Friday, December 23, 2011

holiday hiatus

I kept thinking about posting this week, but couldn't think of anything to post about.  Why?  Well, I haven't really cooked anything new or exciting since the Lemon Bars... just various types of chicken.  Maybe I'll get to make some fun things over the holidays to share about, but I'm not sure!

The second (and more annoying) reason?  My knees have been bugging me when I run, so I haven't been running much.  It's actually making me really sad.  I don't know how to describe it.  Various muscles in my legs will hurt/ache/be sore throughout the day.  Stretching them seems to help.  Then, maybe the soreness will dissipate, but only 10 minutes into a run my knees will ache again.  It sort of feels like my knees are bruised.  But if I stop running after 10 minutes, my knees stop hurting.  If I run more than 3 miles, they will hurt for a few hours and then be better.  But then random soreness throughout the day still.  It's a mystery.  I'm hoping some longer rest periods and more stretching will help.  Any suggestions out there?

So, blog posting might be light for the next 10 days or so - but I'll post if anything exciting happens!  Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

More Baking Fun: Lemon Bars!

Continuing with the excitement of having a Kitchen Aid and other new kitchen toys, last week I made Lemon Bars for a girls' night / Love Actually viewing party.  The recipe was also from my new book Good Housekeeping Best-Loved Desserts.
First, I made the crust.  I lined a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil, then patted down the crust mixture and baked it:
While the crust bakes, I got started on the lemon filling.  Grating the lemon peel was actually somewhat time intensive, but no one said baking was easy!
Next, I mixed the eggs, sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, & other fun things together:

Once the crust was baked and the lemon mixture was ready, I poured the lemon mixture onto the crust and baked it for another twenty minutes or so:

It looks kind of weird once it's baked.  The directions said to bake until it is "just set" and the edges are starting to get golden-brown, which is what I did.  Looking back I think 3-5 minutes more of cooking might have been a good idea.
Next, I let the lemon bars cool and added powdered sugar
At this point, I was pretty excited.  WOW, I made lemon bars, and that was easy.  No no.  The next step: I had to remove the foil/lemon bars from the pan:
That wasn't great, but it's mostly in one piece.  Next, I had to peel the foil down from the sides of the lemon bars and cut them up.  This is why greasing the foil REALLY WELL is so important.  I clearly did not grease the foil well enough, so I started to have a mess as I removed the foil:
 Next I started to cut up the lemon bars.  Honestly, it was kind of a mess.
I managed to get a decent amount of them looking edible / presentable enough to take to my party:
Buuut I also had a huge mess at the end:

The mess was for two reasons (I think): Foil not being greased enough for the crust to come up, and the lemon filling not being quite set enough.  Lessons learned: grease the foil really well.  Bake long enough.
The good news: they were a hit!  Everyone seemed to like them.  I'll definitely have to try this again some time!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Slow Cooking

Today is my very first post that was by reader request!  Reader Monica (okay she's also my friend in real life, as I think all of my readers are!) requested that I write a post on tips, tricks, and favorite recipes for the slow cooker.  For those of you that have followed the blog for a long time, you know I've done lots of slow cooker recipes, mostly from Betty Crocker's 300 Calorie Cook Book: 300 Tasty Meals for Eating Healthy Every Day.

General Advice
-Don't open up your slow cooker to check on the progress - to much heat escapes.  Every time you do this, it can add 20 minutes of additional cooking time!
-Things on the bottom cook faster.
-Veggies take longer to cook than meat, therefore, you usually want to layer veggies underneath meat.
-Liquid doesn't boil away in a slow cooker, so don't add extra water/liquids!
-Condensation will form on the lid, so be careful of that when opening the slow cooker!  Life the lid straight up to avoid making a mess :-)
-Although it's best to just follow directions, in general, 1 hour on high = 2 hours on low.
-It's totally safe to leave your slow cooker on unattended.  So, put everything in your slow cooker before work, turn it on, leave, and come home to a fully cooked dinner.  Hooray!  My slow cooker is programmable - it has a timer and a "warm" setting, which I find really useful.
-If you are in the market for a slow cooker, definitely get one where the liner/pot can come out and is washable and preferably can go in the dishwasher.  Because that thing can be a pain to clean!
-Be careful with seafood.  Usually you add it just for the last 30 minutes.  Shrimp, for instance, can get rubbery if cooked too long.

Although I have many slow cooker recipes that I love, one of my favorite things to do with my slow cooker is to make a chili or soup out of whatever is lying around the house.  A few weeks ago, I added celery, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, kidney beans, baked beans, broth, and spices to the slow cooker and let it go for 6-8 hours on low.  I had a great chunky vegetarian bean chili at the end!  Try any combination of veggies and beans with some broth to make a great soup or chili!  If you need some recipe inspiration, I'd recommend this if you like garbanzo beans, this if you like all sorts of beans and want a home-style feel, and this if you are looking for a spicy black bean soup type of thing!
For those of you looking for a more concrete recipe, here are a few of my favorites:-Indian Cauliflower Stew: a great vegetarian stew
-Cous-Cous Stuffed Peppers: seriously one of the best things ever.
-Barbeque Baked Beans with Turkey Sausage: an easy family-favorite
-Mediterranean Bulgur and Lentils: a favorite of my Duke friends - but I use quinoa instead of bulgur and crumbled goat cheese instead of feta (to meet the dietary restrictions of my friends - but I'm sure following the recipe would be equally delicious).
-Jambalaya: who doesn't love jambalaya? just don't overcook the shrimp :-)
The last thing I'll say is that most things I make in the slow cooker do not look particularly appetizing (see all picture above, haha), but it doesn't mean they don't taste good!  Sure, everyone likes pretty food, but when you throw everything and the kitchen sink into a pot, you might not get beautiful results.  Doesn't mean it won't be tasty!

I hope all of you with slow cookers enjoy some good winter chilis & soups!  Also, although I haven't tried them yet in my slow cooker, I know meatballs and mulled wine are fun party foods for slow cookers!  Happy cooking!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

haiku for spin class

wednesday spin class fun
lady gaga and allie
make me smile always

(the last spin class of the semester was today. i'm SO bummed, because i love spinning, i love seeing the regulars in our class every week, i love our teacher, and i might not be able to make her class next semester.  so, if you ever read this blog somehow allie, thanks for being a great instructor!)

Hot Chocolate 15k Recap Part 3: The Aftermath

So I know it's been a while now, but I wanted to finish recapping the Hot Chocolate 15k, share some thoughts/reflections, and start thinking about future goals!

When we left off I had crossed the finish line and my watch read 1:25:11.  I was feeling so excited about that time, but it was immediate chaos at the finish.  They had set up the water/Gatorade too close to the finish line, which caused a bottleneck of people.  Some poor race volunteer had to stand at the finish line the entire race with a bullhorn telling people to keep moving to make sure that runners could actually cross the finish line - that's how crowded it was!

Anyway, I got a bottle of water, spotted future MIL and SIL, and then found a perch to stand on as I watched for M.  I figured she'd be maybe... 3-5 minutes behind me?  If she had been feeling terrible, maybe 10.  So we waited... and waited... and then I had been watching the finish line for 20 minutes and realized I definitely missed her.  Crap.  I called Susan who was with our friend K and they found us.  We remembered that we had vaguely discussed meeting by the hot cocoa stand if we got separated, so we headed over to the post race party area.  We camped out next to the hot cocoa and started watching for M.

I'll interject to say that the hot cocoa and the fondue was delicious.  I wish there had been more of it (or maybe they should have had "1 serving free, next servings pay") but it was yummy!

So, after what seemed like for EVER (probably at least another half hour though) I start freaking out.  Where is M?  She doesn't know my phone number and she doesn't have her phone.  No one memorizes numbers anymore.  What would she even do in this situation?  Finally we have the idea to ask the DJ booth to announce her name.  Of course, their speakers are broken for the next 20 minutes.  AGONY.  I was really thinking, how could this get worse?  The race was a hot mess, it started an hour late, and now we've been at the finish for well over an hour, unable to find M.  My car is potentially undrivable, over a mile away, and I need to get Susan, M and I showered and fed and up to Maryland for another appointment by 3pm.  Crap.

Finally, the DJ booth works and they announce for M to come to the hot cocoa stand.  Ten minutes later, nothing.  Now I am seriously out of ideas.  Just as I was about to have a panic attack, my friend Mary calls me and says she has M.  This is amazing, because Mary has actually never met M!!! M went up to the DJ booth and said "I heard my name but not what you said about me" and Mary was like "I KNOW YOUR FRIENDS!"  We went running and I think did one of those slow-motion reunited movie hugs.
Susan, K, me, and M!

Now that we finally had our entire crew, we decided we better start on the hike back to the car.  Seriously, worst parking situation ever.  I heard the shuttle buses had long lines / weren't the best either but I can't really comment on that.  Parking though? Bad.  We went to the parking office to tell them about my car, and the guy was like "well I can't help you because everyone is dispatched to help with the traffic."  So I was like um, well, what about my car?  And he just shrugged.  Calmly (on the outside, on the inside I was screaming) I said "So, just to be clear, your parking attendants had me drive over something that damaged my car, and now you cannot help me and have no suggestions for what I should do?"  And he just shrugged.  Okay, bye.  We walked the rest of the way to where my car was parked, and sure enough, a 3 foot metal pole was stuck under my car.  I see a guy directing traffic that doesn't seem to be too busy, as we were in a lower-traffic area, so I go talk to him.  He tells me to go to the parking office.  I am in the middle of explaining to him that the parking office wouldn't help me when Susan gets the pole out from underneath my car.  ROOOMIE TO THE RESCUEE!!!!! (yes, we call each other roomie.  yes, it has been 4.5 years since we were roommates).  Luckily, my car appears to have no damage and we are able to get out of the parking lot and drive back to Virginia without TOO bad of traffic.  And that folks, is a the story of the hot chocolate 15k, in three parts.

I don't think I'll ever run this race again and I will likely avoid races put on by RAM racing.  Sure, this might have been a fluke.  Sure, they probably will do great races in the future.  But other races I've run have gone much more smoothly, so I think I'll avoid the hot chocolate race and RAM racing for now.  The director of RAM racing did send an "apology / explanation of why things went to wrong" e-mail.  Some things are understandable, but it wasn't enough for me to really believe that it was "just a fluke".  In other news, several people with Garmins said that the 5k was too long and the 15k was too short.  Also not sure if that's true, but if you can't get the course length correct, that is just plain ridiculous.

At the end of the day, I got to do a race with great friends (even many who I never found, haha) and I was really proud of my time.  1:25:11 (if the course was the right distance) translates to 9:09 miles, which is way faster than I thought I could run.  That's awesome!  I feel like all of my training paid off: my speed work, my long runs, my weight training and my other cardio cross training!  After this race, I feel stronger and more fit than I have ever felt, and that is awesome!

So, what's next?  I feel like I always need a next race so I have training plan to follow!  I think I will be signing up for a 5k in February - it would be fun to run a shorter race and see how fast I can go!  I am also excited to let y'all know that I got into the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
I'm super excited to run this again!  My friend Kimmy, who I ran with last year, also got in - so that will be great!  Plus my fiance got in.  He doesn't run right now, so we'll see how he does!  I'm pretty excited about this race because it was so fun last year, and I know that it will be WAY better this year since I will have actually trained to run 10 miles!

I'm also thinking about running a half marathon in April, but that decision / announcement will come later :-)

Monday, December 12, 2011

and now, i can BAKE.

Blog, meet my new favorite toy:

Oh yes.  I have a Kitchen Aid.  And she is red and beautiful, and entices me to bake.  So on Saturday I decided it was time to give her a spin, and I decided to try Applesauce Spice Cake, from my new dessert book Good Housekeeping Best-Loved Desserts.
If you can spot the problem I was about to have making this from a look at this ingredients, I'll give you a gold star.
Yayy new toys (and if you are reading this and had a hand in giving me these gifts, THANK YOU AGAIN).
First, we mixed the flour and spices... (in my new bowl with my new whisk!)
And THEN we busted out the brand new Kitchen Aid (yep, new spatula to help me, haha).   First I mixed the butter and sugars, and then eggs and applesauce.
Not looking so appetizing yet, but it will, I promise.  Next we added in the flower mixture and raisins. YUM!
Looking delicious!  Now, transfer that into the square baking pan (also a new toy)...
Then into the oven...
Let cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar
Cut, and enjoy

Verdict: deliciousness.  Everyone who had it at the party loved it.  Some requested that I make it again soon.
But, this is a blog about cooking (and baking?) so I have to critique it as well.  The cake was very thick, so the pieces were huge.  This is at least partially because I was supposed to use a 9 inch square baking pan, which I didn't have, so it went into an 8 inch square baking pan.  Even so, I think it would have been really thick in a 9 inch square pan!
Also, if you saw above that I had two things of Confectioner's sugar, you might have wondered why.  That's because I thought one of the boxes I picked up was actually dark brown sugar.  Oops.  That's not terrible, I just used light brown sugar and added some molasses to it.  Until I realized I also SOMEHOW had no regular granulated sugar.  Who doesn't have granulated sugar in their house???  So, I had to use, um, even more light brown sugar.  No one complained, but I don't know how different the cake tasted because of this.  The last thing I should note is that I found it really challenging to pour ingredients into the mixer while it was mixing.  And then when I was done I realized that I had a plastic shield with an opening to pour in ingredients EXACTLY FOR THAT REASON.  Kitchen aid 1, Sara 0.

Hope you enjoyed my first installment of "Sara learns to bake and plays with the Kitchen aid" because there is definitely more to come!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hot Chocolate 15k Recap Part 2: Running

Finally, at 9:04 the race started.  It took about 4 minutes for M and I to cross the start line.  As you might recall, I was feeling pretty grumpy from the delayed start, standing in the cold, and potential damage to my car.  Luckily, I really do love running, and about 30 seconds after we crossed the start line my mood improved dramatically.

Mile 0-1.0:
We crossed the start and made a left hand turn pretty quickly.  As we turned, I saw my future MIL and SIL cheering me on.  After seeing traffic, they parked on the VA side of the bridge and WALKED ACROSS so they could cheer me on.  I'm so lucky to have such supportive future in laws!!  Around the half mile mark there was a water station, which seemed early/weird, but since I had finished my Gatorade at like 7:30 and it was nearing 9:15 I figured I'd take some.  Then a volunteer make a snarky comment about us needing a drink already.  Um HI I finished my Gatorade at 7:30.  It's 9:15.  I'm thirsty.  Rude.  Anyway, right after the Gatorade we started running down hill... down an on ramp ... onto a highway?  Wait, really, I'm about to run on Indian Head Highway?  It's three lanes in each direction.  So they closed two lanes - one for runners going out, one for runners going back, and left the third lane open.  Umm. Strange.  Anyway, we were feeling pretty good about our pace - it was challenging but not crazy hard.  So I was pretty shocked when my watch read 8:30 at the 1 mile marker.  Whoa, am I running that fast?  I usually don't run that fast!  Later, people with Garmins told me that the mile 1 marker was short.  Yes, that makes more sense.
these photos don't necessarily line up to the mile markers.
Mile 1.0-4.0
This entire out and back I basically was thinking, wait, are we seriously just running on a highway?  Even if people wanted to spectate, they couldn't.  And we were right next to trucks, with awesome smelling exhaust.  DC is so scenic and pretty... I do not understand.  The only fun part to an out-and-back is seeing people you know that don't run the same pace as you.  Susan spotted us as she was running back and called out to us, which was fun.
Somewhere around mile 2.4, we ran over a mat.  I thought that seemed weird and then realized that if we had run over it on the way back it would have been at the 5k mark.  Apparently the race volunteers had directed us to run out on the wrong lane.  Superb planning once again.  My first split time was 21:04, which for a 5k would be 6:47 pace.  Clearly inaccurate.  My actual pace seemed to be somewhere around 9:00 min/miles, although to be honest I wasn't paying close attention - I was just running at what felt good.
Mile 4.0-6.0
We ran back up the on-ramp (boo uphills) and I got to see my future MIL and future SIL again - hooray!  I also handed off my cell phone (so annoying to hold), hat, and gloves... it was getting toasty!  We got some gatorade, and soon we were running past the start line.  This was kind of a huge bummer.  The 5k was long over and I think the very first 15k runners were nearing the finish line... and I still had over 5k to go.  Boo.  We ran down a huge hill, and I realized that I would have to run up said hill at the end of a race.  Also a huge bummer.

Mile 6.0-7.0
We passed the 10k split and my watch read 58:04, which is around a 9:20 pace.  I wasn't capable of doing math that detailed at the moment, but I knew we were on track to finish in under 90 minutes.  I couldn't believe that I was feeling this good at the 10k point - although we were running up a hill that wasn't too fun.  Right after the 10k split (maybe at 6.5) M tells me she isn't doing well, and I left her behind.  Poor M!  I focused on getting up the hill, one step at a time.  I was so grateful for the gatorade at the top of the hill and I walked for about 5 seconds while I drank it and prepared for the next few miles.

Mile 7.0-9.0
Now I was on my own, which is always mentally more challenging than running with M.  I'm tempted to slow down or walk, and no one is there to yell at me not to!  I just kept telling myself to find an easy pace and keep chugging along.  We ran down into a gravel area with music playing and I heard some Ke$ha - who happens to be my favorite artist.  The Ke$ha cheered me up and I saw M running into the gravel area as I exited it, so I was glad to know she was running again!
Finally we were running along the harbor... the only pretty part of the course!  I tried to soak it in and keep chugging along.  It felt like a lot of people were passing me and I just wanted to slow down, but I knew I was still on track to finish in under 90 minutes so I told myself to keep going.  Until I remembered that crazy hill I was about to climb to the top...

Mile 9.0-9.3
My thought process through the end of this race was: 9.0, only 0.3 to go, time to speed up, oh wait hill. Hill. Hate. Hill. Die. Hill.  I can't speed up for the 3ish minutes it will take to go uphill 0.3 miles, I can just barely WALK for 3 more minutes.  Okay, don't walk just run slowly, up the hill, wait why are we turning?  Wait the finish line is right there?  Oh it's flat now?  OH I BETTER SPEED UP FOR THE FINISH... but the crowd of people is making it hard to sprint and my legs hurt from that hill...
Then I crossed the finish line which was a mob of people not moving, but I looked down at my watch and saw 1:25:11 and FREAKED OUT.  That was so good! How did I finish so quickly?
so happy!
I was pretty pumped about my time and found some Gatorade to watch for M.  I found my future MIL and SIL quickly and they stood and watched with me.  Stay tuned for the post-race craziness and other thoughts, but for now here at some stats:

Official Time: 1:25:11, 9:09 pace
Overall place 3372 out of 10150 (top 34%)
Age group place (F 25-29) 531 out of 1817 (top 30%)
Gender place 1961 out of 7450 (top 27%)

I NEVER thought when I started running that I would ever be in the top third of any race I ran.  Or that I could maintain a 9:09 pace for 15k.  So this was ridiculously exciting, despite the race antics!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hot Chocolate 15k Recap Part 1: Expo and Pre-Race Shenanigans

So, I'll be taking the next several posts to recap everything related to the race weekend for the Hot Chocolate 15k at the National Harbor on December 3, 2011.  If you have read anything about the race, you know a lot went wrong.  I'm definitely NOT trying to complain or have a negative attitude, but I am going to share my honest thoughts and opinions about the race weekend.

Friday afternoon, M and I headed north to the DC metro area for our weekend of fun.  We made a quick stop to pick up Susan and my other friend K and the four of us headed to the expo.  The traffic getting in to the National Harbor to park was horrendous!  It took us at least 45 minutes to go basically 3 miles.  Once we got to the expo, it was pretty standard - lots of vendors, pretty well organized, etc.  We got our race numbers, made sure our chips worked, figured out parking, and then got our jackets.  I have to say, the jacket was kind of a let down.  It looked SO nice on the race website, but really it's a lightweight windbreaker.  I guess I should have expected that.  The jackets also ran quite small, but luckily it was simple to switch sizes!

After we got our jackets, we looked around the expo.  K bought a few things, while Susan, M, and I just wandered around.  I looked longingly at the Garmins and checked to see if they had any Brooks Adrenaline on clearance in my size (they never do - but it's nice to check!).  It was getting late by then so we left the harbor to go to dinner.  I had originally to get reservations at a restaurant in the harbor, but when I checked ~5 days in advance there were no tables anywhere!  So, instead we went to Rustico in Alexandria - a good choice for our group because everyone likes pizza and they had gluten free crust for M!  After we filled up on pizza we went back to K's house where we determined we had to set the alarm for 4:30am if we wanted to get to the race on time.

Saturday morning the alarm went off at 4:30am - yikes!  Our plan was to leave by 5:00am, drop one car off at my future MIL's house that is only a few miles from the harbor, and then take one car over (since we had 4 people and 1 parking pass).  Of course, I left the parking pass on K's kitchen table so she had to go back and get it... oops.  By the time the four of us were in one car and on the way to the harbor it was 6:00am.  Not TOO bad, since my future MIL lives about 15 minutes from the harbor without traffic.  We had been told to arrive by 6:30 because there would be road closures starting at 6:30am, even though the 5k started 7:30am and the 15k started at 8:00am.  Obviously, the traffic was already backed up all the way across the bridge by 6:10, so we sat in traffic forever.  People started getting out of their cars and walking!  We got across the bridge and near the harbor around 7:10 and saw a mass of people walking from the water front area over to our left - apparently to the start line?  Not sure why the start was so far away from the harbor.  Since we were parking in the opposite direction and we were worried about K missing the start of the 5K, we told her to jump out of the car and start walking.  She texted us soon after to say the start was delayed.. whoops!  At least she didn't miss the start?

Finally we got to the parking area, and I was directed to park in a grassy field instead of one of the parking garages.  I was being directed to start a new row of cars all the way over to the right of the field when I heard a horrible scraping noise under my car.  Umm WHAT?  The parking people looked terrified.  Apparently, they directed me to drive over a huge metal pole that had then gotten caught underneath my car.  The parking attendant told me to back up to see if if would come out.  Then, when it didn't, she told me it must be part of my car that had fallen off.  I'm sorry, my car did not just spontaneously fall apart.  No.  Alas, it was around 7:30 and we realized we were at LEAST one mile from the start.  So, we decided to deal with my car after the race.
Susan, me, and M walking to the start

We still didn't know where the start line was, and it was about 35 degrees outside, so we took our first opportunity to use a public restroom.  Then we proceeded to walk down to the harbor, past the tents where the expo had been, and up a hill.  FINALLY we found the 5k start line, which was packed with people waiting to run.  We tried to look for some of our friends who were running the 5k, but no luck!  We walked up to the 15k area, but since the starts overlapped (but faced different directions) they weren't really lining up the 15k participants yet.  So we just kind of wandered around.  Finally they announced that the 5k was starting around 8:15am, so we went to get in our corrals.  It was funny because the guy was being strict about letting people in the correct entrances, but once you entered the corral, nothing was stopping you from walking forward to faster groups or backwards to the open/slower groups.  Oh well.

At this point, I was getting grumpy and kind of thirsty - I had finished my Gatorade around 7:30!  I also pondered whether or not to use the bathroom again.  However, no one was able to tell us what time the 15k was starting, so I had no clue if I had time to find water or anything.  People in the corrals were not happy.  It was cold.  Several people suggested we just start running... what was taking so long?  The first ~10k of the course was the opposite direction of the 5k, so it's not like we'd run into them any time soon?  I had no clue.  Finally someone announced that the path of the 15k crossed over the traffic trying to get in to the harbor, so they had to wait for all of those people to get in and park.  Course planning FAIL.

FINALLY, the race started - my watch read 9:04.  64 minutes late.  This by far is the worst organized race ever....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hot Chocolate 15K: Goals

HAPPY DECEMBER!  I realized after reading Sarah's post on Wednesday morning that I should think about December goals... but I'm drawing a blank!  I want to stay in good running shape, work on my strength training, and cook/bake fun things... I also want to get a lot of work done on my next milestone since exams end Dec 9th and I'll have a bit more free time. None of those goals are very specific or measurable though... and they look very reminiscent of my November goals!  So, I'll ponder and get back to ya'll :-)

Yesterday, I completed my last training run for the 15k!  It's coming up so quickly!  I'm super excited, because in addition to M running the 15k, I know about 5 other people running the 15k (including SUSAN!) and another 6 or so running the 5k!  For one of my friends, it will be her first 5k ever - so awesome!  So, the whole race should be really fun, and I'm definitely excited to get some delicious chocolate at the end.  The weather forecast is also looking great - overnight low Friday 32, but high of 49 on Saturday... so cool, but not too cold!

Anyway, M and I have been training hard and doing speed training every week, so I figured it's about time to share my race goals with you guys.  Similar to Susan's style of goal-setting, I have a few different levels:

A Goal: Finish in 1:30:00.  I don't know quite when or how I got this in my head, but I REALLY want to finish in 90 minutes or less.  I'm not sure how realistic that is for me at all - it is about a 9:39 pace, so about 30 seconds faster than I ran the half only ~6 weeks ago.  But I've been training hard, so we'll see!!!

B Goal: Finish in 1:32:48, which I derived from the McMillian calculator.  Based on my half marathon time, the McMillian calculator says I should be able to finish in this time, which works out to a 9:57 pace.  I would be pretty pleased if my average pace was under 10:00 min/miles I think!  1:33:12 would be exactly 10:00 miles, so something like that would be nice to say.

C Goal: Finish in 1:34:54, which would be the same pace I ran the half in.  With almost 4 miles fewer to run and some speed work under my belt, I should definitely be able to maintain this!

D Goal: Finish and HAVE FUN!  I have, of course, figured out what a 10:30 and 11:00 min/mile finishing time would be as well, but I figure if the race isn't going that well speed-wise, it's better to enjoy myself than to fret over setting any records.  Besides, it's my first 15k so I'll set a PR no matter what!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Bean Burrito Bake

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope your Thanksgivings were just like mine: full with family, friends, laughter, stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey, and pie.  We had 32 people at Thanksgiving dinner and 11 different types of pie at Thanksgiving... plus some cookies, dessert breads, and cakes.  I might have tried 4 different kinds of pie.  Whatever, that's showing restraint -- I had to pass on 7 pies!!!

While I was away for Thanksgiving (up in New England) I managed to get in 2 work outs - one was calisthenics and strength exercises inside, and one was a three mile run!  We got 8-10 inches of snow on Wednesday, but that didn't stop me from running off some pie on Friday morning.  The snow wasn't too bad to run in, but look at the elevation for part of the run I did:

That hill is not a joke.  I had successfully avoided ever running up this entire hill before, but family member J talked me into tackling this beast for the first time.  It was rough, but I can't wait to get back up there and tackle that hill again - maybe without on the ground?

Anyway, if you recall, I had the goal of trying four new recipes this month.  Before we left for Thanksgiving, I managed to complete RECIPE #4!

Today's recipe was also from Cooking Light, and was another nice vegetarian meal - Black Bean Burrito Bake.  I am kinda digging the "no meat at lunch" thing I've been doing lately (not totally on purpose, but it has happened that way).  Don't get me wrong - I have no intention of giving up meat, but I kind of feel healthier if I don't eat lots of meet all of the time.

So, I'll go through this step by step, but I will say that I made one really big mistake while preparing this meal, and it made it infinitely harder to enjoy.  Chipotle Chili Peppers are spciy, yes, but not that spicy.  They get a 2,500-8000 on the Scoville Scale, which is like Tobasco sauce.  I like Tobasco sauce, and I like spicy food.  So I was not at all worried about the spice from the chipotle chiles called for in this recipe.  I WAS WRONG TO NOT BE WORRIED.  This s*** was SPICY.  I don't understand.  WHY?  It burned.  Burned SO BAD.  I literally had to pick all the peppers out of the burrito in order to keep myself from dying.  So sad.  I don't know if all brands of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are this spicy or not, but here's a tip:
0.  Don't buy this kind of chopped chipotle peppers unless you like dying.

Anyway, now that I've done my best to warn you about that stuff (my only friend of Mexican descent, when I showed her what I used, was like "YES, that s*** is spicy," so I must be right), I can move on to the cooking and reviewing of the recipe.

1.  Mix chilis and sour cream, let stand for ten minutes... I had to use WAY more sour cream than the recipe called for in order to cool this down.

2.  Mix black beans, corn, and sauce.  Mmm black beans and corn!  Okay, so this is obviously not the prettiest thing I've ever made, but just roll with it!

3.  Put 1/4th of the mixture into each tortilla... again, it might not look pretty but I promise (once you remove some of the peppers) it is tasty!

4.  Wrap and place in a baking dish seam side down... this pyrex baking dish from the grocery store was possibly the best investment I ever made - I use it every week I think!

5.  Top with salsa and cheese... luckily I had medium salsa to top the burritos, so I didn't have to subject myself to too much extra spice.

6.  Bake

7.  Enjoy - made four lunches worth for me!

Optional: garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs.  Or, if you are me, squeeze on some lime juice over the burrito and sprinkle it with dried cilantro.

So, overall thoughts: This was SO EASY TO MAKE.  Toss things together. Throw in oven.  Done.  I love how little time I had to spend making this!  It was also really filling, which was awesome (for less than 400 calories!).  In the future, I'd probably use adobo sauce with some hot sauce to go in the burrito, and maybe some cooked bell peppers instead of chili peppers?  Or I could just find chili peppers that don't make me feel like I have fireball in my stomach for the next three hours.  (I literally told my spin teacher "Don't be offended if I leave early, I had spicy food for lunch... luckily I did make it through spin!).  In the future, I also might use a more fun salsa (instead of the medium generic store brand) to switch things up.  Otherwise, stick to the recipe as is - it's AWESOME!