Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Week 3: Cooking my way thru the Runner's World Cookbook

Welcome to week three of my adventures in cooking the recipes from The Runner's World Cookbook!

I was busy last week and busy means fewer chances to cook. Sometimes dinner just has to be some cheese and crackers ya know? (as long as it comes with some olives and wine....)

Anyway. What did I manage to cook?

Brown rice salad with curried tofu
OK, where to begin with this one.... I had high hopes because as a rule I really enjoy rice based salads. Combine that with the fact that this was already vegetarian friendly and I was really hoping for a solid win. 
However.... Eric and I both strongly objected to this dish for different but similar reasons. Eric HATED the tomatoes, the flavor and the texture. (that is a lot of things to object to.)  He gave it a 3 out of 10 rating.
I REALLY DISLIKED the way that the tofu (despite prep) still came out bland, the excess of SEEDS, the amount of work that it took to eat it (chomp. chomp. chomp.) I thought that the flavor was not objectionable but after champing my way thru 30 minutes of tedious salad I was over it.
I tried to figure out ways to improve this recipe but in the end I realized that I was simply writing a new recipe. I feel that the ratios are off- it is almost equal parts rice, tofu, edamame and seeds which makes for a lot of roughage. I feel that if the rice played a bigger role, and perhaps instead of a full cup of seeds there were a couple tablespoons, and maybe if the tofu was marinated things would have gone better. (also- I pressed the tofu which the recipe does not suggest but I think it goes without saying.)
Sorry salad. You were straight gross. Never again.

Spinach Kiwi Cooler
After the debacle that was the nasty ass rice salad I made a VERY easy smoothie for Eric. He is a smoothie fan- I am not!In the end even I found this one to be enjoyable and extremely easy. I think it took 2 minutes from start to finish. Eric gave it a big thumbs up and chugged it. Success!

Pasta Bean Toss
Next up was the very pretty and very, very fiberous pasta bean toss. (I have no idea why I thought I needed a can of tomatoes- I did not. but there it is. you totally could use one though and it would be good!)
This was not challenging to prepare and the 35 minutes that the cook book projects was right on target.
I omitted the Worcestershire sauce due to the anchovies and, if you can, would highly recommend using it as I feel it would add some valuable flavor. 
Overall we felt that this was enjoyable and extremely healthy. I do not suggest eating this the night before an early long run as the beans and broccoli will certainly play games with your digestion.
I enjoyed this- I ate a couple of huge bowls and also noted that it is attractive enough to serve to friends to impress them. Eric was fairly happy with it but noticed (as I did) that it needed a little something to add flavor (if you omit the Worcestershire perhaps consider an increase of salt, or a few red pepper flakes, extra cheese, pepper, more garlic...)
After the nasty rice salad this was a distinct improvement.

And finally... Garlicky Greens and Roasted Sweet potato wedges (blocks, whatev.) And steak.
Sometimes you just don't have time to cook up a whole long recipe.
However! I had fresh kale and a couple of sweet potatoes on hand and threw them together as sides.
This is totally cheating as I make these all the time, minus a recipe.
However, I felt clever as it was a two-fer! HAH!
Clearly they were delicious and Eric, my sister and I ate them with gusto. WIN.

So that's it for this week. I hope to be able to pull off making a few recipes for next week's addition- I have to eat but am also busy! I'm glad I did not put a timetable on this challenge- maybe I should as a motivator.....


Monday, June 22, 2015

Hill running, horse shows, summer!

Last week was very busy, lessons, camp prep, a horse show and all the extra things that summer brings made for a lot of long days.

Knowing that this would be the case I had decided to plan for a light week of running. I knew that if I did not have a plan locked down that I would perhaps not run at all. I decided to shoot for 20 miles- feeling that I could probably pull that off. I did, in two days. Maybe not the easiest way to get it done but it worked! And it was hilly.

I spent the weekend at a horse show that was first sunny and beautiful and wonderful.

And we won things! Like wineglasses, seriously!
 And then was a complete downpour. Gross.

But we still won in the rain. Even though Chaunce is NOT a bad weather horse.
I spent a lot of time volunteering and since they had me doing a very active job I rode my bike rather extensively for the first time in a year. It was a much quicker way to get around than running (and less tiring since I was moving literally all day!) However, I don't really have the urge to get back out there and ride all the miles. I like my bike for short rides though and was happy to have her there.

This week is going to be a study in long busy days which is great because it means that business is good! I am trying to manage my scheduling a little better this year so that I am not working ridiculously long hours every day. While I certainly don't mind and I am happy to have extra hours of work I also feel that I can be smarter about when that work happens. Running a business is always a balancing act and even though this is my 15th year here I'm still trying to get it right!

So this week has a light running schedule but I'm hoping to have some adventures similar to last week. I really like to see my town on foot at this time of year so when I head out I try to see a new road (I'll run out eventually I imagine...)
I'm also contemplating my fall race schedule and gearing up (sort of?) for the 4 on the 4th- which seems to be coming right up. Oh dear. Setting a PR certainly isn't in the plans this year but I like getting out to the local races and seeing friends so it will still be fun!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Week 2: Cooking my way thru the Runner's World Cookbook

Week two of my adventure in cooking.

Eric and I have never had so many different things in such a short period of time! I continue to find all of the recipes very simple and user friendly.

Multigrain Pancakes
Pancakes are always a hit and I'm happy to have another recipe to add to my repertoire.
This was an easy mid week dinner and was a snap to put together (as pancakes should be) and they turned out very nicely. There was nothing remarkable about these pancakes- they were very pleasant and delicious (as pancakes should be.)
I have never used cornmeal or oats in my pancakes because I am the least creative human to ever live and I found them to be a nice addition. Well, the oats anyway. Who notices cornmeal?
I suppose you could health these up by topping them with some random fruit of yogurt or such nonsense but we took the legit route and doused them in syrup. #winning

Spinach, bacon and sweet potato salad
I made this post long run last week because I was seriously wishing for some spinach and this was the most spinachy option in the book.
With a vegetarian in the house I decided it would be easier to simply make some fakeon and call it good, rather than making a teensy bit of real bacon and a teensy bit of fakeon bacon. (whatever, I was hungry!)
I must be honest- I wasn't thinking this would be very good. I was thinking that it was going to be bland and one dimensional.
I was wrong. It was great. It took like, 5 minutes to make (well, the sweet potatoes took about 30 min to cook but we don't count that.)
This is easy enough to make post long run.
It was EXCELLENT- I would make this again in a heartbeat. (I'd make it next week if I didn't have 200 recipes to work through!) The absence of real bacon was not offensive, it was full of good flavors and health and nutrients and what not. I shoved it in my mouth at top speed and was very happy.
Clearly, these are ingredients that I cook with often and usually shove into a burrito or similar. Changing it up to a salad, with the pleasant addition of the citrus-y dressing made "the usual" taste new and fresh. Really good- an easy MUST repeat!

Garlic shrimp with while beans and tomatoes
I made the Garlic shrimp with white beans and tomatoes for my sister and me, and the same recipe minus the shrimp plus a vegetarian Italian sausage for Eric. 
As most of the recipes have thus far, this came together easily. I omitted the parsley because I did not have any but otherwise followed the recipe.
Overall..... This was "meh". We certainly ate it but found it to be unexciting- the flavors were more bland than we had hoped for and the tomatoes really over powered the shrimp,
As a group we felt the recipe could be significantly improved by adding a half a sauteed onion, possibly a diced red pepper and definitely a few cups of baby spinach. I will give that a try at some point and report back!
(editors note) I finished up some of the leftovers a couple of days after making the original recipe and found them to me much better- the flavors had some some mingling and it was pretty good. Also- I was very hungry so there's that...

Banana oat energy bars
I was completely out of things to eat pre run over the weekend and since I had all the ingredients in the house I made these up. So far, I have noticed that the writers of the cookbook seem to be very optimistic about our abilities to speedily prepare things for cooking. While this came together in the most simple way yet again, they underestimated the time it takes to get shit from the pantry to completion. Just saying. I'm fast but not THAT fast.
Bottom line these could not have been easier. I cooked them for a full 10 minutes longer than the recipe suggested and they were just firm enough to be viable at that point (40 min at 350)
If you don't care for bananas you will not care for these because the banana really dominates. While I had no issue with the cranberry and walnut additions I think these would also be nice with dates, pecans or dried cherries. I ate two big squares pre run and my belly never complained so I declare them to be a great success!
One critical mention- they were VERY sweet (and that is coming from me, the woman with an insatiable sweet tooth!) There was a full cup of sugar in them which I did not bat an eye at because sugar is my boo. But yikes- cut that shit back. I'd shoot for a half cup next time and see how things turned out. (if you want your bars sweeter than a cookie follow the recipe. if not, listen to me!)

More to come next week.
Possibly tackling some smoothies (my least favorite thing ever) and trying to figure out how on earth I am going to make things like "meatloaf" veggie friendly. Inside info: I'm NOT...


Sunday, June 14, 2015

So on the running front....

Thus far during the month of June all of my running times have been good times.

I don't have anything crazy in my schedule during the summer which is ok, I'm so busy with horse stuff (which is wonderful!) that too many crazy running escapades give me stress.

UNLIKE last June I am still in a consistent running pattern. The weather hasn't felt as oppressive and I have been able to get in some comfortable miles. I really feel good! I'm having a great time running and as busy as I'm about to be with the ponies I do *secretly* wish that Danielle and I were running Around The Lake again or something equally stupid. Maybe we need to chat...

I'm still not running with a watch but since I run with my phone in my flipbelt for safety reasons I usually turn on Strava to see how I did once all is said and done.

Since I'm already Strava-ing stuff I decided to participate in a couple of "challenges" during June.

One, running a 13.1 I completed last week so that I could get an ice cream. Legit.

Such a good life choice. I am the smartest human to ever LIVE!!!!! Fucking #lifepoints people!

Another, the Mt Everest Challenge I'm not entirely sure if I will be able to complete (I started a bit late) but I'm doing my best.
TONS of hills- which is actually really fun! I like to get the hell out and run places that I can't during deer hunting season and winter (which is about 8 months of the year as we know) Over hill and dale I go, and it is quite amusing.

Oh hey. How are ya hills?
Eric and I had a chance to record a podcast with our friend Jon last week- we had a blast talking about some of our adventures. Our dogs were less than impressed that we would not let them join in, making for a bit of background noise but it was all good. Jon is a fun and funny guy and the husband of my best friend of 20 plus years- go check him out here! (and listen out our podcast while you are at it!)
Jon is super cool.
In other news, as promised I have been cooking my way thru the Runners World Cookbook and I will have the next installment of that adventure ready to drop in a day or two.

This week looks to be a bit crazy in the best way possible, I'm getting ready to horse show, preparing for the beginning of a summer of horse camp and basically going at 100 MPH 100% of the time. It should be fun! (scary. so scary. but fun!)


Monday, June 8, 2015

Cooking my way thru the Runner's World Cookbook

Since I do not have any marathons for a while I seem to have a tiny bit more time to do normal human things. Things like cook an actual meal on occasion instead of relying on english muffin pizzas and random pastas to survive on.

A little while back I had the most amazing success cooking up a fabulous dinner straight out of the Runner's World magazine.
It was such a hit- and so easy (which is absolutely critical to me) that I decided it would be amusing to cook my way thru the entire Runner's World cookbook. Why not right? It's very Julie and Julia of me, but in the day and age of thousands of legit cooking blogs and high def pics of amazingly presented meals and what not- the pressure to make things look perfect is a challenge that I'm not even going to try.  I am not a food blogger and I need to cook food to eat, not to take fancily arranged pictures of!

Here is what you can expect from me:
-Grainy photos
-Basic descriptions "this was only ok..." and so forth.
-My thoughts on the return on my investment. If I am gonna bust out the cooking tools that the food had best be worth my while!
-Honest appraisals of how good (or bad) each recipe is.

The only thing that might be actually useful to humanity is that I will need to find a way to make every possible recipe veggie friendly. Other than that I will not alter any ingredients. (I have a serious tendency to tinker with things to improve them- things do not need to be improved on the first try! *sigh*)

I can't claim to be a horrible cook- while it is not my favorite thing I am completely capable in the kitchen and have been cooking for as long as I can remember.
The only thing that I made which turns out horribly is lasagna. Go figure.

The great thing about this particular cookbook is that is is foolproof. You can find most ingredients easily and the challenge level is very low which is absolutely fucking critical for me!! I honestly have been put off cooking for a bit because so many cookbooks have ingredients that I CAN NOT find in my area and take 3 hours to prepare. Not my jam.

So. Let the journey begin! 

Week one:

Fresh Fruit Scones

Easy to make and easy to eat. I think calling them "scones" is a stretch- it was more like muffin cake but whatever. I used some fruit that I had kicking around- blueberries, strawberries, a peach and a handful of dried cherries. All good choices. If I were to make this again I would add cinnamon, maybe a pinch of nutmeg and some nuts. This was VERY simple to prepare so I felt good about the (short) time spent baking.

Asian noodle salad with eggs and peanut dressing
I rarely eat salads for dinner (I need real FOOD people!) I don't think I have ever made a salad that a cookbook suggested before- I tend to use my cooking time on more substantial things.
However, I needed to make this peanut dressing so I decided it was in my best interest to make a double batch and whip up this salad too. the dressing looks like poo- the recipe said to"drizzle" it over the salad and it more, globbed onto it unattractively (as pictured.)
Bad looks aside the whole dish really worked well- it was much better than I had anticipated and the egg made it feel like a full meal. Not to mention that the plate it is on is HUGE- this is no wimpy salad.
The biggest pain in the butt was making the dressing but that took maybeeeee 10 minutes so I really can't complain. Making extra was definitely worth it as I used in in another meal and then made some random peanut noodles too.
Again, time well invested. I would make this again with no alterations.

Thai beef and snow pea stir fry

I made this dinner at the end of a long, impossible day (hence the face.)
I was extremely distracted and it is amazing that it came together at ALL.
I had intentions of stirfrying some marinated tofu for Eric's portion but that went by the wayside so I tossed in some red pepper and onion (not in the recipe) to bulk it up a little.
I completely forgot the water chestnuts because I was not focused at all- they would have been a nice addition but it was in no way a disaster.
BIG win here- I think I threw the whole mess together in about 15 minutes, glugged some wine into glasses and called it dinner.

So there is week one of my Runner's World Cookbook adventure. I haven't made so many different things in one week in EVER so I feel quite accomplished.
More to come next week!  

(side note: I paid for the cookbook with my own money, I am cooking the recipes for my amusement only. I think you all know I'm not famous enough to write sponsored content!)


Thursday, June 4, 2015

May Recap

Overall May was a great month!

I got in about 115 miles of running, a number that I am content with. The final week of May was a zero week for a few reasons- the most important one being that I simply wanted to take one! Beyond that it was close to 90 degrees every day and on top of that I spent about 3 days racked out with a stomach bug. Really gross.

May was a ton of fun! The highlight for me was the Maine Coast 39.3 challenge. The whole weekend was a great time, I had genuine fun running both days and enjoyed the whole experience so much that I might be tempted to do it again next year!

Medals! Fun! Sweat!!
 Pineland was not a repeat fun day for me which was a bummer. What was fun was catching up with my running friends who are such a great bunch of humans! I hope to see more of them this summer.

Love these crazy kids.
Last year my running hit an all time mileage low during June. I am feeling GREAT right now after my week of rest (minus all the running to the bathroom...) I'm also feeling a lot more motivated to keep my mileage reasonable for the coming month. Last year I believe that I ran a whopping 47 miles in June. This year I am setting my goal slightly higher- I think with the number of things I have going on that 100 miles is a number that I can reach without driving myself insane.

I don't have any races until July but I am determined to keep my base fitness up and brush up on a little speed work. I am thrilled to have come off the busy spring season completely sound and totally injury free. Feeling GREAT right now! I managed to run for the first time ever on national running day and am now gearing up for the all important national donut day....!

June is filled right up with horse shows, weddings and the hectic start to the summer camp season. I'm looking forward to the upcoming craziness and am excited to see what adventures happen next.