soup du jour

I have been seriously obsessed with soup this fall. I already shared this tomato soup recipe with you all a couple of weeks ago.  That tomato soup used to have my heart. It was the soup to end all soups…

…Until I met butternut squash, that is. And the little booger stole my heart at first taste. I am obsessed. I’ve made it multiple times. In fact, I have some in the fridge waiting to be eaten after I post this. I originally had it at my mom’s house (thanks, mom). Then it became my mission to make this soup and spread the word that this is now the soup to end all soups. You’re welcome.

I do make a couple revisions to the aforementioned recipe:

-Add 8 baby carrots to the apple/onion sautee
-Use 2 cups water instead of 2 1/2 cups water (we like our soups thick)
-Use 2% milk instead of heavy cream
-Use dried sage instead of fresh (I have it on hand)

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Ok, are veggies not your thing? Do you need some meat in your life? I have a pretty darn good beef & sausage chili recipe for you… One that the big frijol named a top contender. Again, thanks to my mom for the recipe. However, I used my creative license to make some changes to the recipe as follows:

Beef & Sausage Chili

1 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground sausage
1 small yellow onion
1 green pepper
1 1/2 (each can 28 oz) cans tomatoes with liquid. I realize 1 1/2 is obnoxious but that’s what I do. Use the whole two if you want.
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15.5oz dark red kidney beans)
3 tablespoons chili powder (to taste – I usually add more)
2 teaspoons cayenne
salt and pepper (to taste)

[NOTE on canned foods. Many companies use a canning process that adds BPA to the liner. Yes, that means you end up ingesting BPA, which is bad for your body. I doubt this is news to you but I suggest you find a company that does not use BPA in the can liner. I buy Eden Organic cans found at Whole Foods.]

Cook beef and sausage. Remove from pan to dry on paper towel.

Add chopped onion and green pepper to the pan and saute (saute in the grease of the meat pan. Nice & healthy)

Place canned tomatoes and tomato sauce in the blender and puree. You can make it as chunky as you want but the big frijol doesn’t like pieces of tomato in his soup so I make it pretty smooth. (Note: Don’t drain tomatoes)

Put the tomato mixture in a pot with the sauteed onion/green pepper, kidney beans (don’t drain), cooked meat, and seasonings. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour.  Serve with cheese on top, avocado, whatever floats your boat.

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Ok, so you want something with meat but not quite ready to commit to clogging some arteries with the ground beef and sausage? You could try this tortilla soup recipe with shredded chicken on top. I made this for the bean family last night, and it went over with a thumbs-up. You should know that this is a brothy recipe. Also, I used New Mexico chiles instead of guajillo chiles. Then I threw in one small arbol for a little heat. It definitely came out spicy but yummm.

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Any other soup lovers out there? Anyone have any recipes to share? If you end up making some of these soups definitely let me know which one is your favorite. I hope you guys are making today a good one. I’m off to enjoy me some butternut squash love in a bowl.

xo, lw

PS: If you’re not watching the show Scandal, you should start. So good.

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marathon recap.

Sunday, October 13. What a day.

It was 5:30 in the morning, and my alarm starts chirping. Hello, darkness. There was not even a single ray of sun peaking over the horizon. I felt quite groggy especially considering nerves and excitement kept me from getting a solid, quality eight-hour sleep. Despite the sleepiness, I sprang into action… Brew coffee. Make oatmeal. Stretch it out. I executed my morning plan. It was marathon day. And I was all excited.

I had my entire outfit laid out, everything down to my hair-tie. Are you a runner? Are you a lady? If so, you need to get this shirt immediately. As in, you’re allowed to stop reading this blog post and buy that shirt instead. I won’t take offense. It is absolutely my most favorite shirt ever. The mesh design allows the breeze to cool you down but the full-length coverage still keeps you quite warm. I realize that doesn’t even make sense… but it just works. Plus it’s super cute, snug and doesn’t chafe a wink. Of course you’re going to need something underneath. I’d recommend this Lululemon luon tank. My outfit worked like a charm. No wardrobe malfunctions for this girl.

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At 6:15, I headed to the race start with the big frijol and a bagel in hand. During my long training runs, I found that a whole wheat bagel with a smear of peanut butter works wonders an hour before the run. Carb loading ain’t no joke.

The weather was absolutely perfect; it was a chilly 50-something when we stepped outside and the sun was just beginning to rise over Lake Michigan. As we approached the start area, flocks of runners and supporters were gathering. There was energy in the air. I love race day. The excitement of race morning makes the hours and hours spent running and training worth every second. This is where the hard work pays off and the reward sets in. This is why we run.

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I had to say goodbye to my sweet husband at the entrance gate. There was heightened security this year for obvious reasons so only runners were allowed in the start corral area. See ya later, bean!

I was a good forty-five minutes early to my corral, which definitely worked to my advantage because I was in the front of the pack. Yep, the early bird gets the worm. (But wait… the early worm gets eaten. Anyway.) I was in the corral with other people running for charities so I like to think that we were an extra special group. Go us.

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Next thing I knew, we were singing the Star Spangled Banner and the race had begun. We were off on a 26 mile journey. Ay caramba.

I love love love the beginning leg of this course. We run through The Loop for the first several miles and the crowds are spectacular. I love when the spectators give high-fives, especially the kiddos, which is one of the reasons I run curbside. Plus, running on the side makes it easier to maneuver around people going under your pace and not get trapped in the herd. I like it.

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I felt fresh right out of the gate. My Garmin told me I was going faster than I had planned but I was feeling great so I figured I might as well keep it up as long as possible. At the same time, a little voice in the back of my head was telling me not to overdo it and tire out too early. Starting too fast and pooping out is probably the most common mistake marathoners make. But like I said, I felt good so I was going to run with it (pun intended).

I saw my sweet momma just after the first mile. She took video footage of me… including the part where I reach out to touch her and knock her iphone out of her hands. I felt horrible!! She was so sweet to watch me, cheer me on and be one of my biggest fans. Thanks, mom!

The race took us through Old Town and eventually onto LaSalle Street where I saw my little bro and his girlfriend just shy of mile six. I liked their Hawkeye pom pom. It was so awesome seeing you guys!! Thanks for supporting me. At this time, I was still cruising over my planned pace and still felt great. One word: epinephrine. I guess we know that my adrenal gland works.

We continued the ascent north of the city and eventually turned around to head south at Addison Street. Mile eight marked my first fuel break. By break, I mean I kept running but ate a few of my trusty gummie bears and downed some water minus half of the cup I spilled all over my face. I’m pretty sure I’ll never be coordinated enough to drink and run simultaneously. Regardless, I continued to run through water breaks until mile eighteen. After mile eighteen, I walked through the water breaks to hydrate without spilling and rest my wheels.

Coming down Clark, I heard “Laura, Laura!” It was another one of my biggest fans, my poppa in the front row around mile nine. I was still feeling energized enough to give a huge smile and a “heey!!”! It was so nice to see him there cheering for me. Thanks, dad!

Around mile seventeen, things started to change. I was beginning to feel the burn in my quads. This was not a welcome feeling considering I had 9+ more miles to run… and so commenced an internal freak-out. A few of the thoughts that crossed my mind at that time were: “what if I don’t finish? my quads never hurt on my long training runs. will I go into rhabdo? i shouldn’t have started so fast.” Then I realized, all things considered, I wasn’t hurting that bad. Sure I was feeling the burn but this freakout was premature. Did I really think I would run this race without feeling pain? This was the point where the race turned into a mental exercise, as well as a physical one. One foot in front of the other. Just keep going and keep pushing yourself. If your body is truly shutting down, it will do just that. It will shut down, and you’ll fall to the ground. I was nowhere near that point. I think we are all stronger than we know.

However, my pace did suffer some. My last miles were slower than the first by about 30 seconds to a full minute. I realize that all “real” runners aim for negative splits. Sure in an ideal situation I’d love me some negative splits, too. But that just wasn’t in the cards for me this race day, and I didn’t really care. What I cared about was reaching my sub-four hour goal, whatever my splits may be.

I pushed on. I don’t have much to say about miles 18 through 24 (which is a good thing for you because this post is looong). It was hard. I knew it would be hard. I no longer felt great. I more felt like dying. Once I hit mile 24, I was officially on the home stretch. We were on South Michigan, and there were two miles left. This feat was doable. As mile 25 approached, the crowds were becoming more dense and the cheers were unrelenting. Honestly, the encouragement and support of complete strangers was truly breathtaking. The physical strain of the race combined with the outpouring of love from strangers caused quite an emotional response in me… I actually started to tear up. It was intense.

As we rounded the corner onto Roosevelt Road, the last .2 miles of the race, fans disappeared. Only official race personnel were allowed that close to the finish. Lining the road were Chicago Police Officers and race volunteers including RNs, MDs, and EMTs. They were ones who made this race possible. It was very special to have those people shouting the final words of encouragement as each and every runner ran those last .2 miles to a triumphant finish. It was awesome.

Right after I crossed the finish line, I saw one of my coworkers who was a volunteer RN. I got a hug and a congrats immediately upon finishing. That was super cool.

My final time: 3 hours, 43 minutes and 2 seconds. I reached my goal and then some. I have to admit, I’m proud! I’ll also admit, I am totally feeling the pain. My legs have been so crazy sore since the race. It’s actually difficult to walk normally. But boy was it worth it.

Now let’s talk about the MVP spectator, Mister Lu, the big frijol. He trekked all over the city to find his little bean among 45,000 other runners. I saw his handsome face first on State Street. I had to fight the urge to run right into his arms for a warm embrace. Instead, I gave a huge smile and a wave and knew I’d see him again down the road. He hopped on his bike and spotted me around mile twenty. I must have been in the zone because I missed him… but I did catch a glimpse of that cute man at mile twenty-two. He knew I would need some serious encouragement on the last leg of the race. Thank you so much, bean, for supporting me and spending your day chasing me. You truly are the best.

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After the race, I collected the swag and post-race snacks being given out. Then I plopped down on the sidewalk at Columbus and Jackson to reunite with the hub. We walked through the 27th Mile after-party for a few minutes but all I really wanted to do was go home and take a hot bath followed by a cold shower. Yes, a hot bath and not an ice bath. This has become my strange post-marathon tradition. I know, I know. Everybody and their mother says to sit in an ice bath. I just don’t like to torture myself.

The rest of Sunday was spent relaxing and eating wholesome foods to replenish my beaten down body. That night Lu and I met up with of our favorite couples, Abby & Matt, and had dinner at Mexique in West Town. I highly recommend this restaurant. I forgot to take a picture of the four of us at dinner so here is a picture of Abby and their adorable kiddos, who I had the pleasure of hanging with for several hours on Monday.

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And there you have a recap of my second marathon and a PR. I’m still feeling very sore today and walking down steps is nearly impossible but it is significantly improved from yesterday. I was going to treat myself to a massage but I decided to go shopping instead. A little retail therapy never hurts.

I’d like to take a moment to congratulate those of you who actually read this entire post. Talk about a marathon. Who knew I could have so much to say about that measly race? Thank you for the support people!

xo, lw

the eve of the marathon

It has arrived. The Chicago marathon is upon us. Twenty-four hours from now it’ll all be a memory… and let’s hope it is a good one.

The city is abuzz with people from all over the world who come for one measly race. And by measly, I mean gargantuan. Last year, the Chicago marathon had the most finishers of any race in the US with 37,315 people crossing that finish line on Columbus Drive. There were 109 countries represented. It’s known to be an extremely fast course (think Midwest: flat, flat, flat) and home to many PRs both amateur and professional. Yes, I plan to be one of those people and throw down a PR tomorrow.

The course takes us through 29 neighborhoods in the city with adoring fans lining every inch of it. The crowd is one of the best things about the Chicago marathon; so many people come out to support the runners and that’s what makes it simply amazing to run this race. But it’s not all fun and games. The city raked in over $243 million in economic impact last year’s race weekend. Holy moly. Can I get a cut of that?

Last night Lu and I ventured down to the Expo at McCormick Place to pick up my bib and race-day info packet. We stayed for an hour or so snacking on samples and browsing various vendors amongst fellow runners. I got to take the annual #ownChicago picture at the Nike booth. Below is this year’s photo on the left and last year’s on the right. Yep, I’m in the same hoodie. Recycling outfits. No shame. There was also an #ownChicago board we signed… go little bean!

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I hogged the photo booth until I got a picture with “Laura owns 26.2”.  Let’s hope it doesn’t own me. It sounds like tomorrow will bring perfect conditions. At race start it’s suppose to be in the upper 50s, the low 60s by noon and no chance for rain. I like it.

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Here’s a picture of the big frijol at the Expo. Yep, he took the Divvy bike inside. What a goon. I love that goon.

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After the Expo, we stayed up entirely too late watching blooper reels on Youtube. Yes, you read that correctly. Blooper reels. It was lights out at 1:30am but this little bean couldn’t fall asleep until 2:30. Cue: Sleeping in until almost noon… Oops. You know sleeping in that late means I’m going to need a fat cup of joe in my favorite coffee mug from my sweet Mexican Momma.

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A lazy Saturday is just what the doctor ordered. I did do a two mile shake-out, slow paced run to get a little blood flowing. The rest of the day will be spent hydrating followed by carb loading tonight and hopefully a much earlier bedtime.

I have the outfit all ready to go: my favorite Lululemon running capris, Brooks base layer on top, and Brooks Pureflow 2s on my footsies. I’ll probably sport the black sneakers tomorrow. I love how that shirt says run happy. Run happy!

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My fuel is ready, too. Strawberry Shot Bloks and jelly beans. My plan is to refuel at mile 8, 13, 20 and 24. I didn’t refuel enough mid-race last year, a key error that I won’t be making this year. No matter how many marathons I end up doing (and this one will quite possibly be my last), I will always think it’s strange to eat while running.

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I want to thank each one of you for your loving support. Thank you so much to those who donated to the charity group I am running with, Imerman Angels. Thank you for the kind words of encouragement. I’d like to give a special thanks to one of my besties, Meghan, for sending me beeaaautiful flowers this morning (in a lovely tea cup, I might add) and making me smile big today. She’s seriously the best. Hurry up and get back to Chicagoland, Megs!!

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If you’re interested in seeing my pre-marathon post from last year click here. And here is the recap of last year’s race.

Alright, I’m out. Going to get ready for the big pasta dinner tonight.  Lu and I are kicking it old school and going to the original gangster, OG, the Olive Garden. Haven’t been there in who knows how long. Hello, breadsticks and delicious salad. Can’t wait to see you again.

Please, send me good vibes! I’ll be back with a race update in a couple of days.

xo, lw