Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two Nostalgic Desserts

Lately, I've been on a bit of a baking kick. Over the holiday weekend, I decided to make two classics, Oatmeal Cream Pies and Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. One bite of one of these desserts and you'll be transported back to simpler times.


Much better than the ones from a box!

Oatmeal Cream Pies
*Recipe from Buns In My Oven

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups quick oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugars. Add in vanilla and eggs, one at a time.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cocoa powder and oats. Beat into the butter mixture. Once well combined, refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Drop dough in 1 Tbsp size cookies on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Centers should be slightly underdone when you remove the cookies from the oven. Set cookies aside to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the cream filling:

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp milk, as needed

Cream together the shortening and marshmallow cream. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat using an electric mixer. If needed, thin with a bit of milk. The result should be thick and creamy, but easily spreadable.

Spread about 1 Tbsp filling on the bottom of one cookie and top with another cookie.


Pb and jelly - such a classic combo!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
*Slightly adapted from Health Magazine's Peanut Butter Blondies

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened + more for pan
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup raspberry preserves, seedless
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with unsalted butter.

Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and peanut butter. Add eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Then add to the peanut butter mixture. Mix until a smooth dough forms.

Spread batter in the prepared 8x8 pan. Drop the raspberry preserves in small spoonfuls over the top then using a knife, cut it into the dough making a swirl pattern. Sprinkle chopped peanuts on top.

Bake 30-35 minutes and allow to fully cool before cutting into 16 squares.

I'm looking for suggestions: What dessert should I make next?

- ST

Monday, December 26, 2011

Training Schedule 12/26 - 1/1

My next race is this upcoming weekend, so this week's training load is a bit lighter with less speed work and more easy running to make sure my legs are fresh on Saturday morning. Unless there's a foot of snow or super icy conditions, I plan on running this one as fast as I can. I'm not expecting a new PR, but I'm pretty confident I can at least improve on my time from the last 5k race.

Here's this week's plan:

Monday

Rest Day

Tuesday

Afternoon:
5 mile speed workout, 30 minutes strength training

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5 mile easy run, including strides; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Morning: 8 mile easy run

Friday
Morning: 5 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: Run Into the New Year 5k Race

Sunday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

Anyone else racing this upcoming weekend? If so, where are you racing and what are your race goals?

- ST

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Black Bean Enchilada Lasagna

Living alone, I rarely cook casseroles because it means either eating the same thing for several days in a row or stuffing my freezer with single-serve containers of leftovers. But there are some days that can only be fixed with the type of food your mom or grandma might have made back when you were a kid. Preferably something with melted cheese - and lots of it.

This casserole is perfect on a chilly evening. Because it's incredibly rich, I recommend serving with a salad or fresh fruit.

Not my best pic, but I promise it's delicious!

Black Bean Enchilada Lasagna

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, small diced
1 medium red bell pepper, small diced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans cream of celery soup
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup canned green chiles, diced
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
12 corn tortillas, halved

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add oil, onion and pepper to a medium skillet and cook until soft. Add corn and black beans and cook until heated through. If the vegetables begin to stick, add a bit of water to the pan.

Meanwhile, combine the soup, sour cream and chiles in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the two types of shredded cheese.

Put about a 1/2 cup of the cream mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 oven-safe dish and spread. Layer with a row of tortilla halves, more of the cream mixture, beans and veggies and 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Add another layer using this same pattern. Your third layer of tortilla halves should only be topped with the cream mixture, followed by the remainder of the shredded cheese (2 cups).

Cover dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Note: To lighten it up, consider substituting 1 1/2 cups salsa for one of the cans of soup.

What's your go-to comfort food?

- ST

Cold Weather Running Gear

So far, Milwaukee has lucked out with a mild winter. This means outdoor running has been decent and there have even been a few days when the short shorts/legwarmers combo has made an appearance. Fingers crossed it stays this way for the next few months until spring is here!

But should freezing temps, snow and ice decide to come our way, I'm prepared. While I'll end up doing a lot of runs on the dreadmill, I plan on getting outside a few times each week. Here's the gear I'll be using to make these runs more pleasant:

Brooks Cascadia Trail Shoes - No matter where you run, good shoes are a must. Although my normal shoes are fine for dry, slightly chilly weather, I know from experience they won't cut it during extremely chilly, wet runs. For these workouts, a water and wind resistant trail shoe with extra traction is the way to go.

Cute and functional!

Brooks Running Tights - A cold weather running essential. These are the ones I like best right now, but try on a few brands and see what fits you best. Make sure you find a brand that stays up!

I prefer short shorts but these are okay :)

Nike Pro Long-Sleeve T-Shirt - For most runs, a long-sleeve t-shirt is warm enough. I like that this one is a bit longer so I'm not tugging at the bottom of my shirt throughout the run.

Brooks Softshell Jacket - Really chilly, windy or wet weather requires an extra layer. This jacket is warm without being heavy and has plenty of pockets for storing your iPod, keys, tissues, etc.

So warm, yet so lightweight!

Fuel Belt - I have a love-hate relationship with my Fuel Belt. I dislike carrying anything extra on a run, but with the water fountains shut off during the winter, it's a necessity on longer runs.

A necessary evil

Extras

  • North Face Runners Gloves - These keep your hands nice and toasty
  • Saucony Headwarmer - Love that there's an opening to loop your ponytail through
  • Sugoi Neckwarmer - Perfect for warming your neck and lower face

Note: I buy pretty much everything at Performance Running Outfitters. In my opinion they have the largest - and best - selection of running shoes, apparel and gear.


What's your favorite piece of winter running gear?

- ST

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vodka Sauce

Last night a few friends and I got together for a holiday pasta dinner. Three of us made different sauces - I made a vodka sauce, Nicole made a mushroom marinara sauce, Lisa made a peanut sauce and Leah brought a salad and a delicious cheesy garlic bread. Nicole also made a caprese salad, Lisa made samosas and I bought a buche de noel cake.

About 30 minutes from start to finish

It was a lot of food for only four people and we ended up having an extra long dinner - nearly three hours by the time we finished dessert! But time tends to fly when you're catching up with great friends over a delicious meal :)

Here's the recipe for my vodka sauce:

Vodka Sauce
Serves 4
*Recipe from Cooking Light

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp fresh basil, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until tender. Add salt, crushed red pepper and garlic then saute an additional minute.

Carefully add vodka and bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add broth and tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Place sauce in a food processor and process until smooth. Return mixture to pan and stir in cream and basil.

Serve with your favorite shape pasta and top with more fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Note: For best results, use a vodka you like drinking.

Time to share: If you were invited to a pasta get together, what sauce would you bring?

- ST

Monday, December 19, 2011

Training Schedule 12/19 - 12/25

By now, you've probably noticed I've fallen off the runstreak several times now. Although I'm unhappy I haven't been able to stick with it, I think it still did some good because it's helped motivate me to run more miles this month than I probably would have otherwise.

This week's modest goal is to run 30+ miles. With the exception of last week (bad mileage), it seems to be what I'm able to fit in during the busy holiday season.

So, without further rambling, here's the plan:

Monday

Rest Day

Tuesday

Afternoon:
6-7 mile speed workout (1 mile warm up, 3 sets of 4x400m with a 400m recovery between each set, 1 mile cool down), 30 minutes strength training

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5-6 mile easy run, including strides; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 1 mile warm up

Friday
Morning: 8-10 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 5-6 mile easy run

Sunday
Morning: 2-4 mile easy run

Tell me: Were you able to stick with a runstreak this year? If so, what's helped you get this far?

- ST

Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes

Pretty much everyone likes cheesecake and cupcakes. And when you combine the two, you have a definite crowd pleaser, especially with the addition of Oreos.

Cheesecake has a bit of a reputation for being difficult to make, but these cupcakes are simple to prepare - and even easier to eat. In fact, the hardest part is waiting for them to chill after baking!

Yum!

Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes
*Recipe from Handle the Heat, via Martha Stewart Cupcakes

18 Double Stuf Oreos (12 whole + 6 crushed)
2 8oz bricks of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a standard-size muffin tin with paper liners. Place one Oreo cookie in each liner.

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add sugar, followed by the vanilla. Next, add in the eggs, one at a time. Once combined, beat in the sour cream and salt. Finish off by mixing in the 6 crushed Oreos by hand.

Divide the batter between the 12 cupcakes, filling each almost to the top. Bake 22-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely, before transferring to the refrigerator. The cupcakes will need to chill for at least four hours and should stay in the tin until ready to serve.

What's your favorite cheesecake or cupcake recipe?

- ST

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Planning Ahead for 2012

Earlier today, my friend Sara posted a link on my Facebook page with a race she is planning to do in 2012. The race isn't until July, but as she pointed out, we're the type of runnerds that get excited about races that far in advance.

My (tentative) race schedule
Even though it's only mid-December, I have a good portion of my 2012 racing calendar planned out. Here's how things look at this point:

  • Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay - Milwaukee, WI - Jan 21
  • Great Lakes Expo Run 5k Race - Franklin, WI - Jan 29
  • Big Chill Run 5k Race - Pewaukee, WI - Feb 18
  • Luck of the Irish 5k Race - Hartland, WI - March 17
  • Crazylegs Classic - Madison, WI - April 28
  • Block Melanoma 5k Race - Milwaukee, WI - May 20
  • Summerfest Rock 'N Sole 10k Race - Milwaukee, WI - June 23
  • Chicago Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon - Chicago, IL - July 22
  • Lakefront Marathon - Milwaukee, WI - Oct 7

My goal is to focus on building mileage and speed during the first part of the year so I'm ready for longer races during the second part of the year. I'd like to add another half marathon to the spring portion of my schedule, probably around late April, early May. Depending on how the year goes, I also may add another half marathon to the fall portion and use it as a practice run before Lakefront Marathon.

Speaking of the marathon - it kind of scares me! I'm still not 100 percent committed to doing it, but for now it's staying on my list. I think I'm ready and thinking about training for and completing a marathon is pretty exciting to me. On the other hand, I've heard plenty of horror stories that make me hesitate a bit. More on this to come in a later post.

Now it's your turn to tell me what races you're doing in 2012! Or, are there any races you did in 2011 that you'd recommend I add to my schedule?

- ST

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Run Alone

I'll admit, I have a slight addiction to Daily Mile. I love recording my training, following friends' training and connecting with other runners. It's great to feel part of a larger community and it also helps keep me motivated - and even a little more competitive.

But as much as I love socializing with other runners, I prefer running alone. There have been times when I've been tempted to join a group run or schedule a running date, but something holds me back every time.

Reasons to run with others
Sure, having a running partner can help you get out the door on days you don't feel like running. And running with someone faster than you can help improve your speed. Let's also not forget there's a certain camaraderie in a shared long run - even if you're not doing a lot of talking.

Reasons to run alone
However, it's still not enough to get me to schedule a running date any time soon. I like having the freedom to run whenever, wherever and as slow or fast as I want on any given day. I like being alone with my own thoughts for awhile - or not having to think about anything at all except for how I feel during the mile I'm running. It also helps me get ready mentally for races - a time when you need to be prepared to run alone.

Note: When running alone, you need to be especially vigilante about safety. Always let someone know where you are going and when; stick to safe, well-lit areas; and carry a phone, cash and/or debit card in case you run into trouble and need a ride back home.

This doesn't mean I'll say no if you ask me to go running together. I'll consider it a nice change of pace and be glad for the company! But the next morning or evening, I'll probably be back to hitting the roads on my own again. That's just how I run.

I want to know: Do you prefer running with others or running alone? What do you like best about each?

- ST

Monday, December 12, 2011

Training Schedule 12/12 - 12/18

Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was pretty fab, but went by way too fast as always. And between a holiday party, lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, a girls night get together and a holiday bake sale, I also indulged a bit too much.

Good thing I have a full week of training ahead of me.

Here's the plan:

Monday

Afternoon: 4-5 mile easy run, including strides; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
6-7 mile speed workout (1 mile warm up, 3 miles tempo pace, four 400m repeats, 1 mile cool down)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5-6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 1 mile warm up

Friday
Afternoon: 4-6 mile easy run, including strides

Saturday
Morning: 6-8 mile easy run

Sunday
Morning: 2 mile easy run

- ST

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide 2011

In case you still have a few gifts left to buy, here's a quick guide with ideas for everyone on your list!

Eat
  • Lollihop gift subscription - Once a month, the recipient will receive a box full of healthy snacks. There is also a vegan snack box option.
  • Katie Lee cookbooks - I have both The Comfort Table and Everyday Occasions and the recipes use easy to find ingredients and are simple to follow. Best of all, the results are always delicious.
  • Local food tour - These can often be tailored to specific neighborhoods or type of cuisine or food. For example, with Milwaukee Food Tours, you can customize your outing to include only bakeries, pizzerias or chocolate!

Host

Pretty, right?

  • Apothecary Jar - Fill one with an old-fashioned candy (lemon drops?) for a gift that's pretty and delicious.
  • Vintage Cheese Markers - The perfect addition to a cheese plate and helps eliminate any guess work for guests.

Run
  • Sweat Ts - Adorable shirts for any gal - or guy - who loves working up a good sweat!
  • Running Jacket - I've been wearing the Utopia Embossed Softshell on my outdoor runs lately and love how it cuts the wind and is water resistant. A great layering piece for any female runner.

Motivation to run outside in cold temps

  • Race Bling - I love these necklaces from Erica Sara Designs, especially because you can get them personalized to include your recipients initials, race distance, etc.

Style
  • Bow Bracelet - I love a fun bracelet and this one will match nearly everything and look great layered with other pieces.
  • Jackie Cardigan - You really can't go wrong with a classic cardigan in a vivid hue. I love my Jackie cardigans layered over everything from casual t-shirts and pearls to dresses.
  • Leopard Print Hand Warmers - Because you really can't have enough animal print accessories!

I want to know: What are your best gift ideas?

- ST

Five Favorites for Getting Stronger

There are some runners out there who think they can skimp on strength training because of the number of miles they log every week. I'm definitely not one of those runners.

In general, I don't use weight machines because I feel I get a better total body workout by using free weights or body weight in combination with a stability ball and/or BOSU. Although I like switching up my routine on a regular basis to prevent boredom, here are a few of my all-time favorite exercises:

Plank row with dumbbells (3 sets of 10 reps each side)
With an 8-10 pound dumbbell in each hand, get into plank position. While holding the plank, do one-arm rows on alternating sides. For an extra challenge, I like adding a push up between each row.

One leg squat on BOSU (3 sets of 10 reps each side)
Position the BOSU so its flat side is facing up and carefully stand on top. Once balanced, proceed with the one leg squats.

Plank on stability ball (3 sets, 30 rotations each)
Using the stability ball, get in plank position, resting your forearms on the ball with your toes on the floor. Once in position, rotate the ball with your forearms in 30 small circles to either the left or right.

Jackknife to push up on stability ball (3 sets, 12 reps each)
Position yourself in plank position so the stability ball is beneath your feet and your hands are on the ground. Bend at the knees and pull them in toward your chest then extend back again, finishing with a push up.

BOSU hinge lunges (3 sets, 10 reps each side)
Position the BOSU so the rounded side is facing up. Place one foot on top of the BOSU and step the other leg back into a lunge. At this point, the BOSU should be in front of you. While keeping the same foot on top of the BOSU, push out of the reverse lunge and into a forward lunge. The BOSU should now be behind you. Each forward and back counts as one rep.

Time to share: What are your favorite exercises to get stronger?

- ST

Monday, December 5, 2011

Training Schedule 12/5 - 12/11

It turns out, a few weeks of slogging along at a low mileage was exactly what I needed. Last week, it felt great to run a few more miles and I finally feel like I'm finally getting back on track with training.

This week will include more of the same with the goal of just getting out there to run. Hopefully after the holidays are over, I'll be able to increase my mileage to get back to where I was pre-Haunted Hustle and then continue increasing into the spring season.

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday
Afternoon: 4-5 mile easy run, including strides; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
6-7 mile speed workout (1 mile warm up, 4-6 strides, 2 miles tempo pace, four 400m repeats, 1 mile cool down)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5-6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 1 mile cool down

Friday
Afternoon: 4-6 mile easy run, including strides

Saturday
Morning: 6-8 mile easy run

Sunday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

Are you training the same through the holidays? If so, how are you staying motivated to keep with it?
- ST

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Peppermint Patty Brownies

While I love a good brownie pretty much any time of the year, something about the addition of peppermint makes these perfect for the holiday season. While you could save yourself a few minutes and use a mix, I recommend taking the extra time to make these from scratch. Nothing beats a homemade treat!

Perfect with a glass of cold milk!

Peppermint Patty Brownies
(from Martha Stewart's Mint-Chocolate Brownie recipe)

1 stick unsalted butter
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
25 mini peppermint patties

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 inch x 8 inch square pan with foil. Grease foil with unsalted butter and set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate together in a heat-proof bowl. Stir constantly and take care not to burn the chocolate. Whisk in sugar and salt then add the eggs. Next, add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until just combined.

Spread 1/3 of the batter in the buttered pan. Add the peppermint patties in a single layer on top of the batter. Then, add the remaining batter and smooth to cover the peppermint patties.

Bake 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely then remove from the pan and peel away foil. Cut into 16 squares.

What is your favorite thing to bake during the holiday season?

- ST