Monday, December 15, 2014

Lentil Spinach Curry

When I went to Bird Camp in August, I met some of the best people, one of them, my roommate, Nicole. I've been following her blog, Fitness Fatale, and over the weekend decided to try one of her recipes. 

I adore Indian food - eating a delicious curry is just the thing to warm up during a Wisconsin winter. To get my fix, I usually hit a local Indian restaurant but Nicole's recipe looked so simple that I decided to try making it for once. And it turned out great! I definitely recommend making this simple, vegan curry - it's the perfect lunch or dinner to chase away the chill!

Lentil Spinach Curry
From Fitness Fatale

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2-4 tsp curry powder (Originally recipe calls for 2 tsp but I added closer to 4 tsp. Season to taste.)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
1 tsp salt
1 14oz can light coconut milk
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 3/4 cup water
1/3 cup cashews
3 cups fresh spinach
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

For serving:
Basmati rice
Cilantro, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until soft and translucent. Then add mustard seeds, curry powder, turmeric and lentils. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add additional oil if necessary.

Mix in the salt, coconut milk, lime juice and water. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils have cooked through and the mixture has thickened.

Stir in the spinach, cashews and cilantro and cook until heated through. Serve on top of basmati rice topped with extra cashews and cilantro. 

Tell me: What is your favorite food to eat to warm up during winter?

- ST

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Gift to Myself

I recently looked back in my training log and noticed last year in December I only logged a total of 66 miles. That's it. The flu knocked me down hard that month and times when I felt okay enough to run I lacked motivation. It was a bad month for training.

This year - knock on wood - is a completely different story. I'm feeling stronger and my motivation to get fit couldn't be higher. All I want to do is run faster times again and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

So when I got my most recent block of training from Coach Matt, I was excited to see weekly mileage back at 40 with long runs gradually getting longer. Coupled with classes at the Y and a bit of extra strength training on my own, I'm confident I'm way ahead of where I was last December! 

Here's this week's plan:

Monday: 6 mile run + Y-Kettle Bell Intervals + Strength Training
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. 400m intervals
Wednesday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Absolution
Thursday: 6 mile run + Y-Blitz + Y-Kettle Bell Intervals
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 12 mile run
Sunday: 5 mile run

Total: 40 miles

Starting 2015 with better running fitness - it's my gift to myself this year ;)

My questions for you: 
  • How do you stay in shape or improve fitness over the holiday season?
  • What are you gifting yourself this year?

- ST

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Weekend Races

With chilly temps, cloudy skies and arctic winds, this weekend marked an official welcome to winter racing. I raced two 5ks - the Town Bank Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day and The Big Chill on Sunday.

My major takeaway from the two races: I'm out of shape for racing 5ks!

Here's how the two races went down:

Town Bank Turkey Trot
This was a cold, cloudy morning to race. I wore an old pair of Oiselle Lesley Knickers, a Wazelle Long Sleeve and topped it off with Oiselle Feather Trials Hoodie. I was a tad worried about overheating during the race but ended up wishing I had also added a scarf or neckwarmer to the ensemble. The wind was brutal!

Anyhow, the race ended up being pretty slow for me. There were a few slick spots (bridges, wooded trails, etc.) and I decided to slow down to avoid falling. I also just wasn't feeling a crazy fast race. Despite the chill, I enjoyed running through such a pretty area. Toward the end of the race, I became aware of two ladies that were running near me. They both passed me in the third mile but I was able to pretty easily latch on and then kick past them in the stretch to the finish. 

My race stats:

Time: 22:49
Pace: 7:22 min/mile
Age Group Place: 2/XX
Gender Place: 9/XXX

My AG prize

Despite the slow time, I was okay with the result. The goal was to run at medium-hard effort and I felt I achieved that with the race!

The Big Chill
Earlier in the week, the forecast showed a nice sunny day with temps in the low 40s for this race. But by the time Sunday arrived, it was a cloudy, windy day with temps in the low 30s with a real feel in the low 20s. Brrr. So another day of bundling up in capris and a sweatshirt. 

I'll admit, I was kind of dreading this race all week. I'm not a fan of the course (it winds through an industrial park) and remember the building runners wait in before and after the race as being unheated. I was at least wrong about the building part - it was a warm and pleasant place to wait before the race. The course though ... just as boring as I remembered. And a stiff headwind made stretches of the race really tough. 

I really wanted to run this one faster since it is part of the Winter Run Series and counts toward the series points, but my legs just wouldn't have any of it. So it was slow going. I should have been smarter about tucking into a group to make the race a bit easier but ended up running alone for the most part. There were a few other people around me but no one close enough to share the wind burden with!

Here are my race results:

Time: 22:28
Pace: 7:15 min/mile
Age Group Place: 2/43
Gender Place: 10/XXX

Mom and I after the race with our AG medals!

So faster than Thanksgiving but not by much and not as fast as I wanted. But after chatting with Coach Matt, I do feel a bit better about the races. He pointed out that we haven't worked on 5k speed in a long time so it's going to take some work before it returns. As fitness improves, speed will improve as well.

Since Lakefront Marathon, I've pretty much been running without any specific goals. But now, my goal is clear - regain speed! Ha, if for no reason other than getting out of the cold faster at these winter races ;)

My questions for you:
  • What are your running goals for the winter season?
  • What workouts do you do to help regain speed?
  • What is your favorite holiday indulgence?

I can't stay away from Christmas cookies when they're within sight. So mine go straight into the freezer so I can control my portions by taking out only a few at a time :)

- ST

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars

For all of you looking for a delicious treat to make this weekend, look no further. Whether you need a sweet treat to bring to a holiday gathering or a small present for a friend, these bars are just the thing. Simple to make, and even easier to eat, I definitely recommend giving these a try!

And don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients. You likely already have many of these items and despite the multiple steps, it's an easy recipe to make!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

For the shortbread:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour

For the caramel:
7 oz soft caramel candies
2 Tbsp heavy cream

For the cookie dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 light brown sugar
1/4 sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the chocolate glaze:
4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt, followed by the flour, and mix until incorporated (should be slightly crumbly). Press the mixture into the prepared pan and poke shallow holes in the surface with a fork. Bake 18-22 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the shortbread is baking, prepare your caramel mixture. Add the caramels to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat. Add the heavy cream and stir until completely melted. Pour the caramel mixture over the prepared shortbread and spread in an even layer over the top. Refrigerate until set - about 30 minutes to an hour.

As the caramel layer sets, prepare the cookie dough. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the heavy cream and vanilla, followed by the flour and salt. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough in an even layer on top of the set caramel layer. Place back in the fridge to chill while you prepare the chocolate glaze.

To prepare the glaze, add the chocolate chunks and butter to a microwave safe bowl and heat in 25 second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Spread the glaze over the top of the cookie dough layer, then place bars back in the fridge to allow the glaze to set - about 30 minutes.

Once the bars are set, you can cut into 16-20 squares. I recommend storing the bars in the fridge to keep them from getting too soft.

Tell me: What are you baking this holiday season?

- ST

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Try It: WIN Detergent

It may be cold outside, but that doesn't mean you won't work up a good sweat during your next workout. And when sweat happens, stink tends to follow.

Unless you use a cleaning product like WIN Detergent.This sport-specific laundry detergent eliminates embedded odors in technical and athletic apparel.

While synthetic (tech) fabrics are great for hard sweat sessions because of their ability to wick moisture away from your skin, those same properties trap and hold onto oils, which is where stinky smells come from. WIN is optimized to break those bonds, removing the source of the smell and truly cleaning your workout gear. The result is the elimination of odors!

WIN detergent comes in two varieties - an original and GREEN formula, which is fragrance free and dye free. I've been using both varieties for the past month and both are great! I really couldn't pick a favorite between the two, although I do think it's awesome that the GREEN formula is available for those of us with sensitive skin. For those of you that like a little scent in your detergent, the original formula is pleasant and not overpowering. Unlike with some sports detergents, the scent that doesn't cling to your clothes for days after washing! 

So who's interested in winning two bottles of WIN Detergent (original and GREEN)?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Best of luck to all who enter! If you just can't wait to get your hands on a bottle or two of WIN Detergent, you can also purchase it on Amazon. Use the code WINGIVE1 to save $1!

- ST

Monday, November 17, 2014

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Recently, I found myself in the mood to whip up a batch of cookies - only to discover I didn't have any eggs. I was feeling way too lazy to make a special trip to the store so I had to get creative. 

Fortunately, I didn't have to try too hard, as I found this simple recipe for no-bake cookies. No eggs. No bake. No fuss. I like it ;)

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe from The Comfort Kitchen by Katie Lee

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 - 3 cups rolled oats

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cocoa powder, milk and vanilla. Heat until sugar has dissolved, then add the peanut butter. Remove from heat and stir in the oats. The mixture should be thick.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the parchment. Let the cookies sit for about an hour or until firmed up, then enjoy with a glass of milk!

Tell me: What is your favorite no-fuss treat?

- ST

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reunited - And it Feels So Good!

These past few weeks, I've been coasting. No real goals, no real training. It's been a nice little reprieve from the usual rigors of training. 

But as fun as this little break has been, I'm back to working with Coach Matt and ThunderDome Running. Over the weekend, I received my first plan since Lakefront Marathon. It was a bit of a reality check, but it feels so good to finally have some structure and accountability back.

The time has come to start paying the price for a future goal race!

This week's plan is:

Monday: 4 5 mile run + Strength Training
Tuesday: 6 mile workout
Wednesday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Absolution
Thursday: 4 mile run + Y-Blitz
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 10 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 28 29 miles

Notice the lower mileage? It's a result of taking a few weeks off without a lot of running. The break was smart but now that I'm starting back up, I need to continue being smart. And that means not doing a huge increase in mileage right away. 

I know soon enough Coach Matt will have me running higher mileage and tough workouts again. Runner and coach, reunited after a short break. I can't wait to see what's next :)

My questions for you:
  • What have these past few weeks of running looked like for you?
  • What do you miss most about running when you are taking a break?
  • On the flip side, what do you love most about taking a break from running?

I love sleeping in and just running when I feel like running. And if I feel like skipping out and baking cookies, I do so with zero guilt ;)

- ST