Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall Cravings

Apparently there is a shortage.

A pumpkin shortage.

I was a little slow on the uptake, which is especially unfortunate since I have been craving the tastes of fall wayyy before today.  Nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice... *sigh*

To satisfy this craving I searched everywhere for canned pumpkin.  Trader Joes, Wegmans, everywhere!  The only thing in the stores were cans of the pumpkin pie filling, filled with extra sugar and who knows what!  I ended up at Giant today after work, and the shelves were empty...except for this
One can of pumpkin. 
One dented can of pumpkin.  
But I was desperate and bought it anyways.  You bet that I will be using it this weekend. ; )

P.S.  I also got this to satisfy the pumpkin craving
So on to dinner---

Since I couldn't experience fall through pumpkin (non-latte/beer form!), a nice, cozy dinner was the second best!  I was craving something hearty, yet easy to make after a long day at work.

Marinara Pasta Bake
1/2 cup of marinara sauce (I used Chelsea's recipe!)
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped mozzarella
handful of basil, thinly sliced
1 cup of cooked pasta
parmesan cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cook pasta according to the directions (subtract 2 minutes from the cooking time so it won't overcook in the oven!).  Meanwhile, prepare and chop ingredients.

After pasta is cooked, pour into a baking dish.  Pour sauce, mushrooms, mozzarella, and basil in the dish as well.  Mix well.
Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.  Grate parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!!!
Look at the cheese factor on this dish!! It is so savory and comforting, and so easy to boot!  The basil adds hints of freshness to the dish as well.  The mushrooms make it a tad bit filling, and you can always add sausage or hamburger as another option! The pasta is cooked perfectly, and it is so filling that all you need is a side salad and the meal is finished in less than 20 minutes!
One more cheese shot ;)
Ok last one :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Who is your Worst Critic?

Today, I went running.  Thursdays are our "long run" days for our marathon training.  We started gradually after a summer of not-so-many-runs, and today we reached 6 miles.  A hilly 6 miles.
I must confess, my friends, this was no easy run.   I struggled every step of the way, but didn't walk.  I felt like I worked as hard as I possibly could, but I still couldn't help thinking about the half-marathon that I ran four short months ago.  How could I be having so much trouble running 6 miles when I did THIRTEEN?  

I was so disappointed during the first half as I could tell that I wasn't at my optimal fitness level.  I kept blaming myself, thinking negatively every step of the way.  I just wanted to get it over with and didn't have the runner's high that I often felt during my half-marathon training.

But then, a song came on my ipod: Chris Daughtry's "Over You".  Now this song is obviously describing a breakup, but the chorus really stuck with me.  
"Well I never saw it coming.
I should've started running (no pun intended!)
A long, long time ago.
And I never thought I'd doubt you, 
I'm better off without you,
More than you, more than you know"

I consider myself a fairly secure person.  I always pride myself in how other's can't make me feel insignificant or insecure.  But one person I never thought to look out for was myself.  I was my worst critic.  I was the person who made me feel like a failure on this run.

Today, I realized that while running is a time for my thoughts and musings, I was wrestling with a few demons.  I kept filling my thoughts with negativity, and instead of being happy for finishing such a hilly run in a pretty good time, I could only think about how I couldn't go faster--how my body was struggling.

I am better off with all of that negativity.  After that song came on, I realized that I needed to change my frame of mind.  People say that running is 80% mental and 20% physical--boy are they right.  

Today, I realized that I not only needed to exercise my body, but my mind. For the rest of the run, I started thinking more positively.  I began thinking about all the things I was doing right...and before I knew it, I was at the street where I live.  Not only did I pick up my pace with the mental weight that I threw off, but I was happier and more satisfied with the run.  I felt thankful for this run, because every following run I will be on the lookout for when my mind starts to turn down the negative, discouraging path.  

So today, I challenge you to look into yourself and think about the qualities you love about yourself.  I challenge you to question whether you are your biggest and worst critic.  And if you are, change it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blog for the Soul

Remember those "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books? 

It was this series of books that was composed of short stories submitted by people all over the country.  Some titles included:

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul
Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love
Even Chicken Soup for My Dog's Life!

Those stories made me laugh, cry, and contemplate things about my life.

I don't really know what made me start thinking about these books recently.  I must admit that I have been more homesick than usual recently being away from everyone I care about, and these books were just another memory of that home so far away.

I don't mean to make this a sappy post at all, but I realized recently that I began to feel more "down" than my normal peppy self and not be able to shake that feeling.  I barely even wanted to cook because while I used to cook to get the stress out of my life, I realized that in the process of doing so, I stopped enjoying cooking.  Studying psychology myself, I should have known that this association would happen.  

But I also realized that this isn't me!  I am upbeat, optimistic, and enthusiastic; not depressing or negative.  I realized this today when I cooked dinner with my roomie--it was Taco Tuesdays and we had so much fun just eating.  It wasn't anything extravagent to say the least, but it was delicious just the same.  At the very basic level, I found a fun moment that I will remember for some time.

So I decided to challenge myself.  I am challenging myself to nurture my "soul" (see the connection!?) and think about the good things that I am experiencing right now, down here in D.C.  I will enjoy cooking and the amazing city that is a short drive down 66.  My life will not revolve around the three days every five or so weeks that a loved one comes to visit me.   It will revolve around my love of school, cooking, and of myself.

And don't worry folks, there will still be recipes.

Like this.... oh and like this.

But there will also be posts about my days down here away from my family.  If you just want the recipes, that's okay too--there's a page just for you ; )

So my first start today will be a little announcement:

I will be running a marathon next March : )

I will be training with a good friend of mine and focus my frustration and homesickness in another place besides the kitchen.  I am very excited to do this, and have a few races before that, like the Army 10-Miler and the Hot Chocolate 15K.  So this blog will also be about my training as well.

So bottom line---I will be a happier, healthier Rachel.

Thank you for dealing with my little rant, and I am glad to be back in the blogging world!