If you think you know a lot of useless information about candy or want to learn some, try the 10 question
candy trivia quiz and see how you do.  You can brag about your score in the comment section.

Happy Halloween!!

What is your favorite Halloween candy and/or memory?  (I love reese's peanut butter pumpkins, eggs, christmas trees, hearts...)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Happy 21st Birthday!

First sight of the 21 year old!
I do some of my best thinking while running and one of the better ideas I have had is to take each of my children on a trip of their choice for their 21st birthday. It is a trip for just the two of us and is a great memory for both of us to share.  I came up with this when I realized I have no recollection of how I celebrated my 21st birthday and I didn't want that to be the case for them, plus with them getting older and their lives getting busier, opportunities like this won't always be available.

My oldest turned 21 in 2009 and we visited Seattle together.  This month child #2 turned 21 and she picked a trip to Vermont.  We went on our trip this past week.
Beautiful fall colors
We spent 4 days in Vermont starting in Burlington and visiting a different part of the state each day as well as a day trip to New Hampshire.  For those of you who experience fall every year it may be no big deal, but we have not lived in a part of the country that has fall for 16+ years.  So traveling to a cooler climate with beautiful fall scenery is very exciting.  To the locals we were considered leaf peepers and Vermont is a popular destination.
Franconia Notch State Park, NH
In making a schedule for our trip, we considered what Vermont had to offer as well as what interested us and created a daily itinerary.  We were not bound to this but we have found that we enjoy our trips so much more, when we are well prepared. It takes a lot of preplanning, but is well worth it.  

Day 1 - Highlights in downtown Burlington:  We ate lunch at Stone Soup and had delicious sandwiches on fresh baked bread.  We walked throughout the Marketplace and visited some shops. 

Day 2 - Highlights included an early morning visit to Ben & Jerry's Factory for a tour.  We beat the crowd and got there when they opened @ 9:00am.  A cow greeted us in the parking lot and we got a sample of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream at the end.  Ice Cream is a great way to start the day!

While there, I visited the flavor graveyard and was saddened and surprised by one of the flavors I saw.
How could this be???  This is the ultimate flavor combination.  

Next we went to the Burlington Pumpkin Festival at the waterfront just in time to see the pumpkin races. 
Yes, those are real pumpkins hollowed out and used as a boat.  They are not easily controlled and are easy to tip. 

Day 3 - Highlights started with food.  I found this fabulous little diner in Lincoln, NH.

It only has 6 booths and counter service.  I had the best breakfast of the trip. Corned beef hash, eggs  and hash browns with a homemade chocolate whoopie pie to go.

We got an early start because we had plans to go zip-lining through the White Mountains. We made reservations through Alpine Adventures.  In a group of twelve we zipped six lines on the Tree Top Canopy Tour over a 2-hour time period.   You actually zip from tree to tree.

On the last run they have you climb up on a platform surrounding one pine tree and the take off is a free fall.  We decided to leave it all on the course and both dropped off backwards!!  WOW!!  What a great ending to a super experience (and I don't like heights). We both want to go again.

Day 4 - Highlight was a trip to an apple farm and Shelburne Farms.  It is a historic working farm with beautiful trails and farm animals (donkeys, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, llamas, cows)

Looks just like Donkey from Shrek

We couldn't leave Vermont without a visit to a brewery and some taste testing.  So we squeezed in a stop to Otter Creek Brewery. We were able to see them brew and bottle the beer while having a free taste test of their six draft flavors.  The organic pumpkin was our favorite.

All in all it was a perfect trip, perfect weather, perfect food, perfect fun and perfect company!  I am so thankful we had this time together. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Race Recap

The Wine and Dine half marathon is a new addition to Disney World's race schedule.  It began at 10pm on Saturday, October 2.  The race started at Wide World of Sports and ended at Epcot with an after race party. We ran through Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  The field of 11,000 ran through the night encountering various bands, light displays, performers on stilts, dancers and Disney characters under a clear sky and temperatures in the 70s.

This was my second half marathon and I enjoyed it much more than the first one.  I tried to take the pressure off of earning a PR by reminding myself this was a training run, but I knew this wouldn't be enough so I decided to stop and take advantage of every photo op along the way. I took the first race way to seriously and all I cared about was making the time goal I had set for myself.  This time I actually enjoyed myself and had fun.

I had much better placement in this race and that helped as well.  These Disney races can be so crowded that it is actually hard to get around people and the pack doesn't ever seem to thin out.  Last night, there was space to run by the end of mile one.
Turk - Tarzan

Timon - Lion King


Army man -Toy Story

It is a relatively flat course and running through the parks is entertaining.  I liked Hollywood Studios the best.  We ran through a behind the scenes section that was fun to see. Plus there were great characters!  This is the first time I have run with a camera and I'm glad I did.  I bought a new iFitness belt at the Expo and it did a super job of holding all my stuff without bouncing up and down.

Woody -Toy Story
Running that late at night was not bad.  Although you have to be there quite early before the race (about 8:15) there is plenty to see and do, like standing in line to take a photo or go to the bathroom. Plus hundreds of people to watch and entertainment on stage. We got in our corrals around 9:20.  I was in the second wave, so I started soon after 10.  In typical Disney style the start was accompanied by fireworks.

Carl - Up

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Darth Vader

 I felt pretty good during the race except for around mile 6.  I think I had too much water in my stomach and felt a little sloshy.  I wanted to walk at this point, but kept on going.  I had a surge of energy near  mile 9 and reminded myself I only had a 5K left at mile 10- that was very motivating.  I definitely ran the second half of the race faster. One great thing they have for runners is text updates for family and friends.  Every 5K your current pace and expected finish time is sent out to them via text message.  

 I truly had fun and earned a fabulous medal.

I ended up  finishing with a time of 2:20:38 for an average pace of 10:43 per mile.  Considering all my stops along the way, I am happy with my performance.