29 February 2012

Chocolate Butter Cookies with Cappuccino Jordan Almonds

chocolate butter cookies with cappuccino jordan almonds

Oh! Nuts sent me a bag of their Jordan almonds to feature in a recipe for a contest. I was able to choose any flavor I wanted, so I opted for a flavor near and dear to my taste buds - cappuccino. I wasn't sure exactly what to do with them in terms of incorporating it into a recipe, so I went with an idea I thought of from the beginning, which was to coat slice and bake cookies in crushed Jordan almonds.

chocolate butter cookies with cappuccino jordan almonds

First, I'll talk a little about the almonds themselves. Most Jordan almonds I've eaten have rock hard sugar shells -- I almost feel like I'm going to lose a few teeth by the time I've eaten a few! Oh Nuts' almonds, though, have a crisp shell that gives way easily, leading into a soft coated almond. The coffee flavor is light and flavorful. I could easily have eaten the entire 16 ounce bag in one sitting if I felt so inclined.

chocolate butter cookies with cappuccino jordan almonds

Back to the recipe. I attempted to crush the almonds in a food processor, but it didn't work out as well as I thought. They may not have been rock hard, true, though the the almonds were hard enough that I encountered difficulty getting them to crush evenly. I ended up with mostly powder and a few chunks of almonds. I pressed the coating into the softened chocolate butter cookie log, and by this time I knew that the taste of the crushed almonds wasn't going to stand out very well. Looking back on it, I should have mixed some of the powder and chunks in with the cookie dough since I wasn't able to get enough smaller pieces to press into the log.

chocolate butter cookies with cappuccino jordan almonds

The cookies certainly look pretty, with a nice contrast between the white edging and dark brown center. As I suspected, however, the Jordan almonds didn't really shine. You could taste the crunch, but the flavor was extremely faint. I'm disappointed in this attempt, honestly. At least I still have half a bag of cappuccino almonds remaining to console myself with.

26 February 2012

I'll get my act together eventually...

I should be training for a half marathon right now.

Instead, I played catch up this week since I only ran five times between 2/06 - 2/19. That happened because I hurt (bruised?) my medial cuneiform, aka the knobby bone directly underneath your big toe. Although the pain was bad, it didn't affect my stride; however, I decided to take the rest of the week off to let it heal. After that initial week, I guess I just didn't feel like running. It looks like half training will begin tomorrow, if I write up a plan between now and Monday's run.

I'm not entirely sure how I hurt the medial cuneiform. I've narrowed down the culprits to my shoes, recently adding a fifth day of running, incorporating tempos, and landing on the ball of my foot. The pain is just about gone completely, though I'm still concentrating on landing midfoot (I wasn't intentionally landing on the balls of my feet before), paying closer attention to which pair of shoes might have caused the bruise, and going back to running four days a week.

According to my calendar, I have just nine weeks left to train. Unfortunately, those two weeks of inconsistency were enough to make me lose my mental fortitude (I'm weak) as well as a little bit of my fitness. Since I signed up and I do want to run a good race, I'm just going to ignore my self doubt and focus on completing runs.

Nine weeks is enough time to put together a decent plan, and coming off of a solid two month build up period, I don't feel like I've let too much time pass even with the setback. I figure I'll split the weeks up like so: 5-3-1, where 5 is the "intro" phase, maintaining an average distance while increasing long runs and continuing a weekly tempo; 3, the "focused" phase, where I add another weekly (but mild) speed workout, something relatively simple such as strides or fartleks, and my longest run will peak during this period; the final week will be the taper, which I don't need to explain.

Yes, I made this up off the top of my head. No, it's not groundbreaking and my terminology is stupid. But that's what I have for now.

I ended this week with 22 miles, which isn't bad for running 7 miles last week. (Yes. Total.) I'll make up any lost fitness this next week. Hopefully by then the weather here will improve enough to make my life a little easier.


05 February 2012

Running Recap

My last recap was three weeks ago. In that span, I completed my first two weeks running five times, including 2 tempos and two longer runs. Last was a cutback week where I ran 4 times, but included a tempo and long run. The five day weeks were great, I had excellent tempo runs where I found my optimal tempo pace, and encouraging long runs.

Then week three happened. My tempo failed when my Garmin wouldn't show distance or pace. I figured I'd hit laps manually and do the math afterward, only I kept hitting stop instead of lap. My pace was probably all over the place and I ended up jogging most of the run. I attempted to make it up the next day, but that proved to be a little much for my current capabilities.

However, the long run went off without a hitch, only I felt a little woozy during the last two miles. I ate a double Baconator and small fries from Wendy's that needed an hour longer to digest, but I didn't throw up or feel fatigued. I just felt like crap for a while afterward. I seriously thought I might throw up, though I didn't because it's disgusting and I don't like feeling disgusting.

I've been in Jersey for the past few weeks, which has made running even more enjoyable. The average temperature is around ten degrees higher than the midwest and it's not as windy. I've mostly been running in t-shirts and short, no hat or gloves. It's glorious. Running in such comparatively mild temperatures has kept me from wussing out, using the weather as an excuse for my failures. There are also a lot more people on the route I take and it keeps things interesting.

There is one more week left in my plan, then I have to write out a training plan for the half. I signed up for the Sunburst, and I'm also running the Pittsburgh Half in May. The course profile for Pittsburgh is mostly flat with some elevation change during the last half of the course. Running Pittsburgh will give me an idea of how I'll do at Sunburst, and I can adjust my plan in the month between the two races as necessary.

I plan to increase my miles without exceeding 30mpw (I'm already getting bored being out there for 1 hour 15 minutes), increase the duration of my tempos by 1-2 miles, finally ending with a mild one week taper. Something like that. I will continue adding cutback weeks every third week, though they'll still include a speed work run and a long run, it just won't be as long.

I feel like I've gotten a good sense of my ability these past few weeks, though I still tread tentatively when it comes to long runs and speed runs. I'm nervous of not meeting my expectations and blowing up, though my caution isn't necessarily a bad thing because it'll help keep me focused and not overdo anything. Overall, though, I'm excited to see what I can do these next few months of training.

01 February 2012

flourless peanut butter chocolate cookies

flourless peanut butter chocolate cookies

Ever find yourself in the mood to bake cookies, but are either out of ingredients or short on time? Here's a recipe for you. I often turn to these flourless peanut chocolate cookies from Martha Stewart when I'm in the mood for a quick cookie. These cookies consist of just peanut butter, an egg, sugar, leavening, salt, and chocolate chips. The original recipe uses peanuts, though I often substitute other ingredients like more chips, or oatmeal, like in today's variation.

flourless peanut butter chocolate cookies

I used quick oats, thinking it would blend better in the dough. It did, but I should have used less than half a cup because I think the oats soaked up a lot of moisture and made the refrigerated dough difficult to work with.

flourless peanut butter chocolate cookies

The best part about these cookies is that you don't need a mixer. Simply stir the sugar, baking soda, salt, and egg with the peanut butter, then in stir the chips and additional ingredients. You can bake them immediately or let the dough chill. I've done both and found that the cookies have smoother tops after being refrigerated and the dough is easier to form, but it tastes just the same.

flourless peanut butter chocolate cookies

After rolling the dough into balls, I press them down to half-inch disks. The dough sometimes doesn't spread much, especially when it has been chilled, so this helps them spread out more as it bakes. These didn't spread as much as they typically do because of the oats. I also used 1 tablespoon portions like the recipe says although I usually use 2 tablespoons because I like the look of big, beautiful cookies.

flourless peanut butter chocolate cookies

These are the best when just underbaked. The cookies are soft and buttery, and surprisingly not dense. The fat in the peanut butter contributes to the cookie's texture, and the warm peanut butter flavor is incredible. If I had some ice cream I'd crumble some of the just baked cookies on top. Yummy.

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