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Muscle Memory Does Exist!

These shoes were made for running

Not that I’m any sort of expert on muscles or the inner workings of the body (other than my own), but I’ve often heard and read that if you do something enough over time that your body commits it to memory, that it remembers what to do, and that basically the activity becomes second nature.

I’m happy to report that it’s true – at least for me and running. 

Prior to getting pregnant in October, I was actively outdoors and running anywhere between 25-40 miles a week.  This usually consisted of 6 days of runs that averaged about 5 miles – give or take a mile here or there based on how I was feeling, the weather, etc.  And, the most important part is that I loved it. 

The routine was consistent enough to be considered just that – a routine, a set of habits, or repetition.  It was what was needed to test the theory of muscle memory with my body. 

Once getting pregnant, I wasn’t able to continue exercising.  Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to be able to keep going, it just wasn’t in the cards for me.  So, I had to resign myself to do whatever it took to get the boys here safely and to put running and other activities on the back burner until after delivery.

Now, I found myself here - a month out from delivering Gavin and Quinn via c-section - wanting to get back into fitness and to my love of running.  Going in, I know that I can’t expect to achieve the same results as before without some work and some time.

But, I was pleasantly surprised by how much my body remembered even with such a long break since I last hit the streets for a run.  Though, it wishes it can forget what running is like with these extra pounds on my frame. :)  But, I’m working on that. 

My first 3 attempts at getting back out there include a 1.74, 2.05 and a 2.53 mile run. 

My breath and stamina aren’t gone. My legs feel pretty solid.  It’s a good starting point to get back to where I was last year and I don’t think it should take too much time.  Yes!

The moral of this story is that my body is stronger than I thought and that it’s been waiting in the wings to pick up where we left off.  It’s burned our past activity to memory and it’s ready to help me remember what I’m capable of doing.  Thank goodness for that. 

I’ll keep you posted on how I do.

Braciola, Roulade, Stuffed Meat….Whatever

There are many names for a piece of meat that gets stuffed with goodies and then is rolled up and tied off before cooking.  But, let’s not get stuck on a name, right?

Whether you call it a Braciola like we do in our Italian household or whatever, the bottom line is that it’s a different way of cooking up your protein and it makes for a nice change of pace. 

Normally, this type of dish is cooked indoors – either in a sauce, in a saucepan or in the oven.  But since it’s summer, I throw everything that I absolutely can on the grill.  Sometimes (in fact most) times it works and sometimes it fails.  Luckily for me, this time it worked and worked well.

For my meat, I decided to go with a lean 1+ pound flank steak since I had several in the freezer.  Next time, I’ll probably choose a more tender cut even though the dish came out great as-is. 

The stuffing includes:

  • 2 slices polish cooked ham
  • 3 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, sliced
  • garlic salt to taste

The assembly is super simple.  All you do is either pound your protein until it’s about 1/4 inch thick or you butterfly a thicker piece in half.  Then, evenly layer your filling in the middle, roll it up, and tie it together with baker’s twine.  Like this:

While doing that, preheat your grill to about 400-450 degrees.  Place the Braciola / Stuffed Meat / or [enter your preferred name here] on the grill and season to taste with garlic salt or salt and pepper. 

Cook it to your preferred meat temperature – mine is medium (and in this case it took about 25-30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes). 

You then remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.  Finally, you slice and serve it. 

When you bite into it, you can expect to taste the salt of the ham, to enjoy the gooey, melted cheese, to get a nice hint of parsley and garlic in each morsel.  I love steak but this grilled option is just as yummy. 

I decided to accompany the dish with a fresh cucumber salad, tzatziki sauce and pierogies toasted to perfection on the grill.  It was a nice ending to a hot summer night. 

In addition to having a new recipe to try, you can feel good about this protein having pretty much the same nutritional value as a steak itself because the small amount of ingredients go along way to add flavor without adding too many calories (approx 100 for the entire flank steak). 

Hope you enjoy.   BTW…what do you prefer to call a stuffed protein like this?

Leftover Spaghetti Gets a Face Lift

Pasta is a favorite at our house so we’re making it all the time.  But, we never stop to measure out the number of servings we plan to eat …instead we just dump the whole box in and then deal with the leftovers.

This is even more true when we’re talking about spaghetti. 

Why?  Because my husband absolutely LOVES the stuff..but I can’t stand how thin and stringy it is.  And how it clumps together into a sticky ball as soon as you leave it unattended for a few seconds.  So, when it’s made, I tend to steer clear of it.

What to do with the leftover spaghetti or pasta then?  Take a play from my Mom’s personal cookbook and make spaghetti (or pasta) pizza with it.  Yep, I said pizza. 

To pull this off, you’ll need a few ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cold, leftover pasta with a little bit of sauce mixed in
  • 1/3 c parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 oz cooked ham, cubed and fried up in a pan
  • 1 egg plus 1/2 cup egg whites
  • salt & pepper to taste

Making the dish is really simple.  All you do is:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
  • Bring a small to medium-sized oven-safe, frying pan to med-high temp
  • Coat the frying pan with cooking spray or a little olive oil
  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and pour them into the frying pan
  • Cook for 5-10 min so the bottom begins to crisp and the egg begins to set
  • Move pan to oven and finish cooking for 20-25 min until crispy on top
  • Remove from heat, allow to cool for 10 min
  • Move to a plate and cut into 6-8 slices and serve

And there you have it…a quick, tasty way to give your pasta leftovers a makeover and to make a pretty decent appetizer or side for one of your meals.  I have to warn you that while this pizza is baking, your house will smell absolutely heavenly…melted cheese, sizzling ham, and crispy pasta oh my.

And on top of the flavor goodness you can expect, this recipe also can be adjusted to fit into any nutritional plan.  Therefore, it’s a win win. 

Hope you get a chance to try it and enjoy.

From Scratch BBQ Pulled Chicken

This past Saturday and Sunday were quite rainy and dreary.  So to keep myself busy, I decided to take part in several indoor activities like:

  • loving up my new Mac Book Pro.  As a lifelong PC user, I have to admit this thing is so easy to use and SUPER FAST.  Once you go MAC, you never go back (or so I hear).  We’ll see.
  • getting into the 31 Days of Halloween on Syfy.  Who really cares if I’ve seen Resident Evil about 40 times since it came out in 2001?  You better believe I caught the double-header on Sunday night again.
  • watching cooking shows on the Food Network Channel.  I especially dig the new recipe episodes.  In fact, after seeing Rachel Ray’s 3o Minute Meal of Bourbon BBQ Pulled Chicken , I decided to try it.

I’ve never made my own BBQ sauce from scratch before.  I’m more of a squirt it out of the Baby Ray’s bottle kind of girl.  But since I had extra time on my hands, I figured why not?

I followed Rachel’s recipe to the letter with one exception.  I absolutely LOATHE mustards of all kind so I left out the Dijon.  Instead, I substituted in a dash of mustard seed figuring it was in the same family but it wouldn’t set off my ‘I hate mustard’ alert.

Poaching the chicken in water with oranges, onions, carrots and bay leaves did wonders for the flavor. Plus, it was very easy to work off of the bone once done cooking.

The BBQ sauce itself was a lovely reddish-orange color and the perfect consistency after it was reduced down.  However, I found it much sweeter than the bottled brands that I’m used to.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad just different.

Dollop a pile of the pulled chicken on a bun, top it with some pickle, and you’ve got yourself a hearty sandwich to enjoy.

Though I didn’t make the slaw as the sidekick to my sammy on this day, I did pick up all the ingredients to whip it up later in the week.  I’ll keep you posted on what I think.

Tell me…is there a food that completely grosses you out like my aversion to mustard?  I’ve disliked it as long as I can remember.

Finding Compassion & Connection

If you had asked me whether I thought I was a good person who truly cared for others prior to this year, it’s very likely that I would have answered that I tried to be without hesitation.

And what’s fascinating is that this answer would have been both the truth and not at the same time.

My life experiences are my frame of reference.  Based on what I’ve lived and seen, I’m able to put myself in the shoes of others and appreciate or feel for their circumstances.

Having been fortunate enough for most of my life to not have experienced significant loss or heartache, it was hard for me to relate at times, to understand what others may have been feeling, and therefore to be someone who could support others in the way that they needed during certain life events.

I wasn’t aware of this.  And looking back, I feel bad about it.

But now, I believe things are different.  I’m different.  I wish I could have made it here without having experienced our loss but that’s not the path I was meant to travel.

People said that out of this darkest day there could be some good. That I may not see it right away but that with time and healing, it’s there for the taking if I’m open to it.  Of course, at the time, I thought it’s just something people say to give you hope – something to cling to – though now I can see what they meant.

The good that I found and will look to foster and grow is compassion for and connection to other people.  To hear them out when they have something that troubles them.  To let them know that even though I can’t necessarily solve the issue they’re faced with, I can listen.

I can let them know I’m thinking of them by reaching out.

I can send them positive energy at their time of need.

I can show that I care.

And, I can feel for them – not just by saying the words that are expected                                                            – but by really feeling genuine emotion.

It would be great if by doing all of the above you could make things good and right for the people you know.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t rid us of all the bad that’s out there but it does help those in your life to feel supported, to feel connected to other people and not so alone, and it sometimes can strengthen their resolve to tackle what lies ahead of them.

When I needed them, I had a handful of people that I could count on to be there for me.  Now, I’ve learned that I can and want to be that person for others.

Have you discovered anything new about yourself recently?

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