Monday, February 27, 2012

Quick, Creamy Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna

Last year about this time, I wrote an oddly (to me) well-received post about Lent and Ash Wednesday and fasting. I had plans of doing a similar post this year, but the moment kind of passed me by. Hopefully it will suffice to say that I love Ash Wednesday and Lent and not just because I look pretty good in purple (liturgical joke). I planned and led a service at the hospital, and it was an amazingly sacred space and time, to intimately touch people’s foreheads and mark them as mortal and frail and human in the midst of a place that directly confronts people’s mortality. It was one of the best moments of my ministry there so far.

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This Lent is particularly special for me since I’m also preparing for being ordained to the priesthood on Easter Saturday. That in and of itself is a pretty intense spiritual undertaking. So, I’m not really “doing” anything for Lent, at least nothing that I can put in a little soundbite and convey to you all. In fact, for where I am with God right now, giving up “doing” is probably exactly what I need to do, so there.

But some people give up meat, and for you, there is this lasagna! It comes together pretty easily for a lasagna, not that I would know because Joe actually made this while I was at work. He also changed a few proportions, leaving out a few noodles and 1/3 of the cream cheese. It was still good. Make half for now and freeze the other half for a fast dinner in a few weeks. Double-duty dinner!


Pam Anderson’s Quick, Creamy Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna
source: Runner’s World


15 oven-ready, rippled style lasagna noodles
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sliced mushrooms
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 cups marinara sauce (no sugar added or low-sugar)
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400°F.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, sauté until tender and well browned, about 7 minutes. Add spinach, sauté until heated through. Combine spinach-mushroom mixture with the basil, 8 ounces of cream cheese, and 1/4 cup broth. Mix remaining 4 ounces cream cheese with 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl; set aside.

To assemble, spread 1/3 cup marinara on the bottom of baking dish, then assemble 4 layers in the following order: 3 lasagna noodles, 2/3 cup marinara, 1 cup spinach-mushroom filling, 3/4 cup mozzarella, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Top with remaining 3 noodles, the cream cheese-broth mixture, 3/4 cup mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Cover with cooking spray-coated foil and bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes. Leaving lasagna on same rack, turn oven to broil. Remove foil and broil until lasagna is golden brown, 5 minutes. Remove from oven; let sit for 10 minutes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Marathon Training: Week 8

I promise that I have a recipe that I’ll be posting next week, but I wanted to update you all on how training for Flying Pig was going. Tomorrow, my mom and I are doing our longest run to date: 14-15 miles (depending on how early we get going and how fast because I have a dentist appointment at 10 am!). I will admit to being more than a little afraid since it will be the longest I have ever run, and my first run over the half marathon distance (except for the extra .5 mile in the Middle Half course). But we’re running it on a really enjoyable course through some of my favorite parts of Nashville, and we’ll just keep it slow and steady.

A couple of weekends ago, we ran the Cedars Frostbite Half Marathon, but I didn’t take any pictures because it was miserable. However, my mom did win 3rd in her age group and got this cool trophy.


Somehow, I had it in my mind that it was a relatively fast course and began to fantasize about it being a PR race for me, particularly after reading about Cate’s awesome half marathon PR. I had been feeling really strong, and sub-2:05 seemed within my reach. However, as the race approached, the weather forecast deteriorated, and we woke up on Saturday morning to 20-25 mph winds, temperatures in the 20s, and flurries of snow. It was the coldest day of the year, and due to our mild winter, the weather conditions felt brutal. Kelly also alerted me to the fact that it was indeed hilly. Maybe not a PR day after all…

The start of the race was at 11 am, which was a little strange, but also allowed me to sleep in. When we got there, just under an hour until the start, we missed getting a close parking space by one car. This meant we had to park a 1/2 mile up the road from the staging area. Eventually, we abandoned the warmth of the car and trudged down to the heated (!) building where we got our bibs, T-shirts, etc. The sun showed a promise of peeking out, and I was actually a touch warm standing at the starting line.

We started off up a hill, but my first mile was right on target for a PR and I felt okay. I took my gloves off and shoved them in my tights and zipped down my jacket. Second mile also looked good, but then we hit an awkward gravel road where it was difficult to fall into a rhythm. After three mentally exhausting miles of watching my footing like a hawk so I didn’t face plant, I was thrilled to hit asphalt again and took off after the 10K aid station. That lasted all of about, oh, a quarter mile before the next big hill. Additionally, I was taking my gloves off and putting them back on depending on whether the sun was out or we were getting blasted by an Arctic wind or it started snowing on us.

The wheels started to come off around mile 8 (yay! Only 5 miles to go!). I would’ve curled up in a ball by the side of the road and cried, but I probably would’ve died of exposure. No one around us seemed to be having a lot of fun either. The last aid station was supposed to be around 10.3 but was closer to 10.6. It didn’t help when the volunteer cheerily encouraged us that we had “just over 3 miles to go!” Um, no. The next two miles were along the side of a highway straight into said 20-25 mph winds. So much pain, so cold, so miserable. Finally, we turned back into the state park for the last little bit, and we ran it in to the finish line. The final time was not important except that it was my slowest half marathon since I started seriously running.

One of the parts I love about races is using other people as carrots to give me motivation. On the last hill, Mom and I decided that there was no way we were going to let this woman in pink fuzzy socks and frilly shorts covered in hearts beat us, so we blasted past her (and by “blasted,” I mean, “shuffled by her at about a 11 min/mile pace”).

We got water and pizza and Diet Coke and hung out with people while we waited for the results. I probably ended up with some mild hypothermia since I didn’t change out of my sweaty, wet clothes because getting to our car would’ve involved going outside and moving my legs more. It took me forever to get warm even once I was home and showered.

It really would’ve been a nice race if the conditions had been favorable. It was a good size at about 500-600 people and very low-key (low entry fee, no medals, no course protection since it was in a state park, no rock bands at the mile markers, etc.). I suppose the name of the event should’ve given me pause, but I laughed when I signed up because it had been such a mild winter. “Ha ha!,” I thought. “It’ll probably be 60 degrees at the finish line!” Boy, was I wrong.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Love This Bar

Guess who’s home from Kenya!

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That’s actually from when he was leaving, so he’s a lot more tan, and his luggage isn’t as heavy now. Joe got home Sunday evening, had Monday off, and was back to work at the hospital on Tuesday. Usually, we don’t do too much for Valentine’s Day, but it is nice to do something fun. While he was gone, I tried to get him a card, but they were all awful. I also had my CPE unit 2 evaluations all day Tuesday, which I knew would leave me completely emotionally and physically exhausted, so we kind of scrapped the romantic, gushy expressions of Valentine’s Day for this year. And I am so glad we did because Valentine’s Day 2012 will forever be known as The Day We Found Our Bar.

(How I Met Your Mother-style) You see kids, once upon a time, when we lived in Houston, we were surrounded by great bars – not just places to get a drink, but places that feel like home. There was Blanco’s with its live country music, shuffleboard tables, and buckets of longnecks. There was Kay’s with George Strait on the jukebox, a giant table shaped like Texas, foosball tables, and the Dolly Parton-wannabe bartenders. There was Hans’ Bier Haus with its bocce ball courts, picnic tables, and great craft beer selection. They were places where you could go to relax, kick back, and be yourself. Usually there are a crew of crusty, Wrangler-wearing regulars, but they don’t mind the newcomers as long as they’re respectful.

Ever since we moved to Nashville, we’ve been looking for our bar. Sure, there are good places to get a drink, but we always left feeling like Goldilocks. Too loud, too hip, too smoky, too fratty, too “biker bar”, etc. On a whim, we walked in to Twin Kegs and found ourselves looking at this beauty:

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Shuffleboard. The bar kind, not the cruise ship kind. We took a seat and looked around. One of the regulars at the bar hollered, “He’s in the back cooking, but he’ll be right with you.” There was Yuengling and Sam Adams on draft, along with the standard domestic, light, and cold lagers. When the bartender came to take our order, Joe asked him how the shuffleboard worked. He looked at us with a little confusion and said, “You just get up and play,” and proceeded to tell us how long it had been in that building and who takes care of it. “We just ask that you respect the table.” Oh, we will.

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While Miranda Lambert and the Eagles played on the jukebox, Joe respected that I owned him at the shuffleboard table. Unfortunately, it was getting late, and we had school work the next day so we had to call it a night. Even though our Valentine’s Day wasn’t romantic, I got to spend the evening doing things I love with my favorite person in a place where I could kick back and relax. Sounds pretty good to me.

Friday, February 10, 2012

11 Random Facts About Me

Courtenay over at Auto-Pilot Legs tagged me in this meme that I’ve seen on other blogs, and I figured, hey, it’s content since I’m obviously not doing any real cooking as of late. Also, one of my favorite things to talk about is myself so of course I’ll jump on any opportunity to do so (see: having a blog). But because I’m a rebel, I’m not going to follow the rules.


1. Things that, at one time or another, I have said that I would never do but ended up doing anyway: move back to Texas for college, get married, watch all of the Harry Potter movies, be a runner, and wear jeggings.

2. Living in Nashville, I occasionally still have dreams of becoming a back-up singer for some big country act. I might practice by singing harmony to the radio.


3. I rode in Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans for two years while Joe played keyboard in the band. It was the best way to see Mardi Gras without being in the middle of the crowds. I also ended up with a sore wrist from playing shaker and dancing.

4. I love working with and around children, but I really don’t want to have any of my own.


5. As kids, my brother and I didn’t grow up with a lot of sweets or candy around, and to this day, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I’ll take a glass of wine over dessert nearly any day.


6. I went to boarding school in northern Michigan (specifically, northwestern lower Michigan) for my junior and senior years of high school. Usually people are like, “Wow, what was that like?” It was amazing. Pure awesomeness. 

7. My favorite books as a kid were Charlotte’s Web and Matilda. Sometimes I would try to move things with my mind like Matilda.

8. I thought I was smart until I went to graduate school. That was a rude awakening.


9. Sometimes I’m afraid I peaked too early. In 8th grade, I played my dream role of Marian the Librarian in The Music Man. My senior year of high school, I was a finalist for a Presidential Scholar of the Arts and was flown to Miami with the other finalists (see picture above). Since then, it’s been pretty mediocre.

10. I have never won an election. All of the times I ran for student class representative, fine arts representative, student body vice president, whatever. Never won a single election. My mom says I’m saving it up for when I’m elected bishop, which is sweet but probably something all clergy moms say.

11. I’m a total city girl. Being in the country at night freaks me out way more than being in an urban area at night, and I get confused when people from more rural areas complain about how “busy” Nashville is.

And here are the questions that Courtenay asked us:

1. What was the turning point in life that lead you to a more active/healthy lifestyle or has it always played an important role?

When I started dating Joe and saw that he made time to exercise even with a busy med school student schedule, I figured that I should make time too. I started to be more interested in living a healthy lifestyle food-wise when I got engaged and wanted to slim down for the wedding. I ended up losing 20 pounds.

2. What is your career and is it where you want to be? If not, what would your dream job be?

I’m an Episcopal clergyperson, currently serving as a chaplain at a children’s hospital and a youth minister at a parish. I’m trying to discern what my dream job might be, but I’m leaning towards school chaplaincy. I think I would love that.

3. What was the best day of your life so far?

My wedding day, closely followed by my ordination to the diaconate. On both days, it was wonderful to be surrounded by friends and family and lifted up. They were very holy and sacred days.

4. Who in your life has had the most positive influence on you? Why?

So many people throughout my life, but I’ll probably have to say Joe since being married to him really has made me a better person.

5. Are you a picky eater? If so, what foods absolutely disgust you? If not, what’s your favorite food that you never get sick of?

Nope, not a picky eater at all. My favorite food is cheese, preferably with some sort of carbohydrate. Macaroni and cheese, cheese quesadilla, cheese and crackers, chips and queso. Love.

6. Chocolate? Vanilla? Neither?

Eh, probably chocolate more than vanilla, but I have trouble with straight chocolate. I need fruit or nuts or some other flavor to break it up.

7. What’s your favorite form of cross-training?

Some sort of group exercise. I’m currently on a Bikram yoga kick, but I also spin or BodyPump.

8. If you run races, what’s the best race experience you have ever had?

I’ve had a lot of good race experiences, but the best have been the Oak Barrel Half Marathon (April 2011) and the Women’s Half Marathon (September 2011) in Nashville.

9. What was your very first job? How long did you work there?

My first real job was as an Assistant Account Executive in the Travelers Insurance Special Liability Group. I worked there just less than a year.

10. Favorite TV show or movie?

Love Actually. I love that movie. I’m such a sap at heart.

11. Have you ever met anyone famous? If so, who??

I’ve met Anthony Rapp (the original Mark Cohen in Rent) and had dinner with Oliver Stone because he was a friend of the father of a friend of mine. I also know a few people who are now famous but weren’t when I knew them. Oddly enough, I am really not good at seeing famous people in Nashville.

Enough about me, what do you think about me?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What I Read

This is not a book blog, but I do enjoy reading, even more so now that I can read what I want when I want. Post-graduate school, that’s a pretty amazing feeling. Thanks to the influence of Abby and her boyfriend fiancé (!!!) John, I bought myself a Kindle to keep me company while Joe was gone. I had been using my brother’s first generation Kindle, but this one is SOOO much better – faster, lighter, smaller, and more awesome. I can tuck it in my purse and read anywhere, which, let’s face it, is far more productive than playing Bejeweled on my iPhone.

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I ended up making a tentative goal to read 20 books this year, and I’m almost a quarter of the way through that goal, much to my surprise. In addition to my CPE/pastoral care reads, this is what I’ve been reading.

the paris wife

The Paris Wife – Paula McLain

I’m a sucker for historical fiction and have a particular love for the Roaring 20s and the drama between various artists. McLain writes from the point of view of Hadley, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, detailing their introduction, courtship, and the course of their marriage as Hemingway rises to fame amidst the alcohol-infused Paris of the 1920s. Perhaps you should be a fan of Hemingway or the time period to enjoy this book, but it’s also about a relationship and what happens when both people change and grow apart. It’s about trying to live out one’s values in a culture that goes against those values. While I didn’t identify readily with Hadley’s conservatism, the heartbreak in the final pages of the book is palpable in McLain’s writing.


House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer’s Journey Home – Mark Richard

Southern Gothic memoir with a twist of religion and several stints in a rather frightening children’s hospital. A lot of reviews complain about the (somewhat odd) style of a memoir written in second person. It took me a couple of sections to find my stride with the style before it began to feel more natural, so I get that. But it is a hauntingly beautiful read and a very real story in both its spiritual and earthly components. It’s about writing and pain and growing up and dysfunctional families and relationships and the South and serendipity and wandering and God. It’s theological but not preachy. At just over 200 pages, I tore through this in just a few days, so it’s a very quick read but well worth the time and energy. It’s a book that I’ll be thinking about for quite a while.

Read anything good lately?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Forks Over Knives

I have a list of various types of documentaries (food, religious, music) on Netflix a mile long, and inevitably, I settle in with old episodes of Law & Order. Last Sunday, I decided to make a dent in that list after hitting the Whole Foods salad bar for dinner. Unbeknownst to me, Sunday night is when various liberal Protestant ministers do their shopping since I saw at least two colleagues of mine. I had heard good things about Forks Over Knives from Daily Garnish and No Meat Athlete, so I selected it for viewing.

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The movie’s premise is that a good portion of the heart disease and cancers that kill many Americans can be prevented and even reversed by following a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Though the words “vegetarian” or “vegan” are rarely mentioned, that’s what they mean. The film follows the careers of Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) who provide convincing scientific and clinical research that backs up the film’s claim. Additionally, several “success stories” are featured – people who have seen their disease processes reverse thanks to following such a diet. In response to those who might think adopting a vegan diet is a drastic move, the film’s retort is, “And coronary artery bypass surgery isn’t?”

This film combines two things that are very important to me: food and healthcare. Particularly living in the fourth fattest state, both Joe and I see the deleterious health effects of poor lifestyle choices all around the hospital. Personally, I think it would be amazing if people educated themselves about the health benefits of moving to at least a partially vegan diet, but at the end of the day, I fear that Forks Over Knives is really just preaching to the choir. As someone who eats a predominantly vegetarian diet and is in good health (at least according to last year’s check-up), I got to turn off the TV and feel rather smug about my good choices while feeling pretty confident that I wouldn’t be giving up my Greek yogurt, cheese, or eggs anytime soon. 

If one was presently diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or heart disease, the film’s food-as-medicine approach might be something to look into. Otherwise, I think the film minimizes the emotional, cultural, and social aspects of food and eating, though it does a good job of dispelling the common stereotype of vegans as waif-like, fragile people. Even being a vegetarian in the South gets you the side-eye a good portion of the time, and there are few vegetarian/vegan, non-salad bar options in the hospital cafeteria. A whole-foods, plant-based diet might be the best way to eat but culturally, few people will likely be willing to try it even if they’re on their death bed.

Again, I enjoyed this film and found it convincing. It presented scientific evidence and concepts in a very accessible and fun way, but I doubt that those who really need to watch this will be exposed to it and even fewer will take up the challenge to eat this way rather than taking pharmaceuticals.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Marathon Training: Week 4

If there is one sport I am just not that into, it’s football, particularly the NFL. I know. I grew up in Dallas in the 1990s, and I’m not into football. I’ll watch the occasional playoff game, and I get the scores for the Titans on my phone but I don’t normally care enough to watch.

College basketball is a different story. As a kid, we had two separate cats named Bobby Knight. And when I got a marketing e-mail telling me how I should order a party platter for the “Big Game,” for some reason, I thought they were referring to the Vanderbilt/Kentucky basketball game coming up on February 11th. Also, I may have eventually gotten a little lippy with some MTSU fans at the Vanderbilt game this past Saturday, but my God, they were obnoxious.

Or the other weekend when I went to the gym and asked them to turn one of the televisions to NBC. “Why? Is there a game on?” Um, just the Olympic Marathon Trials. Doesn’t everyone want to watch a bunch of frighteningly skinny-yet-muscular distance runners duke it out on the streets of Houston? Sorry I’m not sorry, but it was way more exciting than whatever NFL game was on the other channels.

All of this to say that you probably won’t be seeing a lot of Super Bowl party recipes over here this year. With Joe gone and absolutely zero connection to either team or location where said teams reside, it’s not a big deal in our house.

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This, however, is a big deal. Remember last week’s disastrous long run and subsequent ego deflation and hand-wringing? Well, this week I rocked out 12 miles all by my lonesome (though not if you count Beyonce, J Lo, and Nicki Minaj). Like, I felt so good that I did a victory lap around my condominium complex. It was a cloudy day that turned sunny with more wind than I would’ve preferred, but I mapped a route through some of my favorite parts of the West side. I ended up having a picnic of Gu Chomps and water in Centennial Park (Parthenon and Friday night’s mascara pictured above), and it was splendid.

I like running on trails and in parks, but there are also some advantages to urban running. Like bathrooms. And things to look at besides trees. The disadvantages would be cars and road noise and occasionally having to run on concrete sidewalks rather than asphalt paths or roads. Also, a giant group of walkers that took up the entire sidewalk and eventually forced me to cross the street. But whatever, it was awesome.

I closed out January with 101 miles (a lot for me!), which gives me a great start for the year. Since I skipped my first step back week so that Mom and I could run the 11.2, I’m taking it this week. Then, we’re doing the Frostbite Half Marathon on February 11th. The plan is to treat it as a training run. Hahaha, famous last words, but I’ll leave you with this thought: