Friday, August 26, 2011

Read my post over at My Sole Sister about speed workouts and wilted chard...in that order.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coffee Talk

This morning as I sit to type, enjoying my coffee, I am feeling very well-rested because my entire family slept until 8am. This has literally never happened. I logged on to read my daily dose of inspiration on Another Mother Runner and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Tonia Blanchet was today's guest poster on the topic of 'Why I Run' and it really hit home.  Running gives you a sense of accomplishment that's so personal.

I cannot underscore enough the impact running has had; Becoming a runner changed my life. Not only because of the connections I've made with people, but because of the way it's made me feel about myself. Sure, I'd still have weight-loss goals, but I no longer look with a hypercritical eye. Instead, I try to find the things that have changed. My legs, chubby white girl's legs that they may be, have taken me almost a thousand miles in training over the past year and a half. A thousand miles.

I'm ecstatic about the fact that on my last few runs, I've hit sub 11:30 for the last mile because my usual average is in the 12's or 13's. Most people would cry at that time, but not me. I come home feeling energized and ready to take on the day. I am the stinkiest, sweatiest girl you'll ever meet, but now instead of feeling self-conscious about it, it just lets me know I've worked hard. Hit the shower and go about your business. Get over yourself.

I found a running partner that is going to push me, and it's just what I need. She's a new runner, but she's picked it up kind of annoyingly fast, and I'll have to work really hard to keep up with her. Her goal was a 10k (remind you of anyone?), but I've just about got her convinced to run the half with me; wahoo! I have big goals for my next two half-marathons, and they don't include just crossing the finish line. If that were my goal, I could just dink around until race day because I now know that I can finish, it's all in how I want to finish. Some of the little things I've committed to are drinking enough water every day,as in 3 liters at the minimum, and I've instituted a bed-time. Best gift I could have given myself, as I've had no problem rising with the first chime of my phone at 5:40 on those few mornings a week when I run with the sun's rising.

It was a struggle post-marathon, but I feel like I'm finally back. Each run is a challenge, and sometimes I feel like I'm starting all over again, but I do it and I feel a thousand times better when I walk through my door to find my family rising than I would if I were just starting to stumble around with my first cup of coffee.

Are you struggling to regain inspiration? How have you overcome a slump? New music or a mantra that replays itself in your head? Here's to just getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other.

*Cross posted on My Sole Sister

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whatever Floats Your Boat

Jr. Taste-testers chose their selections from the middle :)
A couple weeks ago, I found a new food blog that has a ton of great ideas. Being in a bit of a meal-planning rut, I turned back to my old habit of scouring cookbooks and food blogs for things that my whole family could enjoy, with a few meals just for J and I thrown in. When I stumbled across this blog, it was from a link about a recipe that I can't even recall now, but what I did recall was this gem: Root Beer Float Cookies from Heat Oven to 350. Having ice cream on the brain lately, I was intrigued. Root beer floats are a classic summer treat for my family from the time I can remember so how could a little butter and sugar added into the mix not make it perfection?

Root Beer concentrate and white chocolate team up in this twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie. The recipe makes a pretty good-sized batch, coming in at five dozen pretty generously sized cookies, so it's perfect for sharing with your neighbors or freezing for future afternoon playdates.

It was suggested that these would make pretty phenomenal ice cream sandwiches, and I just happened to have some vanilla frozen yogurt from last night's dinner playdate leftover, so I had to test the theory for myself. I don't usually like white chocolate, but in these cookies they really work for that creamy sweetness of a float. I think vanilla ice cream would be great, but the tart frozen yogurt made it so the cookies weren't overwhelmingly sweet, which they kind of are when eaten on their own. Which could be a good thing in itself; built-in portion control!

...and baby makes 5. (what's with Mr. H crossing his eyes in pictures lately?)
Since I was in baking mode, I also used a chunk of the giant zucchini we got from our neighbor last night to make the Orange-scented Zucchini Bread from Our Best Bites. The same neighbor that gave us the zucchini gave me the cookbook (of the same name as the blog) as a birthday gift, so she'll be getting one of the loaves, and I'll freeze the other for my fam when they stay the night this weekend.

J took the kids up to the mountains on this glorious day so that I could have the house to myself, which I desperately need to clean and organize. So, why all the baking? Because there are few chores I like less than cleaning the bathroom and the longer I bake and blog, the longer I'm not cleaning a toilet. That's just how I roll. I guess I've procrastinated long enough-off to my date with Little Bowl Blue!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fro Yo From Yo' Own Home

When my girlfriends and I were walking through the airport in Honolulu, I spotted a sign that made me think the mother ship was calling me home; pinkberry! it's snazzy sign called out to me. I couldn't not try the very yogurt I'd heard so casually referenced in all the Hollywood and NYC magazines I drool over in the grocery lines and when I get the (sadly now) occasional pedicure.

This was no TCBY-I got the original tart and loaded it up with berries and some hot fudge and it was amazing! I had apparently never had 'real' frozen yogurt before, and the tangy zip was perfection. Recently I discovered a little frozen yogurt shop downtown called Peach and Pear, which serves European-style frozen yogurt with hand-made and/or local toppings (excepting the candy such as m&m's) and it was just as I'd remembered Pinkberry. Then, just in the last month another yogurt shop opened even closer to my house (sabotaging my weight-loss plans here people!). Blue Palm Frozen Yogurt has okay yogurt, a lot of them are yocream brand, and it's mainly a fun experience. You get to pick your cup, go through the line and pick your flavors, then load on the toppings. Keep in mind, though, you pay by the ounce so be careful. 

It was fun the first couple of times, until I realized that I was spending an exorbitant amount of money on a frozen treat. (Over $10 when I picked up a single large container without toppings for the fam's dessert). 

Since I bought the ice cream maker, I can kill two (or three) birds with one stone. 1) Spend less money on something that's not a necessity, 2) Have absolute control over the ingredients and 3) Re-create that tangy Pinkberry perfection.

I've heard several mentions of the book The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, but I've yet to purchase it or try any of the recipes. When I googled Frozen Yogurt Recipes, I found that someone in the comments on a generic recipe had referenced both The Perfect Scoop and 101 Cookbooks in the same comment. Hell-o! I love me some Heidi Swanson takes on recipes, so I clicked on over.



Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Recipe

Heidi notes: First off, remember it is important to use good-quality whole-milk yogurt. The version in David's book is Vanilla Frozen Yogurt. This time around I skipped out on the vanilla, opting for straight, bright white yogurt with the sweetness playing off the tang of the yogurt. I also used slightly less sugar than called for here, more like 2/3 cup - but you can go either way depending on what you like.
3 cups (720g) strained yogurt (see below) or Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
At the risk of having it become too icy, I'm going to use 0% yogurt, because part of the purpose of this is to find lower/no fat alternatives to my most entrenched addiction: Ice Cream. I think that I'll also experiment with alternative sweeteners next time, but only one rebellious move at a time here. For tonight, I used 3 cups of Fage 0%, 3/4 cup of sugar in the raw and a splash of vanilla. I'll also test out almond and orange extracts in the future, but for now it's good ol' vanilla.


This only took about 12 minutes to freeze in my bowl...it's velvety smooth and I can't imagine added richness from full-fat yogurt.
First off, aren't my new nesting bowls fun?! A great Wold Market find. After mixing the ingredients, you just store them in the fridge to chill for about an hour before transferring them to your ice cream mixer and create your frozen dessert per the manufacturer's directions. I rinsed out the yogurt container and will re-use it to transport the yogurt to our neighbors' house for our dinner/swimming date. Talk about deceptively delicious!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lighten Your Load

Are you interested in cutting your laundry costs and lessening drying time, while single-handedly saving the planet?! Okay, maybe that went overboard just a little, but still-check out my review of wool dryer balls on Knitty Reviews.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Choc-o-Holic

I saw a post from my sister-in-law's mom on facebook the other day referencing a chocolate sorbet recipe from Smitten Kitchen that she was making for later that day. Sorbet? Smitten Kitchen? Chocolate? Sign! Me! Up!


But, then I read the recipe and was so sad to see the second to last line;  Chill the mixture thoroughly,  then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Well, boo-hiss! Our ice cream maker was one of the appliances that didn't make the cut for our tiny apartment kitchen, but that I always thought I'd someday replace. 


Had I yet replaced it? Nope. J started home-brewing last fall and I thought it would be fun to upgrade to the professional kitchen aide and get the ice cream maker attachment so that we could make home-made ice cream and home-made root beer for a truly authentic summer treat. Well, the best laid plans and I've neither a bigger kitchen-aide or home-made rootbeer. But alas, the same mother-in-law-ish said that the Cuisinart ice cream maker was awesome, and you'd have frozen bliss in about a half hour. A quick scan of amazon showed me that not only was it a pretty affordable appliance since it was on sale, but the red was also cheaper than the white. It was meant to be.


Thanks to amazon prime, I had that baby in my hot little hands in less than 72 hours. I prematurely told the boys we'd have ice cream for dessert that night-what? You have to freeze the freezer bowl first? Obviously I'm a newbie.


After a night in the freezer, it was more than ready and I whisked the sugar, water and cocoa powder in a large pot on the stove, watching it work into a frenzy of a rolling boil and then remove from the heat to stir in semi-sweet chocolate and some vanilla, along with the other 
half of the water.




Because I'm super patient, I transferred the mix to a shallow pan and stuck it in my fridge so the 'thorough chill' would happen post-haste.




After about an hour, I transferred the mix to the fridgid bowl of my ice cream maker and the magic began.


I set the timer for 20 minutes, but it wasn't until after about 25 minutes of churning that it was the consistency of soft serve. If I let it be truly, thoroughly chilled, it'd probably have a thicker consistency, but I wasn't complaining! I plopped it in a plastic container (had I not read the directions, I'd have been storing my culinary delight directly in the freezer bowl) and put in back in the freezer while we ate dinner so it could continue to harden.




It was ridiculously good, and I have to say that I wasn't even able to finish my serving because it's so rich. I feel a little bit dirty even having to type those words!  


Yes, I shamelessly smeared it on their faces for a photo op...but it really is that good!  Hee hee.
On the food front, when I get back from visiting my parents this weekend, I asked J for a little sit-down so we can make some health and fitness goals for the coming school year. If I'm serious about dropping some lbs before getting pregnant again, something's gotta change because, while this was much healthier than eating, say, a pint of Ben and Jerry's, dessert is something that's snuck back into our everyday lives far too easily. Post-marathon, I've struggled to really embrace my running schedule again and it's a little like starting all over again. 


Alas, I will make this again, too many times, playing with additions like fresh raspberries or a little mini marshmallows and slivered almonds for the kids my own guilty pleasure. Oh, the dance between letting myself enjoy food and being a gluttonous slug. All I can say is it's a good thing I run! 

Monday, August 1, 2011

DIY (Dog) Bathtastic


After paying for Clifford the Big Black Dog to get bathed at the local big box pet store, and at the vet's office, and being only marginally happy with both, I decided I'd take the bull by the horns or, in this case, the dog by the collar. With the vet's grooming center, I had to drop him off early in the morning and not pick him up until the evening. For an older dog who's slightly quite neurotic, being in a kennel-type situation isn't great for him. Add in the fact that I have to sign off on a 'senior citizen' waiver each time and you can see why I'd rather just bathe my pooch in the back yard for a little peace of mind.

Later this month will mark our one-year anniversary with dear Mr. D, and I'm still learning a lot about being a pet owner. When I last purchased his food from my favorite local pet supply store, Wags to Whiskers, I asked about at-home bathing. I love the owner because her guidance has helped me have joyful walks with Dailey after being fitted with a proper pinch collar, and trouble shooting horrible gas issues and other fun things that come with having what amounts to a gigantic hairy old man living in your house.

She steered me toward a gentle shampoo that wouldn't irritate his skin and didn't have any funky ingredients or fragrances. In addition to the earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe shampoo, I got ear and eye wipes from the same line and I was off.

...That was a month ago, and I was a little nervous to do it because I could just imagine a marley-esque sopping wet dog. No, I didn't try to bathe him in my tub; I'm not that unaware of my own limitations (or those of the our indoor plumbing to handle the amount of hair that would surely shed during the bath).

With just over 15 minutes of work, I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with the results. A thorough brushing, followed by wetting him down and applying a small amount of the soap, a good scrub, and then rinse, rinse and rinse some more and we were done. I had our oldest towels on stand-by, but as you can see, he gave me a good head-start on drying and after wiping his ears and eyes, he was more than ready to burst back into the gentle clutches of the air-conditioned house. The extra added bonus was that I didn't have to lift him in and out of the car, or worry that he'd leap out of the car into the parking lot before I was able to get his leash on at the pet store. Best yet, it was another chance to bond with Mr. D.
Sittin' pretty in the sun.