Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CHEWY Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

You guys - this is it. I found the perfect recipe for deliciously chewy and never cakey pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Let me reiterate - I FOUND the recipe. I did not create this masterpiece, although I wish I could take credit for it. Jessica from How Sweet It Is baked 14 batches of cookies to get to this version, just so we could all enjoy these cookies.

So you remember the pumpkin butter I shared with you yesterday? This is how we are going to use it. (Besides the other ways I mentioned.)

Recipe: CHEWY Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is
Yield: 42 small cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 (heaping) tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin butter, store bought or homemade (please use homemade!)
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips (I used 1 cup dark chocolate chips and 1/4 cup cinnamon chips)

Preheat oven to 325 F.
Mix the flour, salt, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugars until well combined. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and stir until mixed. Stir in the pumpkin butter until smooth. Add the flour mixture a little at a time and mix until a dough forms - it will look crumbly at times, but I promise it will all come together. When the dough is almost together, fold in the chocolate chips.
Refrigerate the dough for (at least) 30 minutes (and make sure to put back in the fridge between batches). Form into small ~1-inch diameter balls, using either a small cookie scoop, or your hands. Flatten slightly, and then bake for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are set and slightly golden, and the center still looks a bit uncooked. Let cool on the sheet for 3 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack.

Here's my side by side comparison of dough balls (left) versus slightly flattened dough balls (right):

Dough Balls                               Slightly Flattened

Dough Balls                               Slightly Flattened


8k training: 4 mile easy run

I took off the whole weekend as well as Monday from working out, but got back into it yesterday. I went for a 4 mile easy run, and I think this was the first time in a while that I ran the whole thing without stopping. I don't usually stop because I have to, but because I'm forced to by running on streets and getting stopped by red light at intersections. Even though I probably would have been fine for any of my runs lately, it's still nice knowing that I can run without stopping when there are no lights in my way.

The run itself felt pretty good. I started out feeling a bit wheezy, maybe because it was humid. The temperature felt pretty perfect, it was nice to get to wear shorts and a t-shirt again.

Splits: (average pace, pace in last 1/2 mile)
0.50 - 5:15 (10:30)
1.00 - 10:24 (10:24, 10:18) last mile 10:24
1.50 - 15:43 (10:29, 10:38)
2.00 - 20:58 (10:29, 10:30) last mile 10:34
2.51 - 26:07 (10:24, 10:06)
3.00 - 31:06 (10:22, 10:10) last mile 10:08
3.50 - 36:14 (10:21, 10:16)
4.00 - 41:05 (10:16, 9:42) last mile 9:59
Total: 4.06 in 41:34 - 10:14/mile average pace

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Homemade Pumpkin Butter

Let me tell you about one of the best things you can make with pumpkin - PUMPKIN BUTTER. It may look unassuming, but it has such rich flavor, and can be used in a multitude of ways. You basically take regular canned pumpkin, jazz it up with a bunch of spices and sweeteners, and then cook it down until it's thick and spreadable, and tastes like pumpkin pie. Now that you have it, what do you do with it? Well the first thing you do is spread it on some toast. But after that, the possibilities are endless. You can spoon some into your greek yogurt or oatmeal, the same way you would do with jam or honey. You can also incorporate it into your recipes. Have a favorite pumpkin bread recipe? Replace the oil with pumpkin butter. This can be done with your favorite mix as well. It will really amp up the pumpkin flavor, while still retaining the fluffy texture that comes from using oil. You can very easily scale this recipe up or down (the measurements don't need to be exact), so it's great to either use up that giant can of pumpkin that's been sitting in the back of your cabinet for months, or to use up the extra pumpkin left from making something else.

Anyway, I've been making this pumpkin butter for years. Try it out - it's so good!
* Stay tuned - I have a recipe coming soon that uses this pumpkin butter :)

Recipe: Homemade Pumpkin Butter
From: Libby's Pumpkin
Yield: ~2 cups

1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

Combine all ingredients in a medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 20-25 minutes, or until thickened. Store in the fridge for up to 2 months.

All of the ingredients in the pot

Stirred up - prior to cooking

It's ready when a spoon makes an impression that stays, and it looks more caramel than orange

Monday, October 28, 2013

8k training: 8 mile run in Charlottesville

I've had a busy past few days! Like I said in one of my last posts, my back pain has completely gone away. Of course, as soon as that happened, I managed to slice open my thumb. Apparently trying to screw in the blade of a food processor doesn't work as well when you're gripping the blade. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was initially (I was nearly hyperventilating), and Joey has kept me patched up with neosporin and band-aids. I haven't done any lifting since it happened, but I don't think it would be in the way at all.

Friday I spent the morning working from home, then came in for a few hours to take care of things at work, and left early so I could fit in a long run before we left for the weekend. I ran 8 miles!! We wanted to get on the road by 7, so I left for my run around 4. I wasn't sure how long it would take - if I would need to stop to walk at all, since 8 miles is the furthest I had ever attempted to run. I managed to run the whole thing! Of course, as you can see in the map, I had a lot of stops at lights. I stopped a total of 7 times at lights, but besides that, ran without stopping. I also appear to have quite a kick - the last few long runs I've done, my last mile has been significantly faster than any other mile. I'm probably holding back quite a bit throughout the rest, just to make sure I have enough energy to finish.

Splits: (average pace, pace in last 1/2 mile)
Note - some of the distances don't end in .00 because there wasn't a corresponding time for that distance on the map - I think the GPS just picks up every few seconds, which isn't always on an exact distance
0.50 5:08 (10:16)
1.00 10:01 (10:01, 9:46) last mile 10:01
1.51 15:09 (10:06, 10:04)
2.01 20:05 (10:00, 9:52) last mile 9:58
2.51 25:02 (9:58, 9:54)
3.00 30:09 (10:03, 10:27) last mile 10:10
3.51 35:16 (10:03, 10:02)
4.00 40:34 (10:09, 10:49) last mile 10:25
4.50 45:40 (10:09, 10:12)
5.00 50:37 (10:07, 9:54) last mile 10:03
5.50 55:52 (10:09, 10:30)
6.01 1:00:50 (10:08, 9:44) last mile 10:07
6.51 1:06:05 (10:09, 10:30)
7.00 1:11:08 (10:10, 10:18) last mile 10:24
7.50 1:16:02 (10:08, 9:48)
8.01 1:20:37 (10:04, 8:59) last mile 9:23
Total: 8.05 in 1:20:54 - average pace of 10:03/mile

Joey ran much more and much faster than I did - he did almost 13.5 miles in 1:46!! We got home around the same time, and tried to recover and shower pretty quickly. We packed up the car, grabbed some food nearby, and then got on the road. We drove into Owings Mills, MD - left Charlottesville just after 7, and got to Maryland just after 10. We luckily didn't hit any traffic. We were spending the night with my grandparents, and spent a couple hours talking to them before heading to bed.

The next morning, we woke up early to shower and get dressed in our fancy clothes, and headed to Columbia, MD for my cousin's Bat Mitzvah. It was really nice seeing all of my family, and Becca did a great job! The reception was in Clarksville, MD, about a half hour away from the service. Unfortunately, Joey and I were both in a major post-running food deficit. We normally do our long runs on weekend mornings, after which we can eat a giant breakfast and then sit around on the couch for a while. This time around, we had a pretty normal sized dinner, which was nowhere near big enough to refuel us. We had a relatively small breakfast the next morning, and were still starving and really thirsty. The service for the Bat Mitzvah started at 9:30, so we were rushed getting there, and didn't stop to get more food and coffee. We figured that there would be food out at the reception, and knew it would be starting around 1. We got there and there were very minimal appetizers out - mostly there was just food for the kids, like french fries, mozzarella sticks, and mini pizza slices. Not exactly what we wanted. It was after 2:30 before they started bringing out food for the adults, and at that point we were both pretty cranky. Although, we weren't nearly as cranky as the rest of my family - I found out that everyone in my family loves drinking socially. They were all shocked and appalled that there wasn't an open bar - AT THE LUNCHEON FOLLOWING A BAT MITZVAH OF A 13 YEAR OLD!! Apparently for my Bat Mitzvah (15 years ago), my parents had an open bar with wine and beer. They did bring wine around once we got food, which I think (partly) mollified everyone. I was very amused by the whole thing. Once we got our food, we made our goodbyes, got some pictures taken.


Then Joey and I got on the road for party number two. His best friend from college was having an engagement party in Harrisburg, PA. We got there pretty easily, it took just about 2 hours. This worked out well, giving us some time to hang out with her before heading to her parents' house for the party. For some reason, everyone lately has really wanted to do my hair and makeup. My sister did my hair and makeup for the wedding we went to two weeks ago, and now Juls did my hair and makeup for her own engagement party! I kind of enjoy it - I never do my hair or wear any makeup normally, so it's a bit of a treat for me. They obviously do a much better job than I would myself. Juls straightened my hair - I've never seen it so silky smooth! I don't even think we took any pictures :(

The night was a lot of fun - her parents had the party catered by their restaurant, and had a bartender there serving wine and champagne. After the guests left, a bunch of us went downtown to a bar to continue having a good time. I was so exhausted by the end of the night, from all of the events in the past few days, that I just wanted to go to bed. I slept pretty well, but apparently did something to my neck while sleeping, since I woke up with a really stiff neck, a lot of pain, and a huge headache. It started feeling better by the end of the day, but still hurts a bit now.

Now I'm trying to decide what I should do tonight - run or strength? I didn't do anything at all since my run on Friday, and I should probably do something active. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beer, Ginger and Garlic Braised Brisket

I actually cooked Joey a meat dinner, and it turned out really well! Even better, it was super simple to make. He obviously supervised, but I did everything myself. This recipe is from a long time ago - it's what I made for Rosh Hashanah dinner.

Recipe: Beer, Ginger and Garlic Braised Brisket
Adapted from Aarti Sequeira

2 tbsp canola oil
1 3-lb brisket, trimmed of excess fat and skin
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 2-inch stick cinnamon
10 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods, crushed
2lbs white onions sliced 1/2 inch thick
Ginger-Garlic Paste (below)
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
22 oz lager beer
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Ginger-Garlic Paste:
1/2 cup garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh ginger (1/2-inch slices)
1/4 cup canola oil
Put the three ingredients in a food processor and let it blend until it forms a smooth paste.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Warm the oil in a large, ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the brisket with salt and pepper on both sides, and then add the meat to the pot. Brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom pods; they should sizzle upon contact with the oil in the pot. Once they start releasing their aroma (~1 minute), add the onions and Ginger-Garlic paste. Sprinkle with a touch of salt to help them release some moisture. Saute until they soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and beer to the pot, scraping up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom. Carefully, using a pair of tongs, return the brisket to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, shut off the heat, cover, and transfer to the oven where it will cook for 3 hours. Remove the lid in the last half hour of cooking to reduce the liquid.

When you're ready to serve, check the gravy. Stir in the cider vinegar. If it's too thick, thin out with a little water. If it's too thin, reduce it on the stovetop. Taste for seasoning - you may need to add more salt. Slice the brisket and serve with a big scoop of onions and gravy.

8k training: 5 mile run + 2 sets of KB

I now have zero back pain - it's amazing! The funny thing is that I think KBs last night helped clear it all up - funny because a KB workout is what brought the pain on in the first place. I was a bit nervous about doing the workout, but I was going to take it easy, and stop if anything felt bad. I used a 20lb KB instead of the 25lb KB I had been using lately, to help ease me back in. I re-used an old workout, modifying it just slightly. My back hurt a bit during the workout, but I think those muscles were just getting re-accustomed to being used again.

Before I even started the KB workout however, I ran 5 miles outside! I was supposed to do 1 mile slow + 25 minutes fast + 1 mile slow, but the only way I would really be able to keep track of that was on a treadmill. It seemed too much to want to do on a treadmill, and I figured the weather would be pretty perfect for a run outside. I mapped out a 5 mile loop, which is actually one of the loops that I dreaded when I first started running. I used to hate the hill on 5th street, since it just seemed to go on forever. This time around, it was no problem. I actually accelerated up that hill. I guess I've been running up/down even bigger hills, making that one seem easy. The biggest problem was actually Runkeeper - in the first half mile, it was completely malfunctioning, telling me I was running a 3 min/mile pace. Obviously that is impossible. I kept it going so I could at least have the time of my workout, but it was pretty annoying to keep getting pace updates every 45 seconds. At the first light I had to stop at, it started working again. I think that pausing and starting the app made it wake up. I'm not 100% sure of my splits, but I'm pretty sure I ran just under 5 miles (4.97 to be exact) in 48:29.

This is the route I was supposed to run:

This is what runkeeper had me doing:

Note the zigzagging in the first portion:

You can see that the zigzagging stops once I got to the light, so I just figured out what that real distance was to the light (0.55 miles), and the distance it told me I had gone (1.6 miles), and just figured out my real pace.

Splits: (average pace, pace in last 1/2 mile)
0.55: 5:20 (9:41)
1.0: 9:40 (9:40)
1.5: 14:50 (9:53, 10:20)
2.0: 19:55 (9:58, 10:10) last mile 10:15
2.5: 24:42 (9:53, 9:34)
3.0: 29:39 (9:53, 9:54) last mile 9:44
3.5: 34:23 (9:49, 9:28)
4.0: 39:26 (9:51, 10:06) last mile 9:47
4.5: 43:56 (9:46, 9:00)
4.97: 48:29 (9:45, 9:41) last mile 9:20

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Honey-Ginger Glazed Salmon

This is incredibly late, but this is what I made for my Rosh Hashanah dinner last month. We steamed baby carrots and purple carrots, and mixed them with honey, butter and thyme. We also sauteed some sliced purple potatoes. I cooked salmon, and also cooked Joey's brisket (recipe coming soon).

Recipe: Honey-Ginger Glazed Salmon
Adapted from Our Best Bites
Yield: 4 servings

3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp grated ginger root
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp olive oil
4 6-oz salmon filets

Creamy Dipping Sauce:
6oz plain Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp grated ginger root
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped green onions or chives
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
Sriracha sauce (to taste)
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Whisk together the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic and oil. Marinate the fish in the mixture for 20-60 minutes.

While the fish is marinating, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cook the fish for ~15 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

Rosemary and (33 cloves of) Roasted Garlic Bread

 After making the no-knead bread that we cooked in the dutch oven, Joey wanted to try making other similar breads. He found a recipe for a bread that also included roasted garlic and rosemary - um how can you go wrong there? This was modeled after the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe, which I've made in the past. When we were going to be making it, my job was to start roasting the garlic as soon as I got home from lab. I asked Joey how much garlic he wanted, since at the time, we just had a giant bag (from Sam's Club) of peeled cloves. His exact words were - a bunch, err on the large side. I just picked the first number that came to my mind, and said okay, 30? He said to go with that, and jokingly added, that if he counted only 29, he was going to make me do it over. With that, I responded - for that, I'm doing 33. Once I got home, I actually counted out 33 cloves, and roasted them until they were mellow and sweet. And we used every single one of them in the bread.

To make the bread, Joey followed the instructions from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day website, which said to pull off a 1lb chunk of the dough. It turned out that 1lb of dough isn't quite half, so the first loaf was much smaller than the second. The first loaf also didn't have nearly as many garlic cloves - whoops! At first we thought they must have just disintegrated into the dough, but once we cooked the second loaf a few days later, we saw where they all went!

Recipe: Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Bread
Adapted slightly from Noble Pig
Yield: 2 loaves of bread

33 cloves of garlic (use less if you don't love garlic as much as we do. Although, why would you be making this recipe if you don't love garlic?)
olive oil
2 tbsp active dry yeast
3 cups lukewarm water
5 1/2 cups (29.3 oz) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 450 F. Make a pouch out of heavy duty foil (or make a double layer out of regular foil). Put the garlic in the pouch, drizzle with olive oil, and close up tightly. Put in the oven and cook for 45 minutes, or until golden and a fork easily goes through them. Let cool slightly.

In a large (very large) container, mix water and yeast together. Add flour, salt, roasted garlic and rosemary. Stir with a wooden spoon, use your hands as necessary to fully mix together. Cover the container and set in a warm place to rise for at least 3 hours. At this time, put in the refrigerator overnight - the dough is easier to work with when cold.

When ready to bake, put a metal baking pan on the bottom of the oven. Fill it with water. Put a pizza stone on a rack set in the middle or top third of the oven. Preheat oven to 450 F, the water and stone will heat up during this time.

Sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal. Sprinkle the dough and your hands with flour. Divide the dough into two loaves (or you can just pull out half of the dough and bake the other half later), shaping each into a ball. Place on the pizza peel and let rest for 30 minutes. Right before placing in the oven, score the tops of the balls with either an X or several cuts - this will prevent the bottom of the loaf from splitting.

Use the pizza peel to (carefully!) slide the dough right onto the hot pizza stone. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

First loaf

Second loaf

Tikka Masala with Chicken (or Shrimp)

I like planning out recipes - making sure I have all the ingredients, reading all of the reviews. Joey is way more spontaneous. He will decide he wants to make something, and will make it work with what we have on hand. He's good enough at cooking that he can figure out similar flavor profiles using different ingredients. A couple months ago, he decided he wanted to make tikka masala. We actually had most of what we needed, amazingly, and it turned out REALLY well! He followed the recipe for lamb, but used chicken instead. I used shrimp with my serving, and I thought the sweetness of the shrimp counteracted the spiciness of the sauce really nicely.

Recipe: Tikka Masala with Chicken
Adapted from Alton Brown
Yield: 6 servings

2 tbsp garam masala, divided (you can make your own, we used store bought)
2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup plain yogurt (we used Greek because it's what we had)
2 tbsp clarified butter
1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 (heaping) tsp ground ginger
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
28oz diced tomatoes (we used 1 15oz can stewed, 1 15oz can diced, and added 1 fresh)
1 cup coconut milk (we didn't have any, so used a mixture of whole milk and cream)

Combine 1 tbsp of the garam masala, 1 tsp of the salt, cumin, coriander, and pepper in a 1-gallon resealable bag. Seal and shake the bag to combine. Add the chicken, and shake to coat. Add the yogurt to the bag, seal and squish to coat. Refrigerate the bag in a leak proof container for 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Heat the clarified butter in a 12-inch straight sided saute pan over medium-high heat, until it shimmers and almost begins to smoke. Add the onion and remaining tsp of salt, and cook until the onion is browned around the edges, 11-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic and chile. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions have softened and browned completely, approximately 7 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining tbsp of garam masala and the ginger, and stir several times to coat.

Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have reduced slightly and deepened in color, 15-20 minutes.

While cooking, start on the chicken. Remove the chicken from the yogurt mixture, leaving as much yogurt on the meat as possible. Lightly coat a grill pan with vegetable oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Put the chicken in the pan, and cook until lightly charred and cooked through, turning so all sides are heated. Remove one of the pieces from the pan and cut open to make sure it is cooked through.

Add the coconut milk to the tomato mixture and stir to combine and heat through. Using an immersion blender, blend parts of it slightly, but still leaving lots of texture.

Serve with quinoa or rice, and the grilled chicken.

If you want to serve it with shrimp instead of chicken, that's even easier! Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with nonstick spray. Place desired amount of shrimp on the pan (it's easier if they're already peeled), sprinkle with ground pepper and garam masala, and cook for 7 minutes.

Cardio + Strength Workout

I'm finally back in my workout routine! I managed to get in both running and a strength workouts last night, and while my back felt pretty sore last night, it's feeling great today. I'm doubling up on workouts this week, so I can get everything done on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I'll be pretty tired those nights, but it'll give me some real time off in between.

I was scheduled to run 4 miles, and decided to split it up - 2 miles before lifting, and 2 miles after. The 2 miles after actually felt a lot better than the first 2 miles, probably primarily since I ate way too close to when the workout started.

I think that going back and forth between the cardio and the lifting is a great way to get in a double workout, and it also keeps your heart rate up the entire time.

I used 10lb weights for almost everything - the gym I was at didn't have 12.5lb weights, and I didn't want to re-injure myself by using the 15lb weights. I used 5lb weights for the front/lateral raises and windmills, and a 15lb weight for the Russian Twists.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

8k training: Slowest 6 miles ever...

So, I'm trying to get back into my normal workouts, and I'm exhausted. I haven't even started doing strength training yet! I figured that the 6 miles would be okay, since I managed to do 7 miles last week. I guess I didn't realize how helpful strength workouts are in building endurance, and that basically halting those for the last week and a half would make everything else more difficult.

I decided to do the 6 mile run I did a few weeks ago. After doing 7 miles two weeks in a row, I figured 6 miles would be relatively easy, especially since I was supposed to do them slow. It's a good thing that my training schedule said to do it slow, since I don't think I could have gone any faster than I did. It's the slowest pace I've ever had. At just over 5 miles, I had to stop for a few minutes and sit down, I was just exhausted. But I managed to "run" 6 miles.

The only good thing, is that I didn't have back pain while running, unlike my last few runs. I took that as a good sign, but since I got home, I've been sneezing and coughing a lot (I think a cold is coming on), and each time I do that, I feel pretty bad pain. In one sneeze, it felt like something popped or cracked, but I don't think it was actually as bad as that sounds. I'm hoping that everything will be okay to do my workouts this week as planned - I'm thinking of doing a light workout on Monday, with some basic lifting with DBs, medicine ball and stability ball. Depending on how my legs are doing, I'll do a short run sometime between Monday and Wednesday. I want to do KB workout on Wednesday, and then a tempo run on Thursday. I'm going to be away next weekend, so I need to schedule my long run somehow - either on Friday before we leave, or on Sunday once we get back.

I started out with a pretty steady pace, but you can see where it all fell apart in mile 5. I guess it makes sense, since there was a hell of a hill in it!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Updated Breakfast Sandwich Recipe

I posted about homemade breakfast sandwiches a couple months ago, and here's my update. First, we've been making them with egg whites a lot, mostly to cut down on calories. We've bought cartons of egg whites, and we've also used separated whites from eggs (really useful when you have leftover whites from a recipe using yolks). Every once in a while, Joey still uses a regular egg.

The one change we've made is how we store and reheat them. We found that no matter what we did, freezing and then reheating them did not work out well. All of the moisture leached out of the eggs while reheating, leaving us with dry eggs that were strangely flaky. We tried heating in the microwave, wrapped in a paper towel, heating in the oven, and a combo of warming slightly in the microwave, followed by crisping up in the toaster oven. I even tried thawing it in the fridge overnight, and then cooking. We decided it wasn't worth it to prepare a ton in advance, if we couldn't actually enjoy them!

Instead, we decided to make a few at a time, and put them in the fridge. On Sunday we could make enough for the whole week, and they would last just fine in the fridge. You could either assemble and wrap them in plastic wrap, or just wrap up the eggs and assemble each day. We cook the eggs in the ramekins still (make sure to grease them really well), in a toaster oven set to 350 F. When there is one ramekin in, it takes ~10 minutes to cook. When we have three ramekins in there (the number of ramekins we have, plus how many will actually fit at once), it takes ~14 minutes to cook.

We've been doing that for weeks now, and it's been working out great. This morning I decided to switch it up a bit, and added some spinach to jazz it up a bit.

This is how I did it:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Thaw some frozen chopped spinach (I used about 1/4 cup), and squeeze out extra moisture. Spray a ramekin with cooking spray. Put spinach in the ramekin.

Pour in the egg. I used egg whites from a carton - it says a serving is 3 tbsp, or 46 g, I used 55g to make it a bit bigger.

Top with salt, pepper, garlic and whatever extra seasoning you would like (I use the African Smoke seasoning from Trader Joe's).

Bake until set - this might take longer than a regular egg, because of the spinach (and because I made mine a little bigger) - it took 14 minutes to cook.

Toast an english muffin topped with some cheese (I used some of Joey's Comte, it melted really well).

Add some sliced tomato, put it all together, and then take a big bite :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

7 Mile Run in Wilmington

I was back in Wilmington last weekend, and knew I would have to do a long run while I was there. I was there Friday evening through Monday afternoon, and couldn't put the run off that whole time. It took me a while to plot out a route. I haven't really done much running at all in Wilmington. In high school I tried cross country for a season, but put in almost zero effort. Besides going on an occasional walk with my mom, I never did any running. I wasn't sure where the good running areas were, which streets had side walks, where the hills were. Thankfully, Wilmington is much less hilly than Charlottesville. I picked a really easy route that included just a few turns, and my mom verified that it had sidewalks the whole way.

The only problem was that my back was still hurting. I strained something in my back last Monday night doing a KB workout, and it still hasn't healed itself. Working out on Wednesday probably didn't help things, and as of Friday, it was just getting worse. I was determined to still run, and was just planning on going slow. My training plan said to do 3 miles steady, 3 miles fast, and then 1 mile steady. I had no idea how I was going to be able to regulate my speed that much, so Joey just told me to make sure the "3 miles fast" section didn't feel easy. He said to make sure it felt difficult, even if I was still running the same pace, or even slower, since I would probably be tired by then.

I started out, and my legs were in a lot of pain. My entire right leg hurt, from my calf to my hip. After about a mile, the pain subsided, but at 1.5 miles, I felt something wrench in my back. It hurt quite a bit, but I tried to keep my left arm as close to my body as possible, without swinging it around, and that seemed to make things better. (You can see in my splits that 1.5-2 miles was my slowest portion.) Once I started going downhill after the first 3 miles, things got better. I picked up my pace, which wasn't surprising in the downhill portion, but was surprised when I realized I was keeping that faster pace. I really got into a good stride after the first 4 miles. I was extremely annoyed when a light forced me to stop just before 5 miles, since I was afraid I was going to lose my momentum. I ran in place until the light changed, and then tried to pick up at the same pace I was going before. Apparently I overshot the pace, since I completed mile 6 more than a minute faster than the previous mile! It was also mostly downhill, which helped a lot. I knew that once I got to the 6 mile mark, not only would I be almost home, but I could go back to a "steady" pace. Somehow, once I got there, I still kept a pretty good pace up, and that ended up being my second fastest mile.

I felt great once I got home. I walked around the neighborhood for a few minutes to cool down, and then went inside and bragged to my mom about my run! I was really happy that I finished 2.5 minutes faster than the previous time I did 7 miles. Once I showered, and started getting ready for the wedding (one of the reasons I was home for the weekend), the pain set in. I was in excruciating pain the rest of the evening, and wasn't able to sleep Saturday or Sunday night. I came to realize that laying down was the worst on my back. Things are a bit better now, but I'm still not pain free.

Even with all of the pain, I'm still really happy I did the run, and really proud of how I did. Now I'm starting to wonder if I'll need a 1-2 mile warmup before my next race, since apparently it took me at least that long to get into a good stride...

Splits: (average pace, pace in last 1/2 mile)
0.49: 5:08 (10:29)
1.00: 10:21 (10:21, 10:14) last mile 10:21
1.49: 15:30 (10:24, 10:31)
2.00: 21:03 (10:32, 10:53) last mile 10:42
2.51: 26:21 (10:30, 10:24)
3.00: 31:26 (10:29, 10:22) last mile 10:23
3.50: 36:29 (10:25, 10:06)
4.01: 41:37 (10:23, 10:12) last mile 10:05
4.50: 46:35 (10:21, 10:08)
5.00: 51:43 (10:21, 10:16) last mile 10:12
5.51: 56:26 (10:15, 9:15)
6.00: 1:00:54 (10:09, 9:07) last mile 9:11
6.50: 1:05:42 (10:06, 9:36)
7.00: 1:10:37 (10:05, 9:50) last mile 9:43

Also, I didn't wear the heart rate monitor. That's probably a really good thing, considering how much stress there already was on my back and side. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pumpkin Muffins with Shredded Pumpkin - Regular Version and Lightened-Up Version

With all of the pumpkin recipes out there, it's hard to choose one to make. I find it especially difficult when it comes to muffins or quick bread - everyone has their favorite pumpkin bread recipe. This recipe stands out to me, since it uses shredded fresh pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin puree. In that sense, it's made the same way as a carrot cake or zucchini bread. If you have a food processor with shredding discs, it's really simple to make. Otherwise it's definitely still possible to shred the pumpkin using a cheese grater, it just takes more time/effort and you have to be careful not to shred your hand in the process!

Joey found this recipe from Alton Brown years ago, and we've made it a bunch of times. I picked up a pumpkin at Trader Joe's last week for the sole purpose of making this bread. We usually make it in a 9x5 loaf pan, but decided to make muffins instead, so we could freeze some for later. I wasn't sure how much the pumpkin would yield, and wasn't sure if it would even be enough for a full batch. Those little pumpkins are deceptive - we got 7+ cups of shredded pumpkin from one pie pumpkin. More than enough for two full batches of this recipe. The first time we made it, I followed the recipe (almost) exactly. We just swapped out the pumpkin seeds for pecans. The second time, I decided to try to lighten it up. If Annie's Eats can lighten up her favorite pumpkin bread recipe, then why can't I do the same for AB's? I think it worked perfectly. Joey said it tasted exactly like the original.

I'm including both recipes below, so you can decide which one you would like to make, and so you can see what changes I made. Next time I might use even more whole wheat flour, since you couldn't tell it was there at all.

Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins with Shredded Pumpkin
Adapted from Alton Brown
Yield: 1 9x5 loaf, or 15 muffins, or 12 muffins + 1 mini loaf = 15 servings

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups shredded pumpkin
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 F (Note - the second time I made these, I accidentally baked them at 350 F. It took 25 minutes for the muffins at this time, and they turned out just fine.) Lightly grease a 9x5 pan or muffin tin.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until smooth and well combined.

Add together the wet and dry mixtures - either add wet to dry or dry to wet - whatever you prefer. Mix until no flour streaks remain. Gently fold in the pumpkin and pecans.

Pour into greased loaf pan, or divide among muffin cups. I like to use a large ice cream scoop so each muffin is roughly the same size.

Bake muffins for 30 minutes, or 9x5 loaf for 1 hr 15 minutes. The tops should spring back when pushed lightly, and a toothpick will come out clean with a few moist crumbs. A mini loaf will take ~35-45 minutes, depending on the size.

Cool on a wire rack, and enjoy!

265 calories
13.8 g fat
35.1 g carbs
1.7 g fiber
2.3 g protein

Lightened-Up Shredded Pumpkin Muffins

2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup splenda
3/8 cup vegetable oil*
3/8 cup unsweetened applesauce*
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups shredded pumpkin
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

* For oil and applesauce - dump most of the contents of a 4oz container of applesauce into a liquid measuring cup. Pour oil on top until it reaches 3/4 cup

194 calories
8.4 g fat
28.4 g carbs
2.1 g fiber
2.5 g protein

I managed to cut out more than 25% of the calories, almost 40% of the fat, and almost 20% of the carbs, just by making a few changes. I also bumped up the fiber content slightly.