in the name of post-race brunching and chocolate.


After too much wine at dinner one Friday in early September, three friends made a pact to wake at the crack of dawn, or rather before that, for Chicago’s annual Hot Chocolate 5k race. Said race has a wickedly early start time of 7 AM, which in theory is fantastic because it means that I’ll have run the course, eaten all of the chocolate, and will be having my way with a bloody mary before most of the city is awake. In reality, however, this doesn’t grant escape from the 4:45 AM alarm or waiting in the dark cold. All in the name of chocolate. And brunch. And friends. And staying healthy.

Big ups to Meg for completing her first race with a great time!

Below: Some snaps from the day.

f874f52f88333a58ffbda5f7392e24dd dcd4137424b131e9318084ce3d17068d 033aa6d7c34c5645ca5f4440862d5252 I’ve been largely off the grid since February. Maybe I’ll talk about that at some point, but also maybe not. And maybe this blog turns into something in between simple photo sharing and the reflective narrative blogging I’ve been focused on the last three years. While it’s not realistic to return to that format right now, perhaps there’s some happy medium where I’m able to connect and share things here without this space feeling like another thing to try and jam into the day’s to-dos. I’ll think about that, but in the meantime thanks for stopping by. Nice to see you.

italian turkey + quinoa stuffed red peppers


Last month, because she is the absolute best of moms, Jan sent A and I back to Chicago after a long weekend at the Lake House with a fridge worth of fresh produce. Other than a pomelo fruit (new addiction, friends) a 4-pack of bright, firm bell peppers was burning a hole in my apron. MUST MAKE STUFFED PEPPERS.

Now, one month is quite a while ago, and yes, that is exactly how long it has taken me to get this recipe up on the blog. But I promise you, it is worth the wait. Stuffed peppers were one of those dishes that my Grandmother and Mother both made, of so lovingly, during my childhood. And of course, as a bratty child I tended to turn my nose up at traditional dishes such as this. Fast forward 20 years and it’s a whole different ballgame, folks. Beef Stew, Sauerkraut Soup, Stuffed Peppers – these are exactly the sort of recipes I like to keep in rotation – healthy, hearty, and bound to last more than one meal.

Plus, these little peppers stuffed with warm seasoned quinoa, standing up tall in the baking dish – they’re sort of adorable. If food can be adorable? I’ve decided it can.

In terms of serving, these are a great main but they are even better when paired with a leafy mixed greens salad and some crusty bread. Or at least that’s how we dig it in our house.

italian stuffed red peppers


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 bell peppers
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 14 oz can Italian style diced tomatoes, drained
  • 8 oz preferred marinara sauce [I use Prego Light Smart]
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp jalapenos, diced [optional]
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp worchestire sauce
  • Italian cheese [Optional. I use Sargento Ultra Thin Provolone]
  • salt
  • pepper


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the Quinoa
  3. If using a rice cooker: Spray pot with cooking spray. Measure 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water. Combine in rice cooker. Set to white rice setting.
  4. If using stove top: Bring 2 cups water to boil in a small pot. Stir quinoa and a pinch of salt into water. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15-17 minutes until quinoa s tender and liquid is absorbed.
  5. Cook the Filler + Peppers
  6. Start with 6 bell peppers. Cut the top of the pepper off and set aside.
  7. Remove seeds from inside the pepper. Set whole peppers aside in a baking dish lined with foil.
  8. Dice the tops of the peppers (throw away stems) - this will be added to the filler mixture later.
  9. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium and saute the minced garlic.
  10. Add diced onions, bell pepper diced tops, and jalapenos. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
  11. Add ground turkey, worchestire sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook until meat is browned.
  12. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir to combine and cook 5 more minutes.
  13. Remove filler mixture from heat.
  14. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cooked quinoa with filler mixture. Add more marinara sauce if preferred.
  15. Fill each pepper with the mixture. Place filled peppers in the baking dish.
  16. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Add cheese to tops, cook 5 more minutes.
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juice it: fresh beet + apple + carrot + cucumber + citrus juice


I had some cool stuff to share here this week but it will have to wait. So for now, beet juice!

This tall glass of blood-red brightness hails from a monster batch of juice I whipped up over the weekend. Because that is what one does when trapped inside all day. I set myself on making a batch of fresh juice using produce we had kicking around in the fridge. Some of the veggies leftover from a week before and some holdovers from our CSA share that recently ended.

With juicing, I tend to just throw whatever seems right into the thing and hope it comes out ok. For more structured attempts, I follow recipes from The Juicing Bible, which I would recommend to anyone looking to learn more about the benefits of juicing and for killer recipes. Today’s recipe, however, is one that hails from the former state of mind, and I do declare that it works out quite well. Well enough to share with you!

More on our juicer here. Plus 30 Days of FREE recipes here. Do you juice?

fresh beet + apple + carrot + cucumber + citrus juice


  • 1 small beet, washed and trimmed
  • 1 medium cucumber, whole
  • 5 medium carrots, washed and trimmed
  • 3 small apples, whole
  • 3 juicing oranges, peeled
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and quartered


  1. Peel/Wash/Trim all produce.
  2. Feed into the juicer.
  3. Pour yourself a fresh glass - top with sparkling water and lemon juice for extra sass.
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stir it up: asian style veggies all the time.


You guys, I hit it out of the park for dinner last night.

While commuting home from work, pondering over how to maximize our freezer stock for an at least moderately-healthy dinner, my mind wandered over to my typical craving: Asian dishes. Hot and sweet and spicy and comforting. Hot Pepper Noodle (referred to as Crack Noodle in our home) from Penny’s or perhaps Crazy Noodles and Tom Yum soup from Thai Aroma.

I’ve been in the thick of it at work this week and between A’s absence on said vision quest and a recent bout of tendinitis that has running on hold until Tuesday, I’m going a tad stir-crazy. Rather than defaulting to take-out, I decided to hack an at-home version of a vegetarian Asian stir-fry that would lean more towards healthy than soaked-in-oil. The main goal: the creation of that hot and sweet and spicy taste-bud dance party I just can’t get enough of without all the soaked-in-oil situation that I certainly could do without.

Enter my stir-fry A-Team: Siracha + Cilantro + Garlic + Hoisin Sauce + Sesame Oil. Not photographed but very much encouraged: Ginger. 


This recipe sort of feels like one of those “that’s really not a recipe” deals but I’m going to share it anyways since the combination is magic, the ingredients cheap, and the process easy. I used frozen broccoli, frozen Asian stir-fry blend, and a handful of fresh bean sprouts. And since this served as a side dish last night, I didn’t add anything in the way of protein or noodles or rice. But THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. And I will be doing so promptly. I’m thinking egg + tofu + rice noodles.

Holler back for simple meals that make ya feel like a champ.

asian infused stir-fry

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

A quick and easy Asian stir-fry that turns "clean out the freezer" night into a dish full of bold flavor and spice.


    For the Sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1" piece of ginger (or 1 tsp ginger, minced)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp siracha hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Gourmet Garden cilantro (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped)
  • Cooking spray/oil (I like 1 tsp coconut oil)
  • For the Vegetables
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli
  • 2 cup frozen Asian Stir-Fry Blend
  • 1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • [any combination of vegetables works here. what matters is the sauce.]


  1. Spray/oil a medium-large sized saucepan
  2. Heat over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger.
  3. Add vegetables (fresh and/or frozen) to the saucepan. Cook 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, siracha, and cilantro. Stir to combine.
  5. Cook 2-3 minutes to combine flavors.
  6. Serve as is or over rice or noodles.


Cooktime reflects veggie-only stir fry. Does not account for addition of meat and/or noodles or rice.

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mindful health: keep it up.

Mindful Health is an ongoing series dedicated to the education, discussion, and promotion of health and wellness in daily life.


Is it too many days beyond New Years to post about resolutions or intentions or whatever you call them? I’m late to the party with it this year, probably because I was celebrating the end to what wound up a difficult year. When it came time for 2013 to pack her bags, I was front and center to see her out the front door, shot of whiskey in hand.

But for all my complaining 2013 had wins that have already made transitioning into a new year, and writing this very post, all the easier: HEALTH. Managing my health was a big, huge, hulking priority for me last year. I dedicated time and space on this little blog to talking about it, thinking about it, and sharing lifestyle changes. And for the first time in my adult life, exercising regularly, eating well, taking care of myself for myself, and quitting the fat talk aren’t a list of things I don’t do but know and wish I could. They are present and breathing and living. There’s still progress to be made and I’m surely still figuring it out. But heavens if I’m not leaps and bounds beyond where I stood 365 days ago. I cannot remember a year before this one when I didn’t guilt myself into listing exercise at the top of my goals, knowing that I would never make it a real daily priority.

So there’s that. In 2013 I learned how to take care of myself. Or, at the least, how to start.

All the bad days and tough nights that piled on at the end of the year can’t take that away. And health is what helps me deal with those occurrences now, too. Horrible day at work? Long run along the lake at sunset. Upset over something I can’t control? A healthy home-cooked meal. What I have learned, and what I could have only ever taught myself, is that healthy behaviors feed healthy behaviors. They are cyclical and exponential in my life. When I run more I sleep better, eat healthier, and have more energy. Above all else, I am happier. I am my best self. And too, when I eat better I find myself looking forward to my evening runs, taking the stairs more often at work, and embracing a generally lighter air to my body and mind.

I’m going to make my 2014 resolution easy this year: KEEP IT UP. 

Because happiness for me is born from happiness with myself. From being good to myself. And that is what health is – committing to taking care of myself for today and all the years to come.

Here’s to health, happiness, and a year of keeping it up.



Join the discussion!

Mindful Health is an ongoing series dedicated to the education and discussion of health and wellness. Find recent posts in the series here.

Interested in talking about a specific health & wellness topic? Want to contribute as a guest poster? Questions or comments?

Reach out via this post’s comments section or e-mail me at leanerbythelake [at] gmail [dot] com.