Keeping Up Motivation Over the Holiday Season…

Plus a Great Gnocchi Recipe for Leftover Butternut Squash!


Once again, hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend. Mark is back off to work today, and I’ll be back to work tomorrow, so…back to the grind…until Christmas! This past week actually proved to be easier to keep up our routine than we would have thought. With the multitude of “Turkey Trots” across the country, it’s hard not to find a race to keep up your fitness level over the holiday (not to mention allow you more special treats). I digress…let’s dive into our week in review!Last Saturday was a rainy, ugly, cold day in Houston. We were all set to do our 10 miles with Team in Training, even got up early to ensure we had everything we needed. However, neither of us could find the proper attire for running in the rain. For some reason, I couldn’t find my rain jacket and Mark couldn’t find a proper running shirt (to stay warm and not chafe during the run). So, we decided to call the weather a defeat and actually got some stuff done around our new house (that has been pretty neglected due to our training schedule).

We headed over to Lowe’s bright and early to hopefully get some ideas and inspiration for painting our house’s interior walls from the drab apartment-style off-white, to something more exciting and fresh. We’ve never been able to make a space “our own” before, so it’s a bit of a daunting, but exciting task. After a lot of brainstorming, we decided to get on with our normal Saturday tasks and chores/errands, including our weekly pilgrimage to Ziggy’s Healthy Grillfor our Saturday breakfast!

As we weren’t able to get our 10 miler in on Saturday, I decided to shift my long run this week to Sunday. However, as Mark works on Sundays, it was just me by my lonesome for 10 long, painful miles. My IT band has been acting up on me since the San Antonio Half Marathon, and it was flaring up on me like no-ones business starting at ~mile 4 of the 10 mile run. I lived to tell the tale though…and all in all it was a beautiful day in Houston and I passed by a lot of pretty scenery along Buffalo Bayou.

This week was a very short work week for me…

Due to having a 9/80 work schedule (work 9 hours a day M-Th, every other Friday off), my Friday off fell on Wednesday allowing for a 2 day work week. Well, after Monday, I was clearly not into my work and decided to take Tuesday as a vacation day to get things done around the house and prepare for our Thanksgiving dinner..

My Tuesday “vacation day” was filled with cleaning, grocery shopping, and more cleaning. I finally cleared off our dining room table, did all of my outstanding laundry (and folded it, my least favorite household chore), and went to the grocery store to pick up the turkey and finish off the rest of the Thanksgiving feast shopping. A full and productive vacation day! I (well both of us) managed to get in a quick jog

Wednesday was my baking and prepping day for Thursday. I found all sorts of yummy recipes to make and adapt for our Thanksgiving feast! I’ll try to feature the winners in follow-up posts. Desserts were the main focus of my attention, making vegan pumpkin pie bars (yum!) and pumpkin snickerdoodles. I also prepped a vegan sweet potato casserole (one of the major hits of our dinner), and did a lot of chopping for stuffing and soup prep. Oh yeah, I should also mention I also baked two loaves of bread on Tuesday and Wednesday for use in our awesome vegetarian stuffing.  We tried to get to bed early on Wednesday for our Turkey Trot 10k the next morning. However, Mark still had to brine our turkey and bake his famous apple pie (made with 4 different varieties of apples), so I got to bed early, but Mark didn’t turn in until 1am…

Thanksgiving morning we were both up “early” (early for most people, just about normal time for us) to participate in the Sheltering Arms Turkey Trot. There are 2 courses, a 5k and a 10k course. I decided that since we were marathon training, the 10k course would be easy and appropriate (and allow us one extra slice of pie…). Boy was I wrong! It was a chilly morning for Houston standards, about 50F at start time with a brisk wind. However, it was sunny, so looking on the bright side, it could have been chilly and raining!

I did really well for the first few miles of the trot and was starting to warm up nicely. I hit a wall about 2.5 miles into the race where my IT band was acting up on me so badly we had to walk/run the rest of the race. Mark was nice enough to stick with me and keep me going. I was thankful for that, he put up with all of my terribly depressing and mean talk while I was in pain. I tend to act my worst when I’m in pain doing something I know I can do easily…it really frustrated me…especially because my first 10k race (in February) I finished in 52:31. This day was a much slower 1:08:xx…

I wasn’t going to let a stupid 10k race get me down the rest of the day, so I got a free massage after the race to work on my IT band, went home and got a cookin’! We obviously did a lot of cooking that day…turkey, gravy, yeasted rolls, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. A Thanksgiving feast fit for a king (and all vegetarian except turkey and gravy)!

Thanksgiving dinner was smaller this year than last, with 5 people total, compared to our ~15 person feast last year. However, it allowed us to be more creative with our dishes and make them more “gourmet” if you will…

Friday was probably the one day of our holiday that we could relax and enjoy each others company. We slept in, I made Mark a lovely breakfast of French toast (using leftover homemade oatmeal bread) and eggs and got ready in a relaxed manner. However, once we got ready, I needed to go into work. *grumble* Work on a holiday? Nope! I needed to print off fliers about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Team in Training for our gift wrapping session at the Galleria Mall in Houston. We were scheduled for a shift from 2-6pm on Friday at the Borders. We thought it would be a great way to raise money and awareness about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We were dead wrong!

Four hours of “gift wrapping” turned into us asking people if they wanted gift wrapping and declining for a multitude of reasons. Seems like most of Black Friday shopping is for themselves, not others…

In those 4 hours, we only managed to raise $18 to put towards Mark’s fundraising goal (less than minimum wage for one person, let alone 2). We thought it was pretty pitiful and a poor way for us to spend the one day we had together to get stuff done. In our fashion though, we picked ourselves up and dusted off to go off to dinner with a few new friends who were in the mood for Peking Duck!

We’d never had Peking Duck before, and believe we have now been spoiled…Peking Cuisine is a wonderful Chinese establishment in the area of Houston’s Chinatown. The duck is so special, you need to call ahead to reserve ducks for the evening (I hear they need ~2 hr lead time) and most of the staff have somewhat limited English skills and there is a special menu for those who speak Mandarin. So, it is best to go with a native (as we did). The food was amazing! I am normally not one for Chinese food, so I was skeptical. Well, I guess I had never had the “real deal” Chinese food, because this was not your normal greasy, everything fried Chinese place. Alongside our Duck, we ordered 6 dishes family style to share between the 6 of us (mostly vegetable options). Everything was good to wonderful and cheap to boot! For enough food to feed a small army, the total (with tip) for 2 ducks, 6 sides, and hot tea came to $35/couple. I’ll do a fuller review after our next visit, which hopefully won’t be too long…

We got back from dinner pretty late for our standards, as we had our morning long run the next day (included in next week’s update), but it was totally worth it!

So…weekly training summary…

Saturday: rest

Sunday: Stef – make up 10 miles; Mark – rest

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 20 minutes easy (both)

Wednesday: rest

Thursday: Sheltering Arms Turkey Trot 10k

Friday: rest

Total mileage (Stef): 18 mi

A few weeks ago, when I was looking for some inspiration for a quick and easy dinner, I was browsing through recipes on Eating Well’s website. I came across this recipe for Skillet Gnocchi. We had everything already in the pantry, just needed to put it together. Boy was it excellent! Surprisingly filling and delicious. Last week though, I decided to take it to the next level by using my own homemade gnocchi in the dish. So, last Sunday I made a batch of butternut squash gnocchi to use in this recipe…delish!

Butternut Squash Skillet Gnocchi



Butternut Squash Gnochhi:

  • 1/2 medium to large butternut squash (our was ~1.25 lb)
  • 2-3 cups whole wheat flour (we use King Arthur Brand)
  • pinch of rosemary, thyme, oregano, fresh ground black pepper, salt (all to taste)

Skillet Dish:

  • ~1 lb Butternut Squash Gnocchi
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (and Italian seasonings, if not already seasoned, I prefer adding my own)
  • 6 cups spinach or chopped chard (we’ve done it both ways and prefer the chard)
  • 1 can cannelli beans (or other white bean)
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced (would be wonderful with vidalia when they get into season)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (part-skim or reduced fat preferred)

For the gnocchi:

Roast the butternut squash, skin up, in an oven-safe container at 400F until fork tender. It will take ~30-45 minutes to become fork tender. Remove from oven and allow to sit until able to be handled (will vary based on your tolerance, I have a high heat tolerance threshold). Remove squash from skin and place into large mixing bowl. Add desired spices and mash. I used an immersion blender to get the squash extra-smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, a food processor or blender works as well (just make a few more dishes).

When the squash is back to room temperature, add 2 cups of whole wheat flour approximately 1/2 cup at a time and work into a dough. When a flaky dough forms, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough, adding flour until the dough is smooth and not sticky. How much flour you end up using will be a function of how much moisture your butternut squash retains.

After forming a nice dough, roll out dough (in parts) to a 1/2″ diameter rope. From here, cut the gnocchi into ~1/4-1/2″ pieces. Press down on each piece with a fork to slightly flatten and create the stereotypical gnocchi shape. Place the gnocchi onto a baking sheet (that will fit into your fridge) and chill for at least an hour.

Once the dough is rested, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil on the stove. Measure out 16 oz of gnocchi and set aside for boiling (you can use more if you’d like, but my nutritional info is based on 16 oz). Carefully drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and boil until the gnocchi rises to the top. When the gnocchi rises to the top, it is finished cooking, so remove and set aside.

Now that the gnocchi is ready, you can prepare the rest of the recipe!

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a deep dish saute pan. When warm, add the gnocchi. Saute gnocchi until slightly browned (ever so slightly, it will be somewhat difficult to tell; 5-7 minutes). Flour and gnocchi will stick to your saute pan, this is good and normal. Most of this residue will be taken off during following processes and will thicken the sauce of this dish (no heavy cream needed here!).

Remove gnocchi from pan and set aside. Add final 1 tsp of olive oil to pan and saute onions for ~2 minutes (slightly translucent). Add garlic and saute for 1 min then add water and cook, covered, until onion is soft. Add chard or spinach and cook until slightly wilted. After beginning to wilt, add tomatoes, Italian seasonings, white beans, gnocchi (*thanks Mom*), and pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, top with mozzarella cheese and simmer covered until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 6 decent-sized portions. Looks are deceiving with this dish, it is much more filling than it looks! It also reheats beautifully for luxurious lunches. I love this dish for lunch more than dinner sometimes…


  • 269 cal
  • 5 g fat
  • 43 g carb
  • 4 g fiber
  • 10 g protein