Running: Year in Review

>> Monday, December 31, 2012


2012 was a big running year for me. Not really in terms of impressively high mileage or number of medals added to my collection. Instead, last year marked my first full year running after being pregnant and having Ada in 2011. I PRed in the half marathon (1:46:42) and had a recent PR in the 5K (22:48). I am also proud to report I kept up with running 4 days a week most weeks.

Here are some highlights/workouts . . .


Overall, I learned a lot about moderation and dedication as necessitated by sleepless nights, breastfeeding, and a host of other changes and challenges. In all, I gained a much better perspective for how I'll fit my favorite activity into my life as life, well, changes throughout the years. The best part: Being a new mom didn't mean sacrificing the runner part of my identity.

What will 2013 bring?

I had toyed with running a marathon, but in all honesty, I'm just not into that distance and the time needed to appropriately train. So far, my goals include running 5 days a week and trying to average 25 to 30 miles (which I've done the last 3 weeks!). I'd also like to shave a few minutes off my half marathon PR as well as my 5K time. To put a number on these goals, maybe 1:40 for 13.1 and 21:59 for 3.1.

What are your running goals for the coming year?

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Chilly Afternoon

>> Thursday, December 27, 2012



If you have a a chilly afternoon like this, the best way to warm up and recharge is with tomato soup + grilled cheese. We've been making a lot of our Roasted Tomato Soup lately. After posting that recipe several of you mentioned the roasting isn't really necessary.

So, I played around a bit.



The recipe is easy.

  • Mince 3 large cloves of garlic. Then, in a large stock pot, saute the garlic some olive oil for a few minutes. 
  • Crack open two 28 ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes. In a food processor, completely blend one of the cans -- tomatoes, water, all -- with the garlic. Then add the other can and coarsely combine (so it's chunky)
  • Return mixture to the stock pot. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, basil, and paprika. To taste. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar (about a tablespoon) if you like. 
  • Let flavors mingle (heat on medium-low) for 25 minutes. 
  • Then add in 1/2 to 1 full cup of sour cream. Cook another 10 minutes. 
  • Serve with toasted cheese.

I opted for a slightly more grown up version of grilled cheese. Open-faced with cheddar broiled to a perfect brown. Covered with avocado slices and then sliced into great shapes for dipping.

A new take on comfort food.


If you'd like to check out Ada's big X-mas gift this year (a play kitchen), check out Writing Chapter Three.

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Happy Day

>> Tuesday, December 25, 2012



Hope you are all having a great holiday (or a fantastic Tuesday)! If you'd like to see a bit of what we've been up to, you can head over to our X-Mas Scenes up on Writing Chapter Three. (Warning: I've loved the life out of Instagram's "toaster" filter.)

My cheer is being ever more amplified by my excitement to see Les Misérables in the theater sometime in the next couple days. But now -- for a run! Holiday miles are always my favorite.

What's something special you're doing this week?

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Frosted Pancakes

>> Sunday, December 23, 2012


I discovered this morning that we had a half cup of that delicious coconut milk left over from our freezer fudge. Sundays are always pancake day in this house, but today I was craving something more celebratory than our usual buckwheat. Well, that -- and we don't have any maple syrup because we're absolute addicts.

I have trouble -- scratch that. It's nearly IMPOSSIBLE for me to imagine eating pancakes, waffles, or French toast with anything besides pure, 100% maple-y maple syrup. Maybe it's because for every Christmas from age 21 to as far back as I can remember, we spent the good part of holiday week driving along the slick highways of Vermont, climbing snowy mountaintop upon snowy mountaintop.

Maple syrup-less pancakes just aren't right. Unless they are over-the-top indulgent in another way. Please tell me . . . am I alone in this way of thinking?


PEANUT BUTTER FROSTED CHOCO-PANCAKES

What you'll need . . .

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup almond milk (or other substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Handful chocolate chips, optional

Method . . .

  1. Toss all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk quickly. Then add all wet ingredients -- save chocolate chips -- in a bowl and whisk together. 
  2. The batter will be thick if you used full fat coconut milk, as you can see above, so you may wish to add extra almond milk. Do so a tablespoon at a time.
  3. Then fold in chocolate chips, if you're planning to use them. 
  4. Scoop batter onto a fry pan over medium heat in either 1/4 or 1/2 cupfuls. Cook as you would regular pancakes. Until browned on each side and fully set in the middle.
  5. Let cook just slightly while you mix together the frosting.

For the FROSTING, simply combine 2 tablesoons peanut butter + 2 tablespoons sour cream or Tofutti sour cream. In other words, equal parts, depending on how much frosting you wish to make. Then add vanilla extract (I did 1 teaspoon) and brown sugar (I did 1 tablespoon) to taste.

Texture should resemble cake frosting. Taste like it, too. Then frost the top pancake in your stack.

Recipe makes enough to serve a family of four. Or two very hungry parents getting ready for long runs.


An early Happy Christmas to you all. Posting may be erratic this week, but I'll try to hop on from time to time and share some photos of the stuff we're doing. Safe travels to those of you heading out of town.

xoxo, Ashley, Stephen + Ada Mae

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Freezer Fudge

>> Saturday, December 22, 2012


Things may be busy here, but there's no way I'm letting the holiday slip by without at least one dessert recipe. I have plans for this blog in the new year. Lots of plans. More recipes is one of them, of course. I can't wait to share my ideas with you. Watch out.

We went to a holiday party last night and had to come up with something sweet to share. In our favorite procrastination fashion, we had an hour to do it. So, baking was out of the question.


The great thing about this recipe is that it has few ingredients, is quick to mix together, and freeze/set time is only 20 minutes.

Then just slice, plate, and go.


FREEZER FUDGE (VEGAN)

What you'll need . . .

  • 16 ounces semi-sweet chips
  • 2/3 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Extra walnuts & toppings*
* We used a handful of those Stacy's cocoa chips. Crushed them up -- perfect!


Method . . .  

  1. Line a 9" x 13" pan with wax paper. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the coconut milk and walnuts until smooth. Set aside (keep in food processor).
  3. Put the chocolate chips in a pot over low heat on the stove. Stir continually until melted. Then add melted chocolate to food processor.
  4. Pulse until smooth. Add in the vanilla extract. Pulse again.
  5. Pour mixture into pan and smooth out.
  6. Crush toppings and sprinkle over top. Then cover with plastic wrap or foil and freeze for 20 minutes.
  7. Cut out fun shapes or just plain squares. Arrange on plate and keep frozen until ready to serve.


Prepare to be addicted to the fudge. We took one plate to the party and had enough left over for an entire plate here at the house. If you don't have all the ingredients, feel free to substitute your favorite milk substitute for the coconut milk. And cashews or another soft, raw nut for the walnuts. Dark chocolate would be divine. And maybe peppermint extract!

Oh, and can you tell we're having fun with our chalkboard walls in the kitchen? Thinking about the holidays, though, I should go. We need to get some last-minute shopping done. Hope you all have a great weekend and eat fudge!

Here are some other fun dessert recipes:

Boozy Fudge
Tahini Fudge Squares
Mexican Hot Chocolate Chippers
Salted Cornmeal Sugar Cookies
Clove Spiced Shortbread

What's your favorite festive dessert this year?

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Hello Fresh: Vegetarian Boxes

>> Friday, December 21, 2012


For those of you who are unfamiliar, Hello Fresh is service that delivers recipes to your door. These recipes are "created by world-class chefs who ensure that your meals are delicious and easy to prepare within 30 minutes."

And some exciting news for us: These recipes now include tasty vegetarian meals.


Hello Fresh sent me a box of three meals to test out in our very own kitchen. Good timing, too, as we've been in a bit of a crunch with our renovation project taking over both our house and our time.

Let's take a look inside the box.


As for the vegetarian fare, here's what Hello Fresh currently offers: Lean and Green Veggie Pasta, Tofu and Shiitake Stir Fry, and a Virtuous Vegetarian Curry.


My favorite was the Tofu and Shiitake Stir Fry. All the flavors were there, which isn't always the case when we cook a weeknight meal. Ginger, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, all topped off with a delicious sauce and sesame seeds.

Oh, and rice! That's something we always want . . . but by the time we figure it out, we don't have 45 minutes to let it cook. The instructions reminded us to stick rice in the pot first, before starting anything else on the stove.


Some PROS:

  • All ingredients are separated and labeled according to meal. This makes things super easy to identify at cook-time.
  • The ingredients are comprehensive. Whereas we tend to skip things like sesame seeds or chopped nuts, fresh herbs or certain condiments to top off a dish -- they are all included . . . and make a huge difference!
  • The meals are absolutely delicious. I told Stephen more than once that it was better than going out to eat. 
  • And that's not only because they taste great. The actual process of cooking was fun -- the recipes and methods are simple, everything is portioned out and just needs to be cut and cooked. 
  • The portion sizes are gigantic and -- after each meal -- I had leftovers for lunch the next day. 

Some CONS:

  • Though I like how everything is labeled and separated, it creates quite a bit of packaging. I've been told by Hello Fresh that they are working on making things more environmentally friendly.
  • I am excited to see these 3 vegetarian meal offerings, but I'd like to see more variety if I would ever plan to sign on and get the service regularly. I imagine since the offerings are new, there's more good stuff on the way.
  • To receive the box, I had to be present to sign off on delivery. I don't know if this would be every week -- but if I worked outside the home, it wouldn't be convenient for me.

Other information:

  • You can place a hold at any time -- giving you some flexibility. Free delivery
  • No minimum duration (6 day notice period) if you just want it for a short period of time.
  • Payments are deducted weekly (after delivery) versus all up-front.
  • You can purchase enough food for 2, 4, or 6 people.

BOTTOM LINE: 

I really enjoyed cooking up our Hello Fresh meals. The package came quickly and everything inside was fresh and super organized. The experience of cooking and following the recipe cards was fun. And -- seriously -- the food was delicious.

I personally don't think I could justify the expense on a weekly basis all year long, BUT if I was working full-time outside the house OR if I had a busy month (cough -- newborn days??? -- right?), I could totally see taking full advantage of a service like this for a set period of time.

I also feel like it would make an excellent gift. But that could just be Christmas on the brain and the fact that I still haven't finished my own shopping!


TRY IT OUT:

If you would like to check out the service yourself, Hello Fresh has generously offered our readers a 30% off discount with code HF_Neverhomemaker. Code is valid until the end of January 2013.

Have you ever tried a delivery service like Hello Fresh? Or do you think you'd ever try one? Oh, and you can also check out the HF Facebook page for more information on their services, as well as chances to win cool stuff.

*** Hello Fresh sent me a box with 3 meals for 2. My opinions in this post are my own.

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Our Christmas Lists

>> Thursday, December 20, 2012


Yesterday, I posted Ada's Christmas list over on Writing Chapter Three. But as we all know, with growing into an adult -- presents often get more expensive. Or, scratch that -- general needs throughout the year get so expensive that they BECOME presents. Take our car engine replacement, for example. Or perhaps our shiny new furnace.

Add to that our kitchen project, and -- well -- this year there won't be any presents under the tree for us.

So, last night we decided it'd be fun to make gift lists. And by fun I mean a painful sort of game. However, we may get a little cash for the holidays and treat ourselves to a few of these items.


STEPHEN'S LIST
from top left to right . . . 
 



ASHLEY'S LIST
from top left to right . . . 

Lucky Girl Hair Ties
Hands of Glory by Andrew Bird


We're more than thrilled to have a family gift this year, though. Can't wait to share more kitchen progress as it happens. Today I made huge strides with organizing and paring down what we store in our cabinets. Next on the to-do list is the ceiling. I'm not looking forward to that!

What's on your Christmas list this year? Or perhaps you, like us, have other things pulling at your funds. Either way, we're enjoying the holiday season and trying to do as much festive stuff as we can possibly fit into our schedule.

PS: If you read the other site, you can check out Falling in Love with Ada, Part II.

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Crock Pot Veggie Stew

>> Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Remember all that progress I wanted to make in the kitchen last weekend? Well . . . we didn't cross a single thing off our to-do list.


But we did add something: A cabinet over the stove.


We use it to store the millions of mixing bowls that I just can't get rid of. Don't get me wrong, I've purged a lot of unnecessary things -- but my mixing bowls all have different purposes!

I feel really thankful to finally be able to do something in our kitchen. But I can't help saying "is it OVER yet?" pretty much any chance I get. One reason I'm so irked is that cooking is impossible. I've read a lot of great things about how you should do kitchen remodels -- and almost all involve setting up a makeshift kitchen elsewhere in the home.

We have no space for that, so I've decided our "mini-kitchen" is the crock pot.


(BOOZY) CROCK POT VEGGIE STEW

I don't need to explain how to make stew in the crock pot. But I'll tell you what we put in our most recent go at it, and maybe you can share some of your own favorite combos with me!

  • 2 cooking onions, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped delicata squash (skinned and seeded)
  • 2 cups canned kidney beans, rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 cups frozen green beans (chopped into smaller bits)
  • 1 zucchini (chopped)
  • 28 ounces tomato puree
  • 12 ounces winter beer (or veggie broth!)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • Smoked paprika, oregano, and thyme -- all to taste
I cooked the onions and garlic in a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat on the stove. Then I put everything into the pot -- stirred -- and cooked on high for 3 hours. I seasoned more till I got it just right (read: I dumped in half a jar of smoked paprika -- hahaha).

Serve with crusty bread + cheese + another brew for good measure. Delicious. And lots of leftovers for lunch.


As I mentioned in the ingredient list, you can certainly substitute veggie broth for beer. I use beer when I'm being lazy/don't have broth/and want to add a variety of flavors. In this case, we used a Sam Adam's Winter Lager -- lots of orange peel, ginger, and cinnamon flavors.

I'll be cranking up the heat in the pot again tonight. What is your favorite crock pot meal? I need ideas beyond our usual Pumpkin Chili!

Pssst: Check out Writing Chapter Three for part II of our quest for a simple holiday. Ada's Christmas list.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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