3 Foods You Should Eat Because They Taste Good

The internet is flush with lists of food you should eat for one reason or another. These help your memory, those give you energy, this recipe is fast, that recipe is the best combination of superfoods. Recently, I’ve tried to pull myself out of a food rut by trying a few new-to-me recipes. These aren’t foods that are necessarily healthy or easy to cook or fast. They are, however, tasty. I present to you my list of Amy approved recipes that you should try because they taste good:

Tostadas (adapted from Men’s Health Ab Training Guide)

tostada

I ripped this recipe out of a magazine that is years old and I haven’t ben able to find the recipe online. I guess that’s okay since the recipe is actually for huevos rancheros (blech). But the salsa, y’all. Make it! Best homemade salsa to ever grace my lips. The day after I made these, I was at a meeting, and try as I might to focus, all I could think about was getting home and polishing off the last of this salsa.

I followed the salsa recipe pretty closely other than the addition of a diced jalapeno and more chipotle peppers than it called for. (I’m glad I did, the chipotle peppers make this salsa! Careful, though, more chipotle = more spicy.)

The original recipe which looks pretty tasty if you like runny eggs.

The original recipe which looks pretty tasty if you like runny eggs.

I layered my tostada with avocado, smooshed black beans, the salsa, cheese, and shredded lettuce. I ate five, which was plenty filling, but I would have eaten 10 if I had made 10. I’m definitely filing this one in the back of my mind to make for Stephen when he comes home. I like that this is a versatile option: add chicken, swap out black beans for pintos, load up on the veggies, you can make it what you want. But I’m just gonna tell you, the way I made it was really good.

Caprese Style Pizza Bites by Heather’s French Press (and discovered thanks to Janelle!)

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I made this recipe twice in one week, so that should give you an idea of how good these are. I fully intended to freeze some so I could save them for later, but then I ended up eating every single pizza bite. Whoops.

The original recipe uses homemade dough, but I opted for the store bought kind. My Wal-Mart didn’t have any pre-made pizza dough (or they were really hidden), but thankfully a trip to Target was fruitful. (I tried both thin crust and regular dough; they worked equally well.) I followed the cooking instructions that were on the tube of pizza dough instead of those that came with the recipe. Otherwise, I followed it exactly.

I guess I didn't seal this little guy up enough. Still tasted good!

I guess I didn’t seal this little guy up enough. Still tasted good!

Eat with caution because the cherry tomatoes get hot, hot hot in there. Even though I ate these for dinner, I don’t think this would fly as a meal for my hungry husband. But these would be a fantastic appetizer to take to a party or to accompany something else (big salad, chicken, heaping plate of couscous, you get the idea.)

Crispy Chipotle Bean Burritos a la Better Homes and Gardens

crispy burrito

My mother-in-law sent me this recipe, and I could not stop thinking about it after seeing the picture. I was intrigued by the idea of using phyllo dough in place of a tortilla. It tasted good, but the real story here is the filling. Oh, the filling! The combo of corn, brown rice, pinto beans, diced chipotle, onion, tomatoes, and cheese was a little different than what I usually  use when making Mexican dishes, but it was amazing. The flavors really sing together. I easily could have sat on the floor of the kitchen just eating the filling for a few hours. It would also be great in enchiladas, taco salad, a regular ol’ tortilla.

Crispy! I know phyllo dough can be tricky to work with, but I just did as the directions on the box stated and had no trouble.

Crispy! I know phyllo dough can be tricky to work with, but I just did as the directions on the box stated and had no trouble.

The recipe makes enough for two people, easily, and more if you supplement with a side dish (rice, beans, a little Mexi-salad like I had). I ended up being able to save more than half of what I made because the filling was so filling. ;) I’ve reheated a few, and they stand up pretty well to being frozen and defrosted.

See? Just as I promised, these foods aren’t particularly healthy, or easy, or quick to make, but they are really, really good. What are y’all eating these days?

Deployment: 25% Down

April hasn’t just brought with it wind and warmer temps. It also marks the next big deployment milestone: 25% done!

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It feels great to know that the first big chunk is done. 75% is still a long way to go, but I take my victories where I can get them. Besides, we would only have been 17% done at this point in the last deployment (I think; math is hard) since it was a few months longer. Another check in the positive category!

Honestly though, the last month+ has been tough. After the craziness of initial deployment and my week visiting friends in Waxahachie, I feel like time has slowed and loneliness has set in. I powered through that first 10% of deployment with sheer determination, but since then, as our time apart grows, I’m feeling Stephen’s absence more keenly. Sometimes doing whatever I want is appealing (Eating meals that I know Stephen wouldn’t like and watching shows that I know would drive him crazy), but after a few months, the fun wears off.

That visit to ‘Hachie really gave me something to look forward to, something to keep my eye on. I have another visit home in May for Great Strides, but I’m driving and it’s such a short trip that I’m expecting it to be more tiring than refreshing. The next fun thing on the calendar after that isn’t until the end of July. I guess I need to plan something else in between now and then to boost my spirits.

Picture from a recent sunset hike. I've been staying busy!

Picture from a recent sunset hike. I’ve been staying busy!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel sad, which is how I felt for most of the last deployment. (Oh, there was so, so much crying last time.) This time around, my emotions are a lot more middle of the road instead of all over the place. That’s check in the “pro” column.

Another positive: I found out the homecoming date on Stephen’s orders. Granted, that doesn’t mean he will be home then. It could be sooner, it could be later, but it gives me something to set my sights on. I saw the date advertised somewhere recently and felt my heart flutter a little. I still haven’t decided what I want to do for a countdown though. (Last time I had a candy countdown.) Any suggestions?

1 quarter of this deployment dunzo. I’ll take it!

PR-less

2012 was the golden era of my running. If you click on the little running tab up there ^ you will see that in 2012 I earned a PR (personal record) in every distance that I ran. Let me break it down for you:

Took this picture, answered a phone call, and still managed to PR during this race.

Took this picture, answered a phone call, and still managed to PR during this race.

That’s a PR in February, March, April, and May. In the case of some of those distances, the PRs were flying at me left and right. PRing was my schtick. I was good at it, and I liked it.

Alas, the Dash and Dine 5k in May 2012 was the last PR to grace my Garmin. That was almost two years ago, people! TWO! In all fairness, my racing saw a sharp decline following the golden era. I spent 8 months in the racing wasteland that was rural Germany. Even after moving back stateside, the number of races I’ve participated in is nowhere near 2012 proportions. My most recent races (the El Paso Marathon and Bataan) took months to train for. I pinned my PR hopes to the EP full. It didn’t work out to be a new record for me, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it; I fully intend to take another stab at a full marathon PR in due time.

Selfie taken during Big D, April 2012, smashing my previous full marathon finish time.

Selfie taken during Big D, April 2012, smashing my previous full marathon finish time.

Besides, it’s not all about age group placing and PRing. I’d be happy to never PR again if every time I laced up, I felt as good as I did last week. That amazing running perfection only happens once in a while, though. And PRing is fun. I remember walking around after the Austin half marathon (my fastest half to date) feeling victorious! I even talked to strangers. (Y’all know that means I must have been feeling out-of-this-world elation for that to happen.)

I feel like my best chance for a new PR would be in the 10k. I’ve only run four 10ks, and I don’t feel like I topped out in that distance yet. Even though I’d have to run faster than 8:40 for 6 miles, I think a little bit of regular speed work would  push me over the edge. Granted, I have no idea how fast I could run a 10k these days, but I feel like I have a 10k PR still in me.

Unfortunately, it’s not a very popular of a race distance around here. The soonest upcoming 10k isn’t until June, which would give me time to train, but running in June sounds not fun. Plus, it’s two hours away. Four hours of driving for a 1 hour race? Not going to happen.

The scenery at my lightening fast 5k PR. Not pretty to look at, but it sure was flat.

The scenery at my lightening fast 5k PR. Not pretty to look at, but it sure was flat.

My second choice for a PR distance would the half marathon. At the EP full, I ran the first half in 2:07. That would be 10 minutes too slow to PR, but I was trying to pace myself (sort of). Had that been the entire race, I would have pushed myself more. I also happen to think that half marathons are a great distance. I’d love to aim for a sub 1:55.

However, I have no intention of doing that any time soon. We are quickly entering the time of year when the entire state of Texas turns into a frying pan. Even if there was a half around here, and I can’t find any coming up, it’d be miserable. That PR will have to wait.

The secret to my fast finish at the Austin Half, February 2012.

The secret to my fast finish at the Austin Half, February 2012.

Sigh. So I guess it’s you and me, 5k. I love 5ks. That’s probably why I’ve run so many of them. But 5ks are also scary. My PR was run at a 7:50 pace. Even for a mere 3 miles, that sounds really fast to me these days. I’m not sure I could even run 1 mile at that speed. The upside is that 5ks are a dime a dozen around here, so I’ve got options. Not to mention, the short length of the race makes heat less of a factor.

I’m not saying I’m going to go for it. Instead, I’m saying that I’m willing to consider it. I want to see if a 5k PR is even in the realm of possibility and if I’m up for the challenge. A few fast runs around the neighborhood might give me some insight on the possibility of a 5k PR. Who knows, I might scrap it all and just do yoga until fall rolls around.

What is your favorite racing distance? Got any good PR stories? Or advice for throwing up a big 5k PR?

PS Apologies to those of you who read the unfinished version of this post that I accidentally published last night! Zoinks! I guess now you get an inside look at the types of edits I make.

Monday Five?

Sure it might be Monday, but I’m in the mood for a little Friday Five. And I was too lazy to come up with anything else.

1. Race pictures from Bataan came out a while back, but I don’t think I shared them. (Did I?) Welp, if this is a double share, please forgive me. (While you are at it, please forgive me for being lazy, too. Thanks.) Bataan pictures of moi are here. If you’ve gotten the itch to participate in 2015, registration is already open!

One of the 1,000 pictures that I took on race day.

One of the 1,000 pictures that I took on race day.

2. I just realized that I have to miss my favorite yoga class for the next two weeks in a row. Boo! I really like the instructor at the Monday night class because she is great at explaining things and helping you make adjustments. Also, she has a really crazy haircut that sometimes I just stare at. It’s going to be a while before I can resume staring at it because I have a UTEP meeting tonight and an FRG meeting next Monday. Wah.

3. I’m obsessed with Carole King lately.

Carole, call me if you ever want to trade lives.

Carole, call me if you ever want to trade lives.

I mean, I already loved her, but just lately I’ve discovered some of her songs for the first time and rediscovered others that I haven’t listened to in a while. (This one is on repeat.) I love that she channeled her challenges into her writing, I think she has a unique voice, and I think she is gorgeous. In short, I want to be Carole King.

4. I’m focusing on writing more this month. Poems, short stories, novel ideas, everything. (Blog writing doesn’t count.) I’ve promised myself that I will write at least a little every single day. I’m the kind of person who has to “write out the garbage.” If I write for long enough, the top layer of crap gets out of my system and something decent usually bubbles up. I’ve had some pretty good ideas appear as a result, but I’m having to push myself to writewritewrite. That means there has been a fair amount of procrastination in the form of doodling. Behold:

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I’m also procrastinating right now by writing this blog post.

5. Spring in El Paso is short, but it’s really nice. It was 55 when I woke up, and the high is predicted to be 73. Too bad we can’t have this weather year round. (It’s supposed to get up to 90 later in the week.) Nevertheless, I’m determined to enjoy it while I can.

Morning in the desert. Keep it coming, EP!

Morning in the desert. Keep it coming, EP!

I Tried It: Hiking the Franklins

This year I opted to forego resolutions in favor of experiences. My goal is to dive headfirst into one new-to-me experience each month. So far I’ve had success with yoga and food truck fusion falafels. This month I tackled hiking. To be fair, I’ve gone hiking a time or two before. It’s one of those activities that I don’t really “get.” When I think of hiking, I wonder, “Why don’t those people just get away from the rocks and hills and stuff to where it is flat? Then they could go faster.” Basically, I want hiking to be more like running. But I really want to give hiking a chance. The El Paso area has so many great hiking options and Stephen loves it. It’s time for me to see what the fuss is about. It just so happens that one of my friends here is trying to get more hiking into her life. Earlier this week I rang her up and suggested we hike together.

Ooh. Aah.

Ooh. Aah.

We drove just beyond Scenic Drive to the Palisades Trail in the Franklin Mountains. My pal Alex had heard that it wasn’t too hard or too long, which is what we wanted. Loaded up with water and some Goldfish for snacking, we took to the trail!

There was a little confusion at first. The trail would fork and, not knowing what we were supposed to do, we’d guess. Our first ten minutes along the trail led to a fenced in area that looked not so hiker-friendly. (The large warning signs and barbed wire made that point pretty obvious.) I loudly declared that the day’s purpose was all about the journey, not the destination. We turned around and took the path in a different direction.

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We lucked out with a beautiful day, not too cold and not too hot. We’ve had crazy wind lately but not this day. Alex and I soaked in the sunshine while marching along and gabbing.

The trail wound it’s way through a valley and up some mighty hills. Being that we are both beginners, we took our time. The trail provided plenty of interesting things to see.

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Alex posing in a mini-cave thingy.

Alex posing in a mini-cave thingy.

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I know that people don’t think the desert is pretty, but I have to disagree. It might not be traditionally good looking like Cancun or Heidi Klum, but when you look closely, it’s interesting pretty like a Tyra Banks fivehead. Plus, the desert has a really great personality.

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Eventually the path we were on curled its way up a crest. We took our time looking down at El Paso.

Hello down there!

Hello down there!

After enjoying the view and snapping some pics, that was our cue to turn around and hike back. By the time we got back to my car, we had logged 90 minutes of hiking and 3 miles of distance. I’m not sure how that stacks up in the world of hiking, but I felt pretty good about it. In fact, before we’d even driven away, we were already talking about going hiking again, next time a little farther, maybe a little more challenging.

While I don’t see hiking overtaking my love of running, I think there’s room in my heart (and my social calendar) for both. Hiking: I don’t hate it.

Nirvana

I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that I’m just not feeling running lately. The intense training for the El Paso full in February so closely followed by the difficulty of Bataan just zapped my motivation.

But something happened on Tuesday morning. When my alarm went off, instead of hitting snooze, I got up, I got dressed, I went running.

It wasn’t just that I wanted to run; I felt like I had to. Not in the “my training plan demands that I fit these miles in” kind of way that I have become so familiar with. It was more like the “my soul is craving this” kind of have to.  Something inside me was propelling me out the door and around the loop of the park.

The sun made its slow climb from behind the mountains while I ran with only my dog and my shadow for company. The morning air was cool and the street was quiet. The stress of everything that normally weighs me down was sloughed off. I felt happy. I felt free. I was damn near frolicking out there!

When Geronimo started to slow down and seemed like he was done running, I dropped him off at home, but I headed back out for more. This time I ran along the street. Soldiers were returning home from morning PT, commuters were heading out for work. The cars sounded like waves. I kid you not: the morning traffic was peaceful!

I only ran 3 miles, but these were some of my all-time happiest miles. Every step felt easy and good. In a weird way, it felt like the run chose me. It was some cosmic gift swooping in at the very moment that I needed it.

Maybe I won’t have another run this indulgent in a while, but this is what I’m chasing when I lace up my shoes. This is the type of run that keeps me coming back for more. This is why I run.

1 Blissful Year

One year ago, Stephen and I woke up to morning frost on the ground in Grafenwoehr. We jigsawed our belongings (and our dog) into the back of a rental car, and started the long journey to our new home.

Stuffed to the brim!

Stuffed to the brim! Oh, how I loved that rental car! Too bad it was probably the only time I’ll get to drive a Mercedes.

Family Portrait Selfie! (Taken on the front steps of our house in Germany before we turned in the keys.)

Family Portrait Selfie! (Taken on the front steps of our house in Germany before we turned in the keys, March 2013.)

It took a three-hour drive, nine-hour flight, five-hour layover, and another flight (three hours this time) before we set foot in El Paso. Goodbye gray of Bavaria, hello Sun City!

My guys at our new place in Paso, April 2013.

My guys at our new place in Paso, April 2013.

A view of the mountains, April 2013.

A view of the mountains, April 2013.

I was apprehensive about the impending life upheaval: Would I like El Paso? Would I find a job? Would I make friends? Would I miss Germany? Would we be able to handle yet another huge life event? Yes to everything! It’s been hard at times, I’ve been sad at times, but it’s also been so full of goodness. I like living here, I’ve had jobs-a-plenty, I’ve met some pretty cool people, and our family has once again ridden out the tides of change. I think it’s safe to say now that it’s been good for us.

We’ve gotten to spend time with our family and friends, but we’ve also gotten to go on some new adventures and see things we’ve never seen before. A perfect marriage of old and new at the crossroads of the southwest!

Sunset at White Sands, June 2013.

Sunset at White Sands, June 2013.

Homecoming at our alma mater with our best friends, October 2013.

Homecoming at our alma mater with our best friends, October 2013.

My only complaint is that I thought I’d have more by now. More of a career, more friends, more figured out! I guess I need more time to get there. (Ha!) I should have learned by now that life doesn’t move at the pace I think it should, and it’s okay if my imaginary timeline of expectations doesn’t match up with reality.

I can happily say that I feel settled here. (I couldn’t really say that of my time in Germany.) I know my way around town and have all my favorites. Just enough routine to feel safe and just enough new experiences to keep it interesting. I feel comfortable enough to hold down the fort solo. (Another thing that wasn’t true in Germany.) People can say what they will about El Paso and Fort Bliss, but it’s not a bad place to live. Maybe it’s the Tex-Mex restaurants on every corner, the country music on the radio, the big blue sky, people that say y’all and love Dr. Pepper, but damn, I love Texas. It’s good to be home.