Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm A BE-Liebster #1

Awhile back, I was asked to do some more Q&A type posts ...

Since I tend to get a little long winded (no - really?!), I decided to chop up some "typical" Q&A posts into multi part segments to make them a little more digestible.  In the next few weeks, I'll randomly be incorporating some of those questions into a post. 

Today, I'm continuing with the below.  This time I've taken the Liebster Award Q&A format.  Below are questions 1-5 from that (I'm including a few bonus questions since the first few were pretty obvious).

Enjoy!

---

1) Why did you start this blog?

I answered this in a previous post.  To avoid repeating myself, I'll direct you there.


2) What makes you smile?

OMG, anything ridiculously silly - which is why I enjoy dressing up so much for my workouts.  Some examples of non-workout funnies from my Facebook feed:



The time someone flipped my peace sign over on my Jetta...
and when I inquired about it on Facebook, one of my friends blamed: "SATAN!!!!!"




The Valentine I sent everyone this year.




The gingerbread house I made with my friend & her family Christmas 2012.
If you look closely, you'll see a Blackhawk helicopter crashed in the backyard,
and a pit bull is gnawing on Mr. Bill's head in the front.




The hat I considered buying to wear last 4th of July.




The massively huge packaging MAC uses to mail me one eye shadow.




The bike helmet of the gods.
AKA - NATALIE WANT!!!!!!!




My husband, "shopping" for ammo at Fleet Farm, in business attire.




My beagle, dressed as a pirate.




My niece, a little "squished" by her air show noise protection.




A glow in the dark yellow poop.  For a Halloween giveaway.
Seriously, how is this poop?  And if your poop ever looks like that, go see a doctor!




The cheesy hash browns my aunt made for Christmas,
with a bacon and sausage manger.




Me, looking SUPER sexy in snorkel gear.



3) What is one of your talents?

Hmmm... well, I guess I can tie two together.  I think the reason why I'm so good at teaching group fitness is because I can "hear" music.  By that, I mean hear the beats and measures, and pick up queuing to naturally manage transitions in movement. 

What do I mean by that?  Well, you know that awkward feeling you get in a group fitness class when you transition from one move to another move and it just feels wrong? 


Yeah, kind of like that.


It's usually because the instructor missed the beat and your body's rhythm was off during the move.

Most times I can avoid that and keep everyone on beat.




That's because I started taking piano lessons when I was in second grade and learned musical measurement.  I eventually stopped my lessons around 8th grade - the time commitment was too great for me as a preteen and I didn't enjoy it that much.  But I still occasionally sit down and play the hand-me-down piano we have in our living room (despite it desperately needing a tuning).


4) Who is a hero in your life?

My grandma.  She's 97 years old now and still manages to spend a significant amount of time each week doing her favorite thing - going to the Goodwill that sells clothing by the pound.  She picks out winter wear (jackets, gloves, etc.), purchases them, brings them home to launder/repair them, and then donates them to her church - which owns a trailer full of goods that they deliver to the homeless on a regular basis. 

This is her.  You can see how awesome she is.




Ok, to be fair, this is her son's motorcycle and jacket.  But it was her idea to pose with it in front of her house and pretend to be a badass.

I try to be as awesome as her, but I pale in comparison.




If I make it to 97, I hope I can keep up with what she's doing now.


5) What is a great memory from your past?

Running my first half marathon really stands out in my head.  It was the first time I did something that was truly physically hard, something I deep down honestly thought I could NEVER do.  But I did it, and I survived.  Even if I did cry a little at the finish.



Just don't tell my husband our wedding wasn't my go to answer for this one.  Although, it is a close second.  ;-)




---

Questions 6-8 to come!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Body Glide ... For Her!

Here's what happens when you're a flower girl, wearing a tu-tu dress, at a wedding attended by runners...




Yep, that's Body Glide "For Her", being applied to the lower arms of my neice.  (The dress was put on after this photo was taken.)

To be fair, we thought she'd wear the dress for much longer and it would scratch her arms.  In reality, she ripped the dress off minutes after making it down the isle.  Not that I could blame her.  Who in their right mind would want to wear a tu-tu dress in 90 degree weather ... and sit directly in the sun?

Oh well, it was a good idea at the time!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Recipie: Delicious Way to Use Up Ripe Bananas - Healthy Banana Chia Muffins

I keep forgetting that now that it's summer, bananas go ripe in like... a second.  Needless to say, as of late, I've been piled up with tons of way ripe bananas.

What's a girl to do with too many ripe bananas?

Why, make banana bread!





But of course, being that I'm trying to be more sugar and processed food conscious, that makes finding a "healthy" recipe hard.  Imagine my joy when I found this recipe.  Not only is it lower in sugar and butter than most recipes, but also has chia seeds and a little added protein from yogurt.  What luck!

With a few modifications (below), I was able to make this using everything I already had in my kitchen.  With no need to go shopping, I decided to give it a go.  And I'm glad I did!  The muffins turned out quite tasty, and freeze well.  Plus, I fed them to my husband and sister, and neither of them complained either!!

Since it was a success, I thought I would share.

Enjoy!

-----


Healthy Banana Chia Muffins


 
Banana Chia Seed Muffins 

 


Ingredients
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (preferably overripe)
  • 4 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 2 whole eggs (the recipe called for whites only, but I hate wasting)
  • 12 ounces yogurt (I used two single serve tubs of Chobani strawberry)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Grease or spray the muffin tins with non-stick oil.

In a bowl, mash bananas and add chia seeds; set aside.

In a blender, grind down the rolled oats until a fine, flour like powder is formed.

In a second bowl, cream butter and brown sugar just until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in yogurt, milk and vanilla extract until combined. Then add the flour, blended oats, baking powder and baking soda, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the banana/chia seeds mixture.

NOTE: Bake all quick breads as soon as the ingredients are assembled.

Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full. A cookie or ice cream scoop works well to quickly and evenly portion each cup. Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

When done, remove from oven. As soon as they have cooled enough to handle, remove the muffins from pan and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 24 muffins.

Additional note - per the original recipe poster, they estimated nutrition information to be:
1 muffin = 4.8 fat grams, 34 carb grams, 190 calories

Friday, July 25, 2014

About Time, Lavender Magazine!!

O. M. G!

After 5 years of running the Minneapolis/Twin Cities Rainbow Run for Pride, we finally did it.

My sister and I finally made the photo summary in Lavender Magazine!!




I know, I know.  I shouldn't be that excited.  And don't worry - all this fame hasn't gone to my head.  In fact, I'm still happy to offer you all one on one photo opportunities and autographs.  Just call my agent to set up a time.

Read the race recap that accompanies the above photo here.

See the digital magazine online here (we're on page 52-53).

What a way to end the week!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bacon Chase 5K Minneapolis 2014 (The Bacon Leisure Suit)


 

Bacon Chase Minneapolis 5K (3.15 miles)
36:01
Average Pace 11:23/mile
*course ran long and was not timed, results per my GPS watch



Also known as - the one where I biked 22 miles to get to the start line of a 5K race, and then biked home again.

---

Well, gee whiz!  Although I said last week that I'd be taking a break from racing, apparently that didn't happen.  With this race, it's official - I'm 4 for 4:

6/29 - Rainbow Run 5K
7/4 - Siren Freedom 5K
7/12 - Chicago Chinatown 5K
7/19 - Bacon Chase 5K

To begin: quite honestly, I was NOT expecting to run this race.  Why?  Well, typically I'm not a big fan of running chain races like this.  I mean, there's nothing wrong with them, but... I prefer those who aspire to offer more than a cookie cutter brand that's pumped out nationally.




Also, themed races like this have a tendency to attract loads of walkers "fun runners" (IE Color Run, Suds Run, Glow Run, etc).  While those kinds of races have their place and are definitely fun for those who participate in them, when I run a 5K, I'm looking to RUN.  Not zig-zag through a sea of walkers going 5 wide down the road.

But, you see, right now I'm in a pickle.  I'm doing the Lazyman Ironman challenge at my gym again (complete the entire Ironman Distance - 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike, 26.2 miles run - over the entire month of July).  And of course, I'm in a bind for miles.  Not only has my running fallen off the charts lately, my bike miles are in trouble too.  Seems that the flooding I mentioned a few weeks back permanently took out a portion of the trail I need to access in order to bike commute...

SUMMER RUINED.  :-(

Just kidding.  Not really ruined.  But definitely makes getting my bike miles in a bit more challenging.

Anyhow!  Turns out my husband had scheduled some advanced flying lessons on the day of this race, so I would have nothing going on in the morning.  Prior to registering, I was hoping I could tack on to someone else's workout at the gym and find an instant mileage buddy.  So, I started shopping around.

Here's the problem with that novel concept: on this same day, everyone I knew was either participating in / spectating at the local triathlon - OR - they were training for a REAL Ironman and planned on getting up at 5am to do a 5 hour bike ride.  (Yeah right. Me?  That's not going to happen.)

Feeling like I had the motivation washed right out from underneath me...




I made one last desperate attempt to find a local 5K.  Quite honestly, that didn't take long because this got my attention pretty quick:




I mean, bacon is fine but ... bloody marys?!  Heck yeah!

As if that wasn't enough, I saw this:


 
Bacon crumble "water" stops...
 


 
All you can bacon eat post race...
 
 
 
 
AND a post race rodeo/party pig?!


Not to mention, the race bib was supposed to be bacon scented.

Weirdest race ever!! 

Sounds like a fit for me, no?

Lucky for me, someone from the gym/run club also agreed it sounded interesting, so it was a done deal.  Just a few hours before the registration cut off time of 11:59pm on 7/17, we were in!

Knowing that my new found partner in crime was also working on Lazyman, I decided to push the envelope to the max...

"So... How much of an adventure are you up for? We can bike to the start line using the greenway... About 18 miles one way..."

Her response? 

"I'll be up for that.  Will you fix my bike if it breaks along the way?  And oh sh*t. We'll have to bike 18 miles there and then 18 miles back AFTER we run. Lets do it.  I'm crazy."

And so the adventure was born.  On to race day.

---

Although this race was scheduled to start at 10am, with a pre-party start of 9am, I was up at the crack of dawn yet again on race day - 6am.  Why?  Well, because I had 18 miles to bike, of course. 

Which btw... whoops.  We got lost at a fork in one of the bike trails took a small detour.  Better make that 22 miles out, not 18.  Oh well - in for a penny, in for a pound?

Overall, the ride in was really a treat, especially once you get to the paved portions in Hopkins.  Man, your bike flies over that like butter after riding on gravel.  And if you're ever wondering how to bike from Eden Prairie to Lake Nokomis:


 
Catch the LRT near the Dunn Brothers in Eden Prairie
 
 

Follow the LRT straight through to the Hopkins Coffee Depot,
then change to the Cedar Lake Trail
 

 
The spot of our wrong turn ... when the Cedar Lake Trail splits left towards North Minneapolis,
stay right and catch the Greenway.  Pay attention to signage!!  We took a left turn due to sign orientation
not being great on our side of the fork  Luckily a man out walking his dog very kindly redirected us... hesitantly.
I say that because he kept emphasizing that Nokomis was quite a ways away. 
I tried to encourage him by saying "Don't worry, we started in Eden Prairie, we'll be ok".
Giving us a sideways glance and a "Really? Well, good for you", he sent us on our way.
 
 

 
At the 18th Street bridge, exit and back track to 17th Street
17th Street is a bike friendly street designated so with paint on the asphalt
 
 

 
Technically, we could have taken this trail, but...
we just cut down cedar on the sidewalks and then walked our bikes across the field


Whoop!  With a minor detour, we still made it to the lake with plenty of time to spare.  Having hit the trail at about 7:45, we arrived at the lake at about 9:30.  (Yes, we biked at a purposefully leisurely pace - we had a 5K to run after all.)  With about 30 minutes to spare before the run, we quick changed out of our bike shorts, checked our gear bags, chugged some water and had some simple fuel - a Gu energy gel for me, and gummy bears for my friend. 

Yes, I was jealous.  Those gummy bears looked way more tasty than a peanut butter Gu.

Eventually we started to wander through the crowd to queue up for our start.  And the crowd, by the way, was really not as exciting as I would have hoped.  My experience at check-in the day prior (which was a total sh!t show) lead me to believe a very distinct group of people would be chasin' bacon.  Instead, on race day, the mix of folks was pretty average.

Well, average except for the fact that many people were wearing pig ears, pig tails, and bacon themed gear.  More on this in a bit.

Overall, the start line was managed pretty well for a busy race with a free for all start.  There wasn't really much pushing, I didn't hear any complaining, and about 500 people were released every 3-5 minutes at the call of "Suuu-eeee!" and "5-4-3-2-1 ... BACON!!"

But, it was still about 10:20 buy the time we got out the gate.  Pretty late in the day for a run no matter how you look at it.  Especially after a 22 mile bike ride.  Being as such, it was pretty warm out... maybe 80 some degrees.  

Knowing going into this race that this was a fun run with no official clock or chip timing, and given that we had an 18 mile bike ride to look forward to post race, my friend and I had already agreed to just run easy, walk the water stops, and enjoy the people watching.  The added heat factor simply re-enforced that decision, and ensured that we took advantage of every mile marker's "Bacon Stop".  Not so much for the bacon, mind you, since neither of us wanted to risk eating bacon mid run.  But we did enjoy plenty of water.

At mile one, our plan seemed to pay us back in dividends. 

Example one:

     Girl bending over with head between her knees.
     Friend 1 & 2 are looking at girl.
     Friend 1 "Are you ok?"
     Friend 2 "I think she's choking on her bacon."
     Friend 2 "Oh yeah, she is.  Hold on, I think she's going to throw up."

Example two:

     We slowly run past a group of walkers who were released in a group prior to us.
     Walker 1: "Man, it's hot out."
     Walker 2: "Yeah, I could totally run this whole thing if it wasn't so hot."

Despite the bike ride and the heat, mile one and two seemed to breeze past pretty easily.  The crowd shook out more quickly than we both expected, so the first mile in particular went much smoother than anticipated. 

Unfortunately, mile 3 was a bugger.



I couldn't resist using this photo to show my disgust - how cute is that sour face?!
 

I don't know why, but the race director designed the course so that you had to run approximately your last 1/4 mile through a soccer field.  That was extremely ruddy.  And squishy in spots due to the recent flooding.

Not wanting to injure myself prior to biking home, I asked my friend if she'd be OK with walking the field.  She didn't mind, so we did walk most of it.  As you can see by my GPS report:






As we walked through the grassy knoll, we both commented that it would have made more sense to start the race in this area, and finish the race further back on the course - while still on asphalt.  When the crowd is so dense at the start, you don't really end up doing more than a slow jog anyway, and on the soft grass, it wouldn't have been such a big deal.  Oh well.  Maybe they'll figure that out for next year.  Or not.

Either way, soon enough, we were done - 5K complete! 

But - arg!  My ultimate pet peeve.  When we started through the finisher's chute, water was offered... poured into dixy cups.  On a hot day.  Ugghhhh!!!  I grab two cups, and then a third, and head towards the bacon.

And I'm not going to lie.  I took two trays worth of bacon.  And enjoyed.  Every.  Single.  Piece. 

Hey, the course sold itself on being an "all you can eat" bacon party at the end.  I didn't feel bad taking two.  Even less so when the guy ahead of me proceeded to take 10 - YES!! 10!! - trays, and was on his second trip.

I also have to say: I haven't eaten that much bacon in one sitting, ever!  I think it was like 10-12 pieces.  (Later, I burped, and it tasted like 100% bacon.  Another first.)

As my friend and I enjoyed our bacon, we ran into this guy.  And I almost died:




We complemented his sexy leisure suit.  He informed us that the suit was very hot.  Given my costumed running experiences, I could empathize.

Shortly after, we see these girls, who have given me inspiration for (hopefully) a future costume application.  What, I have yet to determine.




Finally, as we wound through the crowd, we found what I figured would be the best part - the bloody mary station:




Unfortunately, the bloody wasn't the greatest.  Perhaps it was the 22 mile bike ride... or the 5K of running... or the warm temperatures... or the bacon.  Either way, neither of us could stomach the acidic and peppery combo.  After a few sips, we tossed them into the trash and headed to gear check to pick up our bags.

On our walk to gear check, we passed the rodeo pig.  I have to admit, I was EXTREMELY disappointed to see that the line was to Timbuktu and back.  There was no way I was going to wait around for 45 minutes to ride that thing.  But given the reality that I may have fallen off and hurt myself ... well ... let's just say, with a long bike ride waiting in the wings, I wasn't that crushed.

After leaving gear check, we heard someone say they were out of bacon.  WHAT?!  I hope that wasn't true, because we were only about 1/2 of the way back in the starting chute, and we actually ran the race (when maybe half did not, so there were still plenty of folks en route).  If it was true, they were going to have a lot of angry participants at the finish line...

Regardless of the bacon status, we proceeded with a little more healthy snacking after exiting the post race party... (Yeah!  My friend brought trail mix!  Which, btw, if she looks familiar, this might be why.) ... and also enjoyed some people watching.  Eventually, we decided it was time to pack up.

On the way home, we had the major plus of knowing the trail well enough that we only put in the required 18 miles.  So with the detour on the way out, and the proper distance on the way back, we ended up with a grand total of:





Feeling accomplished, I decided to celebrate:




My friend, on the other hand...




We'll just say she made it.  Sort of. ;-)

Overall, the bike ride and race was a fun adventure.  The race itself was definitely not as exciting or special as I would have hoped, and I won't likely do it again.  But the added challenge of biking to and from the event is what really made the day.  Plus I had great company to boot!

And that's the story of how (the sort of bacon / bubble gum scented) race bib # 46 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... and this time, it definitely won't be next weekend!

The Time I Went Totally Vegan ... Overnight

So, as I've bemoaned a few times in the last couple of weeks, I'm having a hard time kicking the extra pounds I put on two to three months ago.  And, to make matters worse, I've been feeling like a bloated balloon.

In an effort to turn things around, last week I decided to try something drastic.  I decided to go Vegan for three days straight.




And not just Vegan like the "I go to Whole Foods and buy processed substitute foods of items that are unhealthy, non-vegan foods to begin with" Vegan.  I mean the "Whole fruits, vegetables, quality grains and nuts only" Vegan.




Yeah, that kind of Vegan.

What inspired me?  Of all things - reading about juice cleanses!

Although I totally think they are wrong for a lot of reasons, some of the basic ideas behind juice cleanses are good, like:

(1) The focus on vegetables.
(2) The drive to eliminate processed foods.
(3) The idea that they can help reset your body.

Plus, regardless of where you are in life, everyone can definitely benefit from 1 & 2 above, and #3 was definitely on my radar given my less than stellar eating habits of late (part of what lead me to put on this weight to begin with).

So, with some feedback from friends and some careful thinking, PLUS with my husband heading out on a business trip (thus leaving me to my own eating devices), on 7/7 I began a 3 day planned journey into all things wholesome...

---

Monday, 7/7 - Day One

Breakfast: not feeling very hungry, I waited until about 9 or so to have a banana, and then drank lots of water

Lunch: taking small inspiration from the juice trend, I decided to try a green juice from Freshii along with a large side of quinoa

Snack: mixed nuts

Dinner: a HUGE salad of sautéed portobello mushrooms, green peppers and onions (sautéed with seasonings in olive oil), guacamole, romaine lettuce and tomato salsa

First thoughts - this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Mostly, it was a practice in shifting my mindless eating habits towards drinking more water, since I realized I've been letting my snacking run wild.  However, I definitely already craved carby stuff like bread and donuts - of all things, donuts?!  I hardly ever eat those to begin with.  Weird.


Tuesday, 7/8 - Day Two

Breakfast: blended smoothie of pressed apple juice, spinach, natural peanut butter (no sugar added), banana and hydrated chia seeds

Lunch: realizing they were much cheaper than Freshii, I opted for a Daily Greens juice from Bolthouse farms, along with some kale chips and mixed nuts

Snack: more mixed nuts

Dinner: a simmered "stew" of quinoa, herbs and crushed tomatoes... with LOADS of garlic (yum!), and what I'll call romaine and hummus spears (essentially whole leaves of romaine spread with a blob of hummus, and eaten like you would a celery stalk).

Thoughts - although I thought this dietary shift would leave me feeling hungry or deprived for sure by day two, I ended up anything but.  Don't get me wrong, hamburgers and cookies still looked / smelled good.  But a true NEED to eat something specific never came up.  And, I was definitely full to the max - I guess that's due to the fact that eating a diet like the above provides something like 150% of my daily fiber...?


Wednesday, 7/9 - Day Three

Breakfast: blended smoothie of pressed apple juice, spinach, natural peanut butter (no sugar added), banana and hydrated chia seeds

Lunch: another bottled green juice from a Bolthouse competitor, kale chips and mixed nuts

Snack: an apple smeared with peanut butter.

Dinner: leftover "stew" from last night and more romaine and hummus spears.

Thoughts -



Just kidding.  I'm wasn't starving, although the smell of kale chips and green juice was starting to make my stomach churn.  I think that's a sign of too much of a good thing.

However, I did notice I was starting to miss eating some sort of protein ... even just cottage cheese was sounding good.



Also, I noticed a few mild headaches on the last two nights.  Since I was drinking plenty of water, my only guess would be either I wasn't getting enough calories (which I thought I was based on what my calorie tracker was telling me), or I was having some mild detox issues from cutting out carbs (which I am guessing is the true reason).  Given my carb cravings in the prior days, I'm inclined to point my finger that direction.

All in all, though, I felt good, I didn't feel hungry and... when I weighed myself the next morning, I was down 3 pounds!!  To qualify that, though - it was all water weight.  As soon as I ate a reasonable amount of bread the next day, the three pounds were all right back on... *sad clown whistle*...

---

So, what are my final thoughts about this whole experiment?

Well, if you don't mind pooping salad, I guess living a vegetable based vegan lifestyle is A-OK.

LOL!  Just kidding. 

Honestly, though, I don't really intend to ever go totally unprocessed foodie/vegan.  And overall I eat a fairly healthy and balanced diet.  So why did I do this?

The only reason I decided to give unprocessed, vegan eating a shot was because I decided I needed to challenge myself. I knew my eating habits had fallen WAY off track in the last couple of months, and doing this challenge just proved to me that I was in denial about it.  I realized immediately day one how much I've been letting myself snack, and how much processed food (not a ton, but enough) has snuck back into my daily routine.  And, I was shaken awake by the fact that I need to refocus on eating more vegetables again.  This point was driven home when I followed up my experiment with a long weekend of crap eating in Chicago.  Just by changing my diet for three days, I noticed a change in my cravings.  Every day in Chicago I craved raw/fresh produce.  Every.  Day.

Also, interestingly enough, I did notice a change in my digestion over the three days.  Although I didnt' feel like crap prior to starting this challenge, I did notice I started to feel almost... lighter... once I eliminated all the junk out of my diet.  I even felt like my stomach was starting to flatten up a bit, which I think speaks to how much bloat I had picked up over the last couple of months.  The true test now will be to see if I can keep that change going in a positive direction...

Regardless, I'm glad I took this time to evaluate and be honest with myself.  And while I didn't see any maintainable weight loss from the challenge itself, it opened my eyes to where I'm slipping every day.  Since those little slips can all add up to a lot of extra calories long term, fixing those issues is what will stimulate my weight loss again in the coming weeks.

And with that being said, now it's time ... to eat another salad.



Friday, July 18, 2014

CSA Hooray! Week 3

A few weeks ago, a friend from the gym reached out to me ... for something totally unexpected.  It turned out that she was going on a multi-week road trip with her family, and needed someone to dump her 1/2 share CSA on while she was gone.

Say what?  Fresh grown produce? 

Of course I'm down!

And so, on Friday 6/27 I received my first bundle, and on Thursday 7/3 I received my second.  They were delicious!  Which meant this time not only was I excited to get my third share - I was somewhat in mourning.  Why?  Because this would be my last week of CSA procurement, since my friend was due to come home.  :-(

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, right?!

And then - BOOM!  My impromptu trip to Chicago came up... ruh-roh!  I wasn't going to be here to get the box, so I had to give it away to my friend's friend (who does the pickup for us anyway).  EXTRA frowny face.  :-( :-(

Mourning aside, my final share for 7/11 would have been:

 
 

In case you're wondering, that is an assortment of: Napa Cabbage, Arcadia Broccoli, Cilantro, Parsley, Summercrisp Lettuces, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Summer Squash/Zukes, Cucumbers, Scallions and Fennel.

Like I said in all my previous CSA posts, above is a photo of a FULL SHARE of from the CSA.  I was willed a HALF SHARE.  Imagine the above cut in half.  And FYI, I'm not belittling the size of a half share - it is very generous and definitely plenty to eat before it would end up going bad anyway.

So, I guess I can't say what I did with the food if I didn't actually get it.  But, what WOULD I have done with all this goodness?  Well, here goes!

-  Fennel and broccoli- ah!  I can't believe I missed these.  Fennel in particular is SO good!!  I saw a recipe posted by the CSA grower that took fennel, broccoli and sausage.  I really wanted to try that.  Maybe I will in the future.

- Napa cabbage is soooo good in Asian dishes.  I was actually looking forward to shredding it and making some sort of pot sticker or egg roll filler.  I'm sure the scallions and cilantro would have been a great complement in this as well.

- The lettuces are never hard for me to use up.  I eat a ton of salads.  Those would have been gone on day one.  I would have tossed the parsley in there for good measure, too.

- Swiss chard and cucumber - I've really been enjoying a wrap from Freshii lately that uses a par-boiled pair of chard leaves instead of a tortilla for the wrap.  It's filled with chick peas, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, artichoke, onion and a light creamy dill sauce.  Mmmm, so good!  Anyway, I was hoping to recreate that at home with the chard.  Or try out this recipe, also suggested by the CSA grower.

- That leaves the summer squash and zucchini... which I actually had a massive plan for already.  I just bought a spiralizer so that I could turn them into noodles, since I've read they make a great pasta alternative.  Boo!  I can't believe I missed my chance to try out my new machine.  Good thing I'm growing my own zucchini in my garden!! 

And that was it!  Although I'm saddened to be done with the CSA, the timing is actually quite good.  I've got some VERY busy weekends coming up, which would make getting the produce home a challenge, not to mention the challenge of having time to cook/eat it before it goes bad.  Besides, I can't be too upset.  My garden is starting to come into fruition and the Minneapolis Farmer's market should be up to speed in the next week or two with all sorts of great options.  I think I'll survive.

That's not to say that I wouldn't recommend buying your own CSA.  I totally would!  If you are even considering it, please sign up!  In fact, Easy Bean Farm just had a terrible incident last week where their truck's refrigeration unit needed a massive repair, and they are desperate to sell a few additional shares ASAP.  So they are definitely an option if you're considering it.  And just my two cents: I highly recommend them, and suggest you consider purchasing your own share.

Regardless of where you land, having access to a CSA basket in the last few weeks has been a lot of fun for me, and opened my eyes to some new ways to eat vegetables that I may not have thought of in the past.  And for that, I'm grateful.

PS: Read more about the CSA origins at Easy Bean Farm by checking out their website or Facebook page.