CSA Box #2

by Megan Outlaw

We received our second CSA box from Driftless Organics last Saturday,  July 16.   I picked it up from the farmers' market directly after an open water swim in Lake Monona, so I'm sure I made an interesting sight, with my wet clothes and swim bag over my shoulders.  

This box had a lot of really great vegetables.

Snow peas, snap peas, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, beets, onion, garlic, garlic scapes, broccoli, kale, cilantro, lemon basil

Snow peas, snap peas, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, beets, onion, garlic, garlic scapes, broccoli, kale, cilantro, lemon basil

Just for fun, here's a Charlotte photobomb.

She later stole a carrot and escaped to the bedroom as I was putting everything away.

That Saturday night, we grilled the zucchini and squash.  That was our first time grilling zucchini and squash, and it was delicious! 

On Sunday night, we had my now absolute favorite pizza - beet pesto pizza with goat cheese and kale.  Seriously - obsessed. ((We may or may not have had this pizza again later in the week when the baseball game we were planning to attend got rained out.))

Our main meal for last week was an Indian-inspired curry dish that we pretty much came up with on the fly.  It turned out pretty darn well I think.

Unfortunately, I don't have an exact recipe, but the basic gist was:

Cut 3 pieces of chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Cook on medium-high until browned.  Add 1/2 chopped onion.  Add chopped carrots.  Pour one can of coconut milk and one container of your choice of curry paste (we went with a Biryani).  Then, add snow peas.  We also added some turmeric, which made it pretty spicy.  Cover with lid and cook for several minutes so that everything combines together.  Top with cilantro.  We served with Jasmine rice.

Yesterday, we made a stir fry featuring the broccoli, snap peas, onion, and garlic scapes (I used this recipe but added our additional veggies).  It should be enough food to feed us through Monday at least. 

We still have a few things left, including the green beans, but they should keep for a bit longer.

My tip for using CSA veggies is to make stir fries and similar dishes, as you can throw a lot of vegetables into the mix.


Open Water Swimming Essentials {Featuring Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Boosters}

by Megan Outlaw

This post was sponsored through my partnership with Sweat Pink and FitApproach. All opinions are my own.

One of my favorite ways to work out in the summer, and stay #SummerStrong, has got to be open water swimming, which is something I only started doing when we moved to Madison, Wisconsin last year.

I love it because I am a former summer league swimmer, and I enjoy the endurance challenge that open water swimming provides.  There are no lane lines, no walls to push off, just you and the water.  I also love swimming here in Madison because I just relish being out on the lakes, especially when I have a view of the Capitol building in the distance.

To be successful, open water swimming requires a few essential tools.  Here's my swim bag while I was packing for a recent open water swim race.    


I'll highlight several of the important items below.

1. Wetsuit 

The water temperature isn't as cold as one might think here in Wisconsin, at least not during the middle summer months (ok, weeks).  The water temperature isn't the only reason people wear wetsuits.  Another benefit of a wetsuit is that it enables you to be more buoyant in the water.  Many people who aren't super strong swimmers can benefit from using a wetsuit because of this, and it helps many people feel more secure in the water.

2. Quality Goggles

I've learned this the hard way, for sure, that quality goggles are essential for open water swimming.  I recently switched to the Aqua Sphere Kayenne Ladies smoke lens goggles, and they have made an enormous difference in my ability to see while swimming.  Being able to sight landmarks, or buoys in a race, is of vital importance when you're in the open water.  I would definitely recommend going with a smoke or other dark colored lens versus a clear lens.  Additionally, most swimmers/triathletes I know also carry another pair of spare goggles, just in case.  You never know when you'll have a strap break, which would not bode well for swimming.

3. Plastic Grocery Bag and/or SILK Anti-Chafing Spray or Similar

Getting into a wetsuit is not easy, especially when it's hot outside and you've ridden your bike to swim practice (raises hand).  When I was first contemplating purchasing a wetsuit, the salesperson recommended SILK Anti-Chafing Spray, and I've used it ever since.  Another item that didn't make it into the picture, but one that has been helpful to me, is a plastic grocery bag.  I know that seems really silly, but it's true!  I put the plastic grocery bag over my foot, and that makes it easier to guide the wetsuit up my leg.  I invariably end up with a piece of bag in my wetsuit afterwards, but it works.

4. Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Boosters

Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Boosters are a new addition to my pre-swimming (or post-swimming) routine.  As part of a campaign with Sweat Pink/Fit Approach, I was recently sent four different Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Boosters to try, along with a handy bottle.  I'm always on the look out for protein powders or components for smoothies, so I was really excited to receive them.

My favorite has been the Chai Protein Powder Nutritional Booster, which like all of the four I received, is vegan, gluten free, and contains probiotics.  The chai has a really nice flavor that pairs well with fruits such as cherries, bananas, and peaches, and doesn't have a gritty or chalky taste that can doom some protein powders.  They are also very filling; last weekend I made my husband and me a smoothie featuring the chai protein powder, along with peaches and bananas, and it kept me full on our drive up to Devil's Lake and powered me through my 1.2-mile open water swim race (thank you 20g plant-based protein per serving).  Sometimes dairy-based smoothies made with yogurt or milk can make me feel slightly 'off' before exercise, but these work well for me.

Want to try Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Boosters for yourself?  Here's a link for a coupon, and come back at the end of this month to enter a giveaway to win your own bag of Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Boosters.

Also pictured:  swim cap, sunscreen and chapstick with sunscreen, especially if you're going to be outside after you get out of the lake, multiple hair ties, a towel for drying off/standing on, and a quick, portable snack such as Honey Stinger.

Tell me - have you ever tried open water swimming?  What are your essential tools?






Big Swell Swim {Race Recap}

by Megan Outlaw

On Saturday, I participated in the Big Swell Swim race at Devil's Lake State Park.  I had been trying to decide between the Pardeeville Triathlon and Big Swell Swim, but decided I wasn't quite ready to tackle a triathlon yet (soon, I hope!) and the swim would be a better option.  I'm glad I chose the swim, because it was a great event and I did better than expected.  Let's back up a bit.

The Big Swell Swim is held at Devil's Lake State Park, which is one of our favorite places to get outside in Wisconsin.  I think we've been there five times in the last year.  It is truly a beautiful place, with a ton of hiking trails, ranging from easy to extremely tough (people also go to Devil's Lake for rock climbing), and the beach area and lake are scenic places to relax, kayak, etc.  This is another reason I chose the swim race versus the triathlon.  There are two adult options, a 1.2-mile swim and a two lap 2.4-mile swim, and a 500-meter swim for kids.  I chose the 1.2-mile swim distance.  This was my third experience doing a 1.2-mile open water swim race (also known as the swim distance for an IRONMAN 70.3 race).

We arrived around 7:45 for race registration so I could pick up my swim cap, timing chip, and tank top.  I could have chosen to pick up my swim cap and tank top the night before, but decided to just get everything at the park when we arrived that morning.  Since the 2.4-mile swim race started at 8:15 and the 1.2-mile race started at 8:30, I didn't have the opportunity to warm up, but I knew that would be a real possibility before we even arrived at the park, so that was fine (Devil's Lake is just under an hour from Madison). 

I found a place in the grass to set up camp and then began the arduous task of putting my wetsuit on, etc.   I headed over near the start to watch the 2.4-mile swimmers start, and then got ready for my swim.

The course was a reverse triangle of sorts, so that we wouldn't be swimming into the sun on the way back (I guess last year the course was the opposite direction).  There were large buoys marking the turns that were easy to sight (the big yellow one in the picture above), and there were also small buoys along the straight-aways, which really helped me to stay on course, which I had had problems with in the past.  I had no problems sighting, which I think was a combination of the easy-to-see buoys and my switch to the Aqua Sphere Kayenne Ladies goggles, which did not fog or leak at all.  FINALLY.

As usual, getting to the first buoy seemed to take FOREVER, but I still felt pretty good at that point.  After we made the turn to the second large buoy, I started to get a little tired, and it was also crowded.  I swam with one hand in front of my face for a lot of this portion because it was so congested and I didn't want to get kicked in the face.  (And my lats were sore for two days later because of it.)  I had people super close on both sides, and in front and behind me at points.  Finally, it was the turn towards the finish line and I was really getting tired.  I also felt like I was going to throw up, so I knew I was really giving it all I had.  I hadn't been swimming much long distance lately, and my endurance can definitely use some work.  However, I think the time I spend lifting weights definitely helped me finish strong.  I don't think I could have swam much harder, and I went pretty much the same pace the entire race. 

I was so happy to see the finish area and was definitely ready to stand up and shuffle out of the water.  I honestly had NO idea what my time was going to be, because on the one hand I felt like I swam hard, but on the other, I hadn't had all of the open water swimming practice time that I did last summer.  I was shocked to see that my finish time was 34:40 (1:48/100 pace), a full 2 minutes faster than my last OWS race.  There were plenty of speedy swimmers in both my age group and overall; I came in 34/96 overall and 7/22 in my 30-39 age group. 

It was a great race at a beautiful place, and I would definitely do the Big Swell Swim again next year!

Big thanks to my husband for taking all these pictures (and for driving me and the dogs to the park and back!)


CSA Box #1

by Megan Outlaw

Well, we're mostly finished with box number 1 of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  Here's my intro post if you want more information.  

This is what we received in our first box.

Various lettuces, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes, garlic scapes, zucchini and squash, scallions, spring onions, basil, and strawberries

Starting the Sunday afternoon after we picked up the box, I immediately got online and also polled my family for ideas/recipes.  On Sunday night, we had steak with roasted radishes and sautéed kale.  

As you can see in the first picture, we got a big bag of kale.  But, as I had forgotten, kale really cooks down and we only got one dinner's worth of salad out of the kale!  

We often have steak on Sunday nights, which is nice, but also means we have to cook again on Monday.  I don't like complicated meals on Mondays, and I had gone swimming that evening as well, so I went with an old favorite - Hummus-Crusted Chicken with side salad.

I HIGHLY recommend this chicken dish; it couldn't be easier.  Just put the hummus-covered chicken on top of the cut-up veggies, and into the oven it goes.

Next up, it was the veggies that required more thought (at least, for me).  I had used kohlrabi once before, and I didn't have fond memories of it.  Now I'm wondering if I didn't realize it needed to be peeled, because it tasted just fine!

I decided to keep it simple and do roasted root veggies (kohlarbi, turnips, leftover beets, and the garlic scapes) with a whole roasted chicken.  It turned out pretty well!

That was it for main dinners with the CSA box.  I used the lettuces for side salads, lunches, on chicken sandwiches/burgers, etc.  The strawberries were gone within a week, for snacks and smoothies.  My husband used the basil on a late-night pizza.  

Final verdict is it was easier to use the produce than I thought it was going to be, though it does require advance planning and a little creativity.  I'm definitely looking forward to the next box!