Conquer this.

It’s been a while.

I made my way through 14 countries and over 30 cities in Europe for two months over the summer. It was a crazy ride and something I’ve always wanted to do.

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Have you ever completed something that you’ve always wanted to do or see or experience? Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have it be everything you’ve imagined. This trip was that for me.

The one downside to having the life experience you’ve always wanted… What do you do after it’s over?

I went through a weird stage for a couple of weeks where I didn’t feel part of the picture back home. I was there, but I was just going through the motions. It was as if I wasn’t fully committed to anything I did because I knew I would wake up and be back on a rock in Loch Ness or free diving for sea urchins in Cinque Terre.

But this reality of being back home IS really life. One day, in a haze of under-appreciation of my current situation, I snapped out of it. I needed to get my life, my REAL life, back together.

I didn’t have much of an opportunity to workout while I was in Europe and eating healthy was a constant struggle (except that the app Happy Cow definitely saved me a few times) so I was out of shape. This probably contributed to my ghostly presence back home. I forgot about my passion for everything health, fitness and competition.

I slipped on my running shoes that had mostly only been recently used for traversing foreign streets and headed down to the strand for my first run.

It.

Was.

Miserable.

I haven’t been this out of shape since I started seriously working out 7 years ago. My chest was on fire and my muscles ached. I stopped after only a mile and nearly fainted on the ground.

Plenty of people have similar experiences like mine where you lose your way and try and find it back again. Whether it be having kids, a family loss, a big move, divorce or a new job…The initial struggle is discouraging and makes you wonder how you ever got past this in the first place. The important thing to remember is that you got past this before, you can do it again.

That was my mantra during my sad little one mile runs for the first few weeks. And then one day I pushed myself to two miles. It was hard, but I made it. And then a week went by, and I added in an extra half mile. My legs were screaming, but I pushed through it. My mom told me that while she was getting into running shape, she used me as her inspiration(click here for the full story). She said that if I could run 26.2 miles with no food, no sleep but a whole lot of will and determination, she could finish her extra 6 blocks of running.

My mom’s a smart lady. What’s that quote? Something about half the battle is with your own mind? I’m probably getting it terribly wrong, but you get the idea. My mom reminded me in that moment, yes, the pain is real and yes, it is going to be hard… but you can do it.

I’m not back into the shape I was before I left, but I decided to challenge myself and start training for speed, not distance. I signed up for my first 5k in a very long time to set the time bar and start my competition with myself again.

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I’m competing in this weekends “Conquer Our Run” 5k in Manhattan Beach. For any of you locals, come run with me or cheer me on as I attempt to get my groove back! And for any of you who have lost your health and fitness way, come join me! The first step is the hardest but making any move (whether it be graceful or not!) is better than no move at all.

See you at the start line 🙂

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad. PS, I leave for Europe in 9 days

In 9 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will initially drop me off in Stockholm. From there I’ll go to 14 more countries/23 more cities in two months (!!!!!!!!). Trying to contain my excitement. This has been in the making since my trip to Europe last summer.

When I was there last summer, I studied abroad in Italy, learned how to make authentic Italian dishes from a little Italian lady and did some minor weekend traveling.

Last years trip to the Grana Padano Cheese factory, one of my cooking classes with my Italian instructor and the Olive Oil factory:

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That was enough to get me saving and planning for this trip I’m about to embark on. I won’t be doing as much cooking as I did my previous time (only a few simple dishes cooked in hostels), but I’ll be going to a ton more countries. My goal for this trip is to not only see new things, places and people, but also to taste new cuisines to inspire a few new dishes to add to my upcoming cookbook!

Once I get back, official recipe testing and cook book creating will be on the way! Lots of work to be done, so before the madness and as a graduation gift to myself… Europe it is.

Here’s probably the last recipe I’ll be posting in a while. But don’t worry! This isn’t the last for two months. I’ll be posting about my experience abroad, the food I eat and the workouts/hikes/classes I do.

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad

serves 2

Ingredients

1 pre-cooked chicken breast, torn into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup dry israeli cous cous

1/2 cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 green bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup thinly chopped red onion

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles

1 handful italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

7 large basil leaves, thinly sliced (julienned)

2 small garlic cloves, sliced

1 small chunk of either grana padano or parmigiano reggiano cheese (you’ll need a micro grater to grate this)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

salt

1. Make the Israeli cous cous. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Add the Israeli Cous Cous and stir around, toasting the cous cous for about five minutes. Add 2/3 cup water, raise to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5-6 minutes and then drain excess liquid. Put this to the side to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Make the pesto. You can either use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I think the pesto tastes 1000000x better when made with a mortar and pestle, but it’s up to you. Combine the pine nuts and garlic in the mortar. Crush until the ingredients almost form a paste. Add the olive oil and basil and crush/grind. This process takes a few minutes. Lastly, stir in about 2 tablespoons of micro grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano cheese and a pinch of salt.

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3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and onions. Pour the pesto on top and toss to combine. Separate the mixture into two bowls or plates and top with the israeli cous cous and goat cheese crumbles.

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