Yogurt Biscuits

>> Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quick post today, but it's a good one. I mentioned these yogurt biscuits briefly on Writing Chapter Three yesterday. Ada helped me make them. They mix together in a snap and are even easy to make with a baby strapped to your chest.


I found the recipe on Culinate, adapted from Mark Bittman's original, which didn't use whole wheat flour and had more butter.

They're flaky, gorgeous, and way better than my Cornmeal Drop Biscuits.


Here's that recipe again. And here's how we made it ours:
  • Used 2 cups whole wheat flour 
  • Used 1 cup bread flour
  • Omitted salt
  • Used Earth Balance in place of butter
  • Used 5 tablespoons Earth Balance versus 6 to 8
  • Used Greek yogurt
  • Cut the Earth Balance in with my fingers/mixed with spoon -- no mixer necessary
  • Didn't knead on floured surface, just mixed in bowl
  • Divided into 9 rounds by hand -- no cutting necessary
  • Use just one baking sheet versus the suggested two -- no burned bottoms
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Hit the Hills

>> Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'm not terribly great at running marathons. And forget ultras, I'll never do one of those. Nor am I terribly great at running fast 5Ks. Track events would have never been my forte. But there is one particular aspect of my running I pride myself on: My ability to run hills. Across a hilly course, I'm usually able to keep a steady pace and not slow down when the inclines get tough. In fact, I can speed up those suckers and power through no problem.

My friend Dani, who photographed the 15K this weekend, captured a series of photos of me passing people up a hill on the course. It was a steep one near mile 8.

(I'm the one in all blue.)


Pulling ahead. All smiles.


Where did all those people go?
Oh, that's right.
They are still running the hill.


Yes. I'm bragging obnoxiously. But I do have a point. I want to share my secrets with you. Nothing I do is crazy or mind-blowing. However, if you incorporate these tips into your training, you -- too -- can kill hills.

Really.


#1: Map out a route with 4 or 5 (or more) good hills. Those ones you usually try to avoid. I have a route with two variations from my house that is between 4 and 7 miles. I warm up with a nice flat mile or so. Then I hit my first one. I actually end up looping around and doing a couple of them twice. Pick hills that are at least a quarter of a mile in length if you can. Bonus if you find ones that don't have a steep decline.

#2: Run this route often. At least once a week. There's really nothing more to say about this. Practice makes perfect. And, though it might hurt at first, it will get easier with time. If you get bored, run it backwards or find another challenging course. Anything to keep your legs guessing.

#3: Incorporate these same hills into your long runs and other workouts. And don't shy away from other, less intense inclines. There' this one road that leads to our house that's a steady incline over 2 miles. I run that at least three times a week as part of different workouts. It definitely helps.

(This tip is from Stephen:) #4: Pick up the pace. At least in the last 1/3 of the hill. And power through the first part of the downhill as well. It will help you with your strength AND confidence.

#5: Seek hilly race courses. Add them to your regular must-race list. There's this 10K in my hometown every June that gives runners the chance to climb almost 700 feet total across various mountains. It's intense. But I used to run it every year. Knowing it was coming kept me practicing. This year we're running a local race with a similar elevation gain, but over a 20K. Should be interesting.

#6: If you don't have hills in your area, simulate them. On a treadmill. Likely you won't use your ability much in the races you run if where you live is relatively flat. Regardless, it can't hurt to become a stronger runner.

What is your strength as a runner? Of course, it's all relative, so if you aren't able to run a 5 minute mile, but still feel like you are doing well with your speed work -- that totally counts!


And if you want to click over to Writing Chapter Three, you can watch an adorable video of Ada blowing endless raspberries . . . dripping drool down her chin. It's too cute.

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Weekend Scenes

>> Monday, March 26, 2012

We're having trouble believing it was just the weekend because we had little rest and relaxation. In fact, I think I looked like this for most of my waking hours.


But we did manage to sneak in a few fun things. Like all the new thing in bloom after all the gorgeous weather we had been having.


Playing dress-up on Sunday morning.


Then the 15K I mentioned in the Sweet Chili Granola recipe. (I don't usually post on the weekends, so if you missed the recipe, you should definitely go check it out.)

You can see a huge difference here. I'm a middle-of-the-pack runner. Especially because I didn't race on Sunday, just did a 10(.3) mile training run at 8:26 pace ("race" time was 1:18:54).

Good times with good people.


Then there's solitary Stephen.


He ended up coming in second overall in 53:21. (Uhm. I think I may have hit my 10K mark around then! Speedy Mr.) Even was interviewed by the local paper, where he mentioned Ada: "My daughter was born back in November, and this is the first time I'm feeling the physical exhaustion of being a father."

I love it.


What I don't love is how our cat Rivey bit into one of the tires on our BOB. It was out of commission all last week while the temps were optimal. We finally got time to patch it. Just in time for the winds to pick up, making it cold again. I've only recently become comfortable running 3 miles with it, so I need to keep it up!

Here's to a new week. Complete with at least 4 loads of laundry we're cycling through on this Monday night.

How was your weekend?

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Sweet Chili Granola

>> Saturday, March 24, 2012

If you haven't read Writing Chapter Three, we've been dealing with some stuff this week. Cranky baby stuff. Like, she skipped two naps today. So, we just got back from a l.o.n.g drive in the country after paying over $4 a gallon in gas, no less -- I'm cheap about car-trips lately -- begging Ada to please, please, please fall asleep. And she did. The minute we pulled into the driveway, she woke up again.

But enough about that. Tomorrow we're running a 15K. Leaving this one at home with grandpa, who assures us he's bringing his patience . . .


Stephen's racing it. I'm treating it as an excuse to run double digits again (with warmup, I'm planning to do 10 total, maybe 11). Thankfully, my rolled ankle is feeling much better. Not perfect. But OK enough to participate.

Recipe time. I think this might be the first time I've ever made granola. I thought I'd make it an interesting batch. The combination of flavors is fun -- it has a kick to it, too.


SWEET CHILI GRANOLA

What you'll need . . .
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance or butter
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (I used Wegmans brand)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 cups rolled oats, uncooked, of course
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted almonds, sliced*
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds

Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Find a rimmed baking sheet. I imagine you can use a regular sheet, but it'll be hard to stir during the process without dropping oats everywhere.
  2. * I highly recommend using dry-roasted almonds. They get super crunchy this way. I just took mine and cut them in half with a knife, ultimately creating lots of crisp pieces.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the Earth Balance and chili sauce over medium heat. Then add the brown sugar and soy sauce.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, almonds, and sesame seeds.
  5. Add the cold water to the sugar mixture. Stir well. Then pour onto the dry ingredients. Mix well.
  6. Spread mixture over the entire rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven and set timer for 30 minutes.
  7. I stirred the granola every five minutes to get everything nice and toasted. Then let cool before eating.

Back to the craziness. Hopefully I won't be logging any more miles after 9PM tonight. So far, so good.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

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Food For Runners: B-a-n-a-n-a-s

>> Thursday, March 22, 2012

The fruits we place in our grocery cart vary from season to season, but bananas are the mainstay of our family's healthy diet. Maybe not the most locavore of us, that's for sure -- as they travel from extremely faraway places to rest on our kitchen counter -- but they're nutritious, affordable, plentiful, and freezable.

We usually buy this many of 'em. MAYBE $3, but probably not even that much.

Freeze half.
Eat the rest fresh.


If you don't already know, here's why you, too, should be scarfing these tasty fruits . . .

"A good source of carbs, bananas also contain potassium, which runners lose through sweating and help regulate muscle contraction and prevent cramping. Bananas are also considered a "safe" pre-run food because they're unlikely to cause gastrointestinal issues." (running.about.com)

"Bananas contain prebiotics, the indigestible fiber that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Healthy intestinal flora produces B vitamins and vitamin K, which are also found in bananas. These nutrients are important for energy metabolism and blood clotting, respectively. Rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E, bananas help counter the damaging effects of free radicals." (Running Times)


Here are some of our favorite recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner:

Faith's Breakfast Banana Split with Yogurt and Jam
Katie's Breakfast Quinoa with Berries & Bananas
Angela's Tropical Kale Salad with Banana, Pineapple, and Mango
Our Garbanzo-Banana Bread
Ashley's Avocado Banana Chocolate Pudding
Erin's Roasted Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
Donna and Chad's Banana Orange Smoothie
Emily's Blueberry Greek Yogurt Banana Bread
Izy's Whole Wheat Baked Banana and Chocolate Doughnuts
Our Banana-Stuffed Faux Crepes
Devon's Strawberry-Banana Ice Cream
Jan's Cashew-Coconut Crusted Mahi Mahi with Orange-Banana Salsa
Bob's Banana Walnut Granola


To get the maximum benefit post-run, "be sure to have your banana with some form of protein after exercise to promote muscle recovery and repair." (Competitor.com)

The easiest ways to do just that? Banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter. Or frozen banana thrown into a smoothie with Greek yogurt. No recipes needed.


And if you'd like a totally unrelated recipe that is incredibly delicious, check out Writing Chapter Three for the Crusty White Potato & Ricotta Loaf.

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Happy Spring!

>> Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No. Today isn't just our deadline to pay the IRS part of our 2010 taxes (you read that right: 2010 -- long story, but we paid the wrong amount on our home-buyers credit and they are treating us like criminals, I tell you! Honest mistake!).

It's SPRING!


Of course, I don't need to tell you all how to make a smoothie.

Just toss frozen fruit,
some form of dairy/non-dairy/or water,
and sometimes veggies or ice, etc.
into a blender
and blend.

I guess you could file this one under smoothinpiration. (No. That term definitely won't catch on.)


Combine 1 cup frozen strawberries with 1 frozen banana and 1/2 cup pineapple chunks and 1/2 to 1 cup milk of your choice (I used 1%***). Add-ons include 1 tablespoon flax meal or a handful of other frozen berries or perhaps a handful of baby spinach.

***MILK?! We never buy actual cow's milk! Yeah. Get ready for it, we're making Greek yogurt. My friend Kelly gave me a recipe.


The warm temps this week and last have me on a huge smoothie-kick. (The one above is essentially the same recipe, substitution water for milk.) For other fun smoothie recipes, you can check out the Recipe Page.

I apologize for being short. Ada had her 4 month physical today. She's growing right along, but girl got a lot of shots and is appropriately cranky. I need to comfort her now. If you missed yesterday's Writing Chapter Three post, it's a great $5 Dinner for Three: Lemon-Garlic Pasta with Asparagus Sprigs and Caramelized Onions. I'm going to start a series of $5 dinners, so keep checking back!

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Double Time

>> Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I wrote a bit about it in the Jogging Stroller 101 post. But here it is again: As part of my Postpartum Fitness Challenge, I've been doubling up on my running workouts twice each week. And now that I'm smack in the middle of my half marathon training, I'm thankful I am taking the time to do so!


Last week's training looked a little something like this . . .

M: 3 mile walk w/ Stephen and Ada
T: 3 mile jogging stroller jog + 20 min walk (morning); 4 miles easy (afternoon)
W: 50 minute tempo workout -- 6 miles
R: 3 mile jogging stroller jog + 20 min walk (morning); 4 miles easy (afternoon)
F: OFF
S: 5 miles easy
S: 8 miles LSD

There are some definite advantages to doubling up, like boosting metabolism, increasing energy throughout the day, and getting in more total miles than usual. My stroller jogs are run at a slower pace than my easy runs. But I still feel like I'm reaping some major cardiovascular benefits.

An added benefit? Call it a coincidence, but this month so far I've lost 3 pounds of my pregnancy weight. THREE. And there are still eleven days left this month. I could see easily making it 4 by April. All this without making drastic changes to my diet AND finding more excuses to get out of the house.


If you'd like to try the doubling up method, too -- here are some tips:
  • Start with one double day per week. It takes some adjusting.
  • Go easy. At least for one of those workouts. My stroller jog is cake (well, the jogging part -- the pushing is still very, very hard for me) compared to my training runs.
  • Keep 'em short. At least to start. As you see above, I'm not doing two super long workouts. They are both around 30 minutes long (with some added walking). I find when I go much longer, I get tired -- defeating the purpose.
  • Injury-prone? Vary your activities. I should take a lesson from myself here. To really avoid overuse, it's a good idea to ride a bike in the morning, for example, and then run in the afternoon.
Do you ever work out more than once a day? If so, what are your tips? We'd love to hear 'em. Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

And if you're keeping up with Writing Chapter Three, we wrote all about Ada's first overnight trip this past weekend. Now, I'm off to post a recipe on the site, too.

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Good Question: Fitness While Working 9-to-5

>> Monday, March 19, 2012

Maggie writes: "I'm a pretty casual runner. I jog for fun, usually with my dog, and take my time. Ideally, I run about two miles three or four times per week with an additional warmup and cooldown. This casual running (in combination with yoga and lifting) seems to keep me healthy, happy, and in shape."

"As a newbie to the 9-to-5 scene, I've found that I don't have the time I need to get my workouts in. Would it be as healthy and effective to run every weekday (Mon-Fri) for a shorter distance in order to maintain my sanity?"



The question Maggie poses is an important one. And it gets at a deeper issue close to my heart. Working a full-time job is difficult and, at times, disheartening when there's the desire to keep up life outside the office. Even more difficult is maintaining good nutrition and exercise habits -- as well as good mental health -- when logging long hours in a cubical. E.s.p.e.c.i.a.l.l.y when it's a first "real" job. (I wrote a bit about this balancing act in Staying Healthy While Working Full Time.)

But back to Maggie's specific question. Is it effective to run a shorter distance every day of the week versus running a slightly longer distance fewer days? My initial answer begins with a bit of a question. What are you looking to accomplish with your running?

Say you run 10 miles per week. As we see it, it doesn't matter exactly when you run those miles. You're still getting the overall benefit of the total.


So, if your running routine is more for the mental health benefits, do whatever you can to get out there more often and reap those stess-relieving rewards. To vary the routine a bit, consider taking some days slow, some days fast, and others with some brief intervals (30 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow, for example).

However, if you are running for your sanity and looking to enhance your fitness level, I'd suggest another approach.


Say your goal is to eventually run a 5K race. Or improve your time at the distance. It'd be a good idea to slate 3 or 4 days of the week as training days. Concentrate your running efforts on those days -- varying your routine as suggested above, or by following a training plan. Boost your mood on the "off" days by taking walks during your breaks or at lunchtime. Walking can be just as freeing as running.

Sometimes putting yourself on a plan will help you find a way to carve out more time for training. Or it'll motivate you on days when the stress of work is all-consuming.

Does anyone else have suggestions for Maggie? Ultimately, I have found that experimentation with different routines helps me find my stride -- quite literally. So keep at it, Maggie!


And if you have a question, check out our FAQ page. You can ask us anything!

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Random Thursday

>> Thursday, March 15, 2012

#1: Sometime late in my pregnancy, Stephen brewed a special Nut Brown beer for me (my favorite). I've been enjoying it all week.


#2: Only a couple weeks into my Postpartum Fitness Challenge, and I can already do 2 chin-ups! Once I was able to turn that half of one into a whole one, getting to two wasn't half bad. Truth be told, I can't do two each time I approach the bar. With some practice, I know it'll get easier.


(It's crazy that two years ago, doing a chin-up was only a lofty goal of mine. If you want to learn how you can get started for yourself, check out this post about How to Rock a Chin-Up.)

#3: (From Stephen) Want to incorporate more speedwork into your running routine? Try this workout:

Warmup 1 mile at an easy pace.
Then alternate running 30 seconds HARD (20 seconds or so faster than 5K pace) with 30 seconds EASY for 10 minutes.
Cool down with 1 mile.
Work up to doing 20 minutes of the intervals.


#4: Need to take a photo, but have strange shadows and/or general poor lighting? You can't always take the time to build a light box. So, take a lesson from Ashley and use a roll of paper towels to bounce light.


#5: REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUP COOKIES (Recipe on Writing Chapter Three). They don't just have peanut butter cups in them. Their base is entirely made of peanut butter cups mashed up to perfection.

Make them. Now.


And head over to Writing Chapter Three if you have some tips for us on how to get stuff done during the day while toting a baby around the house. I can use all the help I can get!

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White Bean & Corn Veggie Burgers

>> Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When Stephen and I don't know what to make for dinner, we often default to our favorite veggie burger recipes. This evening, we made up a new one to add to the bunch.


WHITE BEAN & CORN VEGGIE BURGERS

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 cup canelli beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown mustard
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. Put everything but the corn kernals into a food processor and pulse until relatively smooth (you'll want some texture, but how much is up to you).
  3. Then mix in the corn and form into 4 patties. The "dough" will be very wet -- we patted ours into some extra cornmeal to shape.
  4. Then coat a frying pan with a bit of oil and brown on both sides over medium-high heat.
  5. When all are browned, place them on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.
But the real trick is in the sauce.
Took our dinner from eh to WOW in 1 minute flat.
Plus, we found a use for the pineapple Stephen's parents gave us this weekend.


1-MINUTE PINEAPPLE BBQ SAUCE

Combine the follow ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Then put in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes (to thicken a bit).
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup pineapple
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (we used a kind that also has chipotle)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
And if you'd like to read about our failed weekend hike, head over to Writing Chapter Three. Ada: 1; The parents: 0.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's recipe. It's the healthiest cookie I could come up with . . . that uses Reece's peanut butter cups as a base.

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4 Miles in I:D(on't)K(now)

>> Sunday, March 11, 2012

As evidenced on the blog, I go through lots of phases. There are times when I put canned pumpkin in almost all my recipes. Others where I am a devoted yogi and practice several times a week. And I always seem to cycle back to being obsessed with a $50 a week grocery bill goal (OK. Out of necessity, this one HAS to stick now).

Another one of my biggest fitness-related phases? Wearing a watch (or not) while running.


On my 4 mile jog today -- sans watch -- I thought about how, when I wear one, I know my pace (duh!) and -- depending on which one I'm wearing -- distance. So, it's definitely a helpful tool. I can use this information to improve race times and fine-tune my training. And with my Garmin, I can automatically log each workout. Stephen's allows him to run wherever he wants without having to guess how far he's gone.

On the other hand, I often find myself glued to the timer, fretting if I'm not hitting my mark or deliriously happy if I'm exceeding my own expectations. All these numbers tend to take away the magic of running. I end up terribly performance-centric and can't let my mind wander and release stress with each mile.

These days, more than ever, the mental benefits are most important.


I could go on with pros and cons, but where I'm going is: I've been in my current phase for two years now. Long enough that I think it's not a phase at all. With the exception of when I'm running on our treadmill with its own built-in timer, I wear a watch maybe once a week for a key workout (like that super long run, above). That run changes from week to week . . . otherwise, I glance at our oven clock before leaving the house. Then I scope it out when I return home. That's about as technical as I get. There are some days when I don't even do that.

What I'm saying is: I spend the majority of my training focused on perceived exertion. And it's a great way to be if you get stressed by numbers as much as I do. If I run 4 days a week, one of those days is a long run at a slow pace (where I can easily chat), two of those runs are at an "easy" pace (comfortable, but steady), and the other type is harder (out of breath, but strong). It took me a while to learn my own gears.

What's cool is that running without a watch means I get to take in my surroundings.


Like how blue the sky was this afternoon.


How the grass is getting greener as we approach spring.


I am able to better check in with my body and feel tinges and aches before they turn into full-blown injuries.


If you're in a bit of a battle or just getting overly obsessed with what your watch is telling you, consider slipping it off for a few days, weeks, or months. I'm happy I did -- and my race times haven't faltered as a result. (And that's another thing -- I never, ever wear my watch during races anymore. It stressed me out WAY too much. I just listen to times at mile-marks and hope to see a good number on the clock at the end.)

If anything, I'm continuing a steady return to running and nearly hitting my pre-pregnancy race times.


For example, this weekend I ran a 4 mile race at 7:43 pace (30:48 -- actually I ended up running 6 miles total at around 7:45). I haven't been training specifically for a shorter race, but I've been keeping us with some speedwork, mostly by -- you guessed it -- perceived exertion. Last year I ran this same race in 29:15. Definitely faster, but not by terribly much.

The system works, at least in my experience. I feel confident that I'll be back at my old times using this method.

So, today I ran 4 miles in I:D(on't)K(now). My general time-taking technique tells me it was in around 31 minutes. But it doesn't matter. I got outside. Sweated. Stretched. Felt great.

What's your take? Are you attached at the wrist . . . or do you run naked?

And if you're curious about how we created our no-sew nursery curtains, don't miss the tutorial on Writing Chapter Three -- along with a ditty about how Ada is going through an attachment phase. It's lots of fun

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