Archive for April 2013

Foodie PenPals: Hometown eats from the Hoosier state

Things came full circle for me in this month’s Foodie Penpal swap, when Laura of Learning to be Laura sent me a box from my (and, it turns out, our) hometown!

I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, and was pretty surprised to see the 47401 in my Food Penpal box’s return address. But it turns out Laura also grew up there & recently returned to pursue a degree in anthropology (coincidentally, that + sociology was my undergraduate major).

Laura put together a fun bunch of goodies from Trader Joe’s – Belgian cookies, a chocolate bar, trail mix and some salsa that was clearly tuned into the tomatillo-salsa kick I’ve been on lately.

She also packed some Hoosier eats straight out of Monroe County – cereal from Vigilant Eats, and toasted-oat granola from Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery. It’s been over a decade since I’ve been back to B-town, so I’m not familiar with either of these outfits, but I’m glad Laura has gotten me acquainted with them!

Want to discover surprising connections by participating in Foodie Penpals? It’s open to bloggers and non-bloggers alike! Head past the jump for details.

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CBHM Training: Fitting in the 5K (& checking off state 8)

There are a lot of differences between training for a half marathon and spending all your waking hours running to get ready for a full. And a key one is the room to run other races, like the Cherry Blossom 5K for ALS.

The race capped off week 7 of training for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon, and while I wasn’t gunning for anything spectacular, I was pleasantly surprised that I felt good to go on only one rest day and a few glasses of wine the night before (necessary accompaniment to a fierce game of Uno). If this had been mid-way through my training for Providence or Austin marathons, I would have been sore, dragging, and cranky about having to tack on another 12-18 miles afterward to meet my weekly LR prescription.

My timing said I ran it 19 seconds faster than my previous 5K PR, but official timing clocked me a full half minute slower. Since the start was kind of disorganized and I’m not sure I started RunKeeper exactly at the starting line, I’ll just say I ran well yesterday and leave my old PR standing for now.

And I also took first among North Reading food bloggers ticking off NY from the race-in-50-states list, bringing my total to 8.

I think it helped that the weather was stupidly perfect, and the course was a relatively flat out & back through scenic residential areas of The Greater Schenectady NY Area. But maybe some credit is also due to the novel warm-up I did, visualizing speed:

I do not fit on this.

Now it’s time to focus on the last 5 weeks of training for CBHM, so I can check the next New England state off my list.

I am well on my way toward meeting my goal to raise at least $500 for Health Connections of the Upper Valley so I can run CBHM with their team. Any level of contribution you could make via my donation page to help me reach that fundraising finish line would be greatly appreciated!

Low-Wheat Week

Have you heard the word on the street… about wheat? It seems like every food producer is falling over themselves to slap gluten-free stickers on packages.

I’m trying to fight the urge to review this trend in depth; but there’s a lot there with which I (and, frankly, science) disagree, so here’s my $0.02 anyway. Outside of the context of actual celiac disease, gluten-free seems to be this decade’s fat-free – an way to malign one food component for all our health woes & sell a few more packages, without bringing us any closer to the real, holistic shifts in our eating (more produce, less processed) that will make big differences.

So why, then, am I still writing about recipes that help cut down on the wheat we eat?

Take a seat, wheat, it’s chia time.

Well, it’s partly about variety. The more varied your diet, the better your odds of getting the full spectrum of nutrients you need while enjoying novel, delicious foods every day. But in the Standard American Diet (put that acronym together) wheat-flour-based foods account for roughly 20% of our caloric intake (from Google preview of Michael Pollan’s latest, Cooked). And it’s also partly about processing. We get a lot of our wheat in the form of highly processed flour, which goes into highly processed food of questionable nutritional value.

What does “less wheat” means? When I started following CSPI’s hybrid of the two diets in the OmniHeart Study that were found to reduce heart disease risk, it meant sticking to 2-3 servings of grain daily (equal to 1 slice of bread or ½ cup cereal per serving). For me, that means I switch things up with open-faced sandwiches, veggies pretending to be pastas, and easy but cereal-free breakfasts like warm chia banana peanut butter pudding (pictured above; hat tip to Samantha for the idea). This week’s less-wheat list includes recipes along those lines, which you can try at home:

  • Chia breakfast pudding from Eating the Week (below)
  • Paleo date walnut bread from Elana’s Pantry (here)
  • Paleo pancakes from The Athlete’s Plate (here)
  • Open-faced chicken sandwiches from Cooking Light (here)
  • Thai cashew quinoa salad from Ambitious Kitchen (here)
  • Portobello breakfast cups from Tortillas & Honey (here)
  • Zucchini ribbon salad with mint and olives from Gourmande in the Kitchen (here)

Chia breakfast pudding

(1 serving, approx. 430 calories)

3 Tbs chia seeds
¾ cup almond milk (or whatever milk you like)
1 banana
1 Tbs almond butter (or, again, whichever nut butter you like)
Ground cinnamon, to taste

Mix the chia seeds and milk in a microwavable bowl, and stir several times over 8-10 minutes (giving it time to set into a gel consistency).

Add the banana in small pieces, and microwave on high for 1 minute.

Add the almond butter and cinnamon, and mash everything around so the banana pieces get softened and mixed in. Enjoy!

CBHM Training: Fuel as I say, not as I do

On longer workouts of one or more hours, snacking can mean the difference between finishing and being finished.” – RunningCoach.com

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read advice/warnings to that effect. True, there was a time lo those many years ago, when I trained for my first half marathon without understanding how crucial fueling for a long run could be. But I’ve since gotten a clue, and have been diligent about packing commercial gels, homemade chia goo, or even just Cheerios along for any run that will take me ~1.5 hours or more.

So did I employ all that wisdom on my Covered Bridges Half Marathon training week 5 or 6 LRs, both 12 milers? No, of course not, because then what would I blog about?

The week 5 LR started out at a disadvantage, thanks to me going on about 5 hours’ sleep and the after effects of, well, let’s say a little more wine than usual. I hadn’t been able to get to the store to buy gels, and thought, enh, how bad could it be? The answer was that my run-12-miles-to-Drew’s-house plan quickly became call-Tim-for-a-ride-after-10-miles reality. So you’d think I would have done something differently on the week 6 LR, but no, I only packed a single chia gel I found in the back of my freezer (realistically needed ~3 gels for the duration) and ended up taking a lot of walk breaks when I should have been cranking up the pace for a late-in-run progression session.

The training schedule lets me go one more weekend perpetuating this idiocy – I swapped out a LR to run the Cherry Blossom 5K for ALS over in NY instead. But when I gear up for the MLRs and LRs (all 9-14 miles) over the subsequent three weeks, my Sauconys won’t get two steps out of the house unless Gu and Honey Stingers are riding shotgun.

I am well on my way toward meeting my goal to raise at least $500 for Health Connections of the Upper Valley so I can run CBHM with their team. Any level of contribution you could make via my donation page to help me reach that fundraising finish line would be greatly appreciated!

Recipe ReDux: The Cupcake Conundrum

That’s right – a cupcake conundrum. Yes or no? Hot or not? On trend or on the way out?

This photo probably gives away the answer….

For this month’s Recipe ReDux – courtesy of The Meal Makeover Moms @JaniceBissex and @LizWeiss – we were challenged to either proudly fly the mini-cake flag, or put a new hand-held dessert on the pedestal. And while I appreciate a good cupcake now and then, I don’t really get why there are practically as many cupcakeries as Dunkin Donuts around Boston. Is there a rampant frosting deficiency in America?

But I still kept things trendy when I came up with my hand-held alternative: orange chocolate chia squares. The hydrophilic little weirdos known as chia seeds are well on their way to displacing kale as the icon of healthy foodie-ism. They’re full of healthy fats, can be used as an egg replacement in baking, and reportedly fueled some extraordinary runners.

Chia seeds will glom onto water and form a viscous gel, but that doesn’t exactly lend itself to palm-of-hand portability. So to transform the goo to ready-to-go, I started with a strawberry energy gel recipe from Tim Woodbury’s Running Recipes: Chia-Powered Sole Food (which I reviewed previously). I futzed around with the sugar, water and fruit contents, and then transformed the gels into decadent chocolate-covered treats.

These little beauties probably aren’t going to make great running companions (body heat + sweat + chocolate = ew), but I’ll certainly have one as a reward after a weekly long run. You can get your hands on them, too, with the following recipe:

Orange chocolate chia squares

(20 pieces, approx. 185 calories each)

2 large oranges, peeled
2 Tbs grated orange rind, divided
½ cup water
1 Tbs orange juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown rice syrup
7 tsp powdered gelatin (approx. 1 oz)
6 Tbs chia seeds
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups dark chocolate chips

Puree the oranges, water and juice in a food processor. Add the puree to a saucepan with the sugar, rice syrup, gelatin, chia seeds and baking soda, and put them over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Be sure to use a long-handled spoon because the mixture likes to bubble & spurt.

Remove the orange mixture from heat and mix in 1 Tbs of the orange rind. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9×9 baking pan. Allow to cool for up to 4 hours, or until well set (I left mine on the counter for ~20 minutes, then cooled it in the fridge for another 1 ½ hours, and they were ready).

In a shallow bowl, microwave the chocolate chips for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir, then microwave at 50% in 15-30 second intervals, stirring again afterward, until fully melted (it took 1 ½ minutes for me).

Slice the orange gels into 20 pieces (cut in 4 one direction, and 5 the other). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. Use a wood skewer or similarly sturdy pointy implement to pierce a gel longways, then dip it in the chocolate until coated. Gently push the square onto the lined baking sheet, then top with a pinch of the remaining orange rind.

Repeat the dipping with all the orange gels, then cool in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

Once you eat these, you’ll still have another hand free, which I suggest you fill with one of the treats on offer from my fellow ReDuxers:


We are all Boston

There are a lot of people saying things better than I could about the awful attack on yesterday’s Boston marathon, so I’ll be brief.

Bib shoes

I wore this bib on my run today with thoughts of the dead, the wounded, the marathoners, the families, the first responders, and all of Boston heavy on my heart.

The Boston area has been my home for nearly 15 years, and running has been my sport for the last 4; but I know we all feel the visceral anguish and fear about evil hitting close to home. We are all parents, kids, friends, colleagues – we are all Boston. And we outnumber evil by a very large margin, which should give us all some hope as we try to start healing from this.

Runners, I hope you have a chance to wear a race shirt with pride and run a few miles with thoughts of those affected. I feel fortunate to have started today that way.

CBHM Training: WHEN TURKEYS ATTACK

Over the years, I’ve developed a reasonable level of animal awareness/vigilance during runs. I’ve been bum-rushed by a few less-than-friendly dogs, stared down by wary deer, and trailed by birds of prey apparently interested in biting off way more than they can chew. But none of these incidents has ever resulted in actual danger to me… that is, until my long run during week 4 of training for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon.

Because it turns out that turkeys are jerks. If you look at the data on Runkeeper, you’ll see a tick up in my pace (the blue line) in the 4th mile that represents my full-stop pull up for a bunch of gobblers. I see turkeys around our area all the time, and they usually just waddle across a street and disappear into the woods. But in this group, one tom just stood there staring at me; and when I got within about 50 feet, he started coming at me.

I tried to move to the other side of the road, and he moved right over, too. I stopped and yelled at him; he kept coming. I started to back-pedal, and he started to speed up.

So then I realized I either had to bolt the other way (but he definitely looked like he could catch me), get a big enough stick to fend him off, or pray for a bear to show up (because bears find turkeys tastier than humans; that’s just science, right there). Thankfully, a guy drove up at that point and suggested I get in his Merc, quick-like. I hesitated (hello?! Classic stranger danger) but saw Terrible Tom quickly closing the gap and decided the car was the least bad option. I hopped in, shut the door & the turkey lunged at the passenger side as we drove off.

The turkey & I were both unharmed, the driver dropped me off just clear of the turkeys, and I continued on my merry way. But now I know those jerks are not the cutesy little creatures of Thanksgiving coloring pages.

MENACE

At least I can be consoled by knowing I’m not the only one running from these fan-tailed freaks – check out this collection of videos when turkeys attack (note: there’s some *language* in the article that may not be suitable for everyone).

As a reminder, I’ve pledged to raise at least $500 for Health Connections of the Upper Valley so I can run CBHM with their team. Any level of contribution you could make via my donation page would be greatly appreciated!

Celebrating the 100-week mark with Cooking Light 100-recipe collections

This post marks a blog milestone of sorts, because it is the 100th food-and-nutrition-themed week on ETW!

In the 99 weeks preceding this, there’s been brunches and dinners, strangers and the strangely absent, stuff for the littler eaters, things for the veg-heads, lots of ReDuxing, and the occasional running-food rambling. I briefly thought about a celebratory “100 Best of ETW” post, but that sounded like the most tedious writing job ever, so I can’t imagine you all would want to read it, either.

I turned instead to the good folks at Cooking Light and found several of their 100-recipe collections – 100 Easy Chicken Recipes, 100 Healthy Cookies, 105 Slowcooker Favorites (let’s just round down for the sake of celebration, alright?) and more. We could easily spend 100 weeks trying to get through all of these recipe collections, so I pulled out just 1 week’s worth of the recipes that caught my eye.

I put their roasted veggie & ricotta pizza from 100 Healthy Tips to the test. I’ll admit, I was expecting bland (ricotta always seems like such a taste waste to me), but this was surprisingly tasty and packed a good daily dose of vegetables.

We also made a slowcooker sweet potato gratin; while this had great savory flavor and was easy to assemble, I don’t know who these 12 people are that CL suggests are getting fed by that recipe. My yield was maybe enough to give 6 people very modest portions. But for the average family dinner, that’s probably just the right amount.

These and several more are included in this week’s recipe list – just seven out of roughly 700, so you’re not still slogging through it when I write my next-100-weeks post:

But hey, if you’ve got the time, by all means try out the rest. Drop me a comment sometime in 2016 when you’re done.

CBHM Training: Of lungs and feet

After reading Budd Coates’s & Claire Kowalchik’s “Running on Air” article in a recent Runner’s World issue, I thought that would be interesting topic to wrap a training recap around. The general idea – which comes from their book on this topic – is that an even breathing pattern (two footstrikes for each inhale and exhale cycle, or 2:2) puts disproportionate stress on one side of the body (the one where the exhale coincides with the footstrike). The solution? A 5:2 or 3:2 pattern where there are 5 or 3 footstrikes, respectively, per inhale and exhale cycle.

But what’s the ideal breath pattern for bubble-blowing?

So I figured I’d spend week 3 of Covered Bridges Half Marathon training focused on re-working my breathing pattern which, frankly, I had paid no attention to before this. First, I needed a baseline. I laced up and headed out for a 6 miler last Monday, settled into my usual pace for an easy run, and counted… Foot, inhale, foot, foot, exhale.

And thus, I may be the only person who is annoyed to discover that she’s already doing something “the right way,” because it means I’ve got no fodder for a transformative, triumphant blog post. Overall, week 3 of training was fairly unremarkable. Same general smattering of hill sprints, 10k-pace intervals and progression runs, with a pleasant 9-mile LR at the end.

But, maybe this concept and that article will be of help to some other runner, who can try to inject a little odd-ness into their usual even-steven breathin’. And I’ll see what I can do to drum up another issue to fix here in week 4.

As a reminder, I’ve pledged to raise at least $500 for Health Connections of the Upper Valley so I can run CBHM with their team. Any level of contribution you could make via my donation page would be greatly appreciated!