28 June 2010

Iron Girl Gift Pack

Iron Girl Gift Bag

My gift pack arrived in the mail today packed full of really cool things. Let's take a look, shall we?

Iron Girl Gift Bag

I obviously couldn't help from micro-shaking the camera because ALL these pictures include a hint of blur. Fail.


First there is this really cool turquoise and pink visor. The cool part is that there's a terry cloth sweatband thing along the section that sits on your head/forehead. Then instead of a traditional backing, the backing is like this elastic band that you can can be tightened, and it also has the words "Iron Girl" printed on it. At first I asked myself if I'd feel a little weird wearing a hat for an event in which I've never participated, but I'll get over it when I run tomorrow. Because these are MY colors.

Iron Girl Gift Bag

There is also a pair of pink goggles to use for swimming, or to wear whilst peeling onions in the kitchen (I've been told that it helps).

Iron Girl Gift Bag

I'm really excited about these socks! They're a nylon, "cool-max fresh FX", and lycra blend, and on the thin side. I will test these out tomorrow, too. They look pretty snazzy!

Iron Girl Gift Bag

And also for the feet we have a giant 2 pound bag of Dr. Teal's Peppermint Foot Soak, which is Epsom salt with peppermint essential odor and baking soda, in case you smell (it's what the bag says, not what happens to me). The peppermint oil is supposed to revitalize your senses, which is always a good thing after you're tired from a run or anything.

Iron Girl Gift Bag

Included is also a Bodycology body wash, specifically for the softeningog skin, with silk and avocado oil, and a cucumber melon body mist from the same company. It smells pretty good, though a little sugary sweet for my tastes.

Next are two different types of eye drop samples from Rohto, one for dry eyes to restore moisture, relieve irritation, and cool. The next is for redness relief. (I'm thinking this is mostly for the swimming aspect of triathlons?)

In front is a "homeopathic flex power" pain relief cream. With gradual heat and a light scent for "active women", you can put some on specific muscles and joints experiencing minor aches and pains for temporary relief. The major ingredients are arnica, green tea, vitamins, aloe, msm and glucosamine. You are supposed to apply at least 10 minutes prior to exercise as well as afterwards. I put some on my foot earlier because it feels weird, and I can't report anything because I forgot I put it on and didn't think about if it was working or not. Fail. I'm sorry. I'll reapply in a moment. But this is the official sports cream for the USAT(rialthlon), USA weight lifitng, US snowboarding, ski team, and cycling.

There is also a Luna white chocolate macadamia bar as well as a Luna protein chocolate peanut butter bar.

Finally, there's a DVD for Coach Troy's "Runervals" with Iron Girl, which is a series of three workouts, all thirty minutes, but varying in intensity. The interval workouts are designed to "maximize your fitness safely and efficiently". The workouts aim to improve leg speed, burn body fat, and prep you for races of all distances, as stated on the back of the DVD. If I had a treadmill, I'd love to review this for you. However, I figure I can watch the DVD and mimic the workout on the road and see how it goes.

Also, the bag all this loot comes in is HUGE. It's one of those giant drawstring bags you can wear like a backpack with a front zippered pouch, the giant middle pouch, and a mesh pocket in the back. Can't wait to use this for races since the bag I am using is a tight fit for all my stuff.

Really cool stuff. Thanks again, Iron Girl!

Iron Girl Gift Bag Giveaway Winner

What's up, everyone! It's time to announce the winner of the giveaway. I wish I had a gift bag to give to everyone, but I don't. =(

Anyway, the winner is...

IG giveaway number

Chika from Anti-Bland! Congrats! Please email me at caudagaliATyahooDOTcom to send me your mailing info.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks especially to Iron Girl and Fitness Magazine.

26 June 2010

Running - Pain and Injury

When is it serious and what can you do to prevent it? The panel of the Iron Girl and Fitness Magazine had some pretty decent tips to keep in mind when you go about training.

First, though, I have an update about another addition to the Iron Girl gift bag giveaway, that update being the opportunity for you and a friend to sign up to one of the Iron Girl triathlon events in Tahoe, Boulder, or Racine! How cool is that! So you get the gift bag, plus two optional race slots. Enter the drawing today if you haven't already done so.

So back to the topic. The whole point of the webinar was how to make it to the finish line safely, mostly if you're new to running or triathlons, but also beneficial for everyone.

When it comes to running and pain, how do you know when to listen to the pain versus when the pain is simply you whining (yeah, we all do it!)? The panel was in unison on the idea that your body pretty much can sense when you're entering serious physical harm, especially the nagging injuries that never seem to go away. Sometimes they aren't serious, but can often benefit by a week of minimal to no running. (In my instance, earlier in February, April, and May my foot kept feeling really bad after running - not to the point where I couldn't walk, but that I needed to ice it all the time. One week running just wasn't happening for me, but after that week off I noticed my foot pain started clearing up.) "An injured athlete means you're not an athlete." What Coach Troy meant by this is that if you can't train at the level you need for the goals you've set, you're not doing much for yourself by continuing to push through an injury.

This proves to be easier said than done. No one likes to stop an activity they find pleasure in doing, even if it means doing harm to ourselves. However, we often focus on the "here and now" instead of looking at it as a long-term lifestyle approach. If we train in a way to keep ourselves healthy for years to come, we're doing more for ourselves than simply training by calendar dates. It's always a bummer when we can't hit a goal we set because of an injury, though long-term it's probably the best for us.

One way to avoid injuries, especially for those new to the sport or are reentering, is to begin your program slowly and proceed with steady progress. If it took you a long time to reach an unhealthy state, it'll take you a while to get back to a healthy state. Again, this isn't something that changes overnight. There's no need to rush into a race distance or training program that's beyond what you're physically capable of doing.

Another good point they brought up, one also linked to preventing injuries, is strength training. Coach Troy suggested strength training 2-3 times a week as a way to aid endurance and muscles, especially for those over the age of 30. If your muscles are "sound", they're less likely to not be able to roll with the punches. You don't need to look like Starla, though, which actually would be a deterrent to running successfully.

Coach Troy said that the best time to focus on strength training is during the winter, when no one really wants to be running outdoors anyway. He brought up the idea of using the winter months as off training to increase your strength, work on technique, and gain a little lean mass. By following a 12-16 week progression plan, you can develop your strength much like a running plan develops your endurance.
When finding a routine, focus on one that promotes building strength and endurance rather than simply mass. In fact, any activity that includes resistance, such as pilates and yoga, are beneficial. When the spring and summer approaches, you can back off the weight training and focus on training in actual sports-specific exercises when you're nearing the dates of the actual event.

That's all for now. There were a few more training and nutrition related tips you guys probably would like to hear about that they mentioned, so I'll work on summarizing that up for one more post.

23 June 2010

Training Tip from Iron Girl and Fitness Magazine, and Iron Girl Gift Bag Giveaway

The webinar concluded earlier today and I've compiled notes of some of the topic discussed that stuck out to me. Much of the information I heard I've either heard before, or is available in books and magazines, but they spoke about subjects I've often thought about that have made me curious to know what an "official" perspective would be about it.


Self Awareness - Developing self awareness of how your body reacts to training is crucial to your success. Oftentimes, during exercise, we'll try and distract ourselves so as to make the time pass by quicker. While this isn't always a problem, being in tune to how your body handles different kinds of training will really give you insight into how you, personally, work and handle different levels of stress. This will also come in handy during races and such.

Focusing on Technique - Instead of simply going out and running, or cycling, or whatever, it pays to focus on how you're doing it, and what happens when you change things up or try something new. No matter how minute, practice what you would like to do before you need it, like in a race.

From personal experience, when I have a curiosity on how I'd run with a different foot strike, leg stride, or whatever I look it up and ask others who would know, then when I run next I try out a few new things to see how I respond to it. If you find one that clicks, practice it over and over again to commit it to your muscle memory.

Efficiency - Practice efficiency so you can do more with less effort. Strides or intervals are a good way to quicken your stride and focus on proper technique and leg turnover. If you have an efficient form, it takes less effort to go faster or farther.

Again, personally, I found this when I adapted my stride to suit the "chi running" method of striking midfoot. I didn't feel like I was trying to constantly move my legs faster, which for me usually means I am overstriding.

Training in the Gray Area Coach Troy said that when you train in the same intensity zone multiple times a week at a moderately hard pace (the "gray zone"), your body adapts to running at a specific speed, and you won't improve. You might also increase your risk of injury, as well. While training aerobically is good for your running, training in this gray zone won't maximize the effort of your training like training at different paces would. Training at your threshold pace or above will help you improve, so try to limit the gray zone training if your goal is to get faster.

I'll bring up more points in the next post. However...


Iron Girl is giving me an extra gift bag to give to one of my readers. I'm not sure of the content, but I've been told that it includes some pretty cool stuff. (US residents only, please)

To enter:
  • Leave a comment saying you'd like to enter - 1 entry

  • Blog about this giveaway and leave another comment - 1 entry

  • Become a follower on Twitter if you aren't, and retwit this giveaway, leaving a another comment - 1 entry

Giveaway ends Sunday, 27 June, and the winner will be posted on Monday. Good luck!

simple granola

Today is the last day to vote for me in the Recipe Rivalry! I really appreciate everyone's support this week in voting for me, and I hope you guys can spread the word one last time for a final voting push.


I've been having trouble with breakfast lately. The temperature has been heating up, and the last thing I want to start my day off with is a bowl of steaming oats. Instead, I could opt for a plate of steaming eggs. No. Or a heavy plate of pancakes. Pass. Waffles? For some reason that seems like a lot of trouble for a midweek breakfast. Clearly, my remaining option was to bake some granola.

In fact, granola is my favorite meal because it combines the best of crunchy cereal with the sticking power of oats. I still haven't perfect my recipe, but most of the formulas I've come up with have turned out tasty. For this recipe in particular, I used up the remaining pepita seeds I had and added sliced almonds and wheat germ. Since I hadn't any syrup or honey, I made a quick simple syrup with freshly squeezed orange juice and brown sugar. With the grated zest of the oranges mixed with the oats, the taste is light and citrusy and perfect for summer.


It seems that I never all the add ins I want when I make granola, or I purposely make granola when all I have are nuts and oranges. I would have liked unsweetened coconut flakes, an assortment of dried fruit, or some sort of COFFEE INGREDIENT! (I just got a brilliant idea to test out.) However, I liked how this batch turned out with the taste of the pepita seeds.

I've heard many people praise the taste of Greek yogurt, though I haven't tried it until today. Really good stuff! I loved the thicker, richer taste, though I added a bit of milk since that's how I wanted to serve it. And nothing pairs better with granola than fruit that's in season. I went with raspberries and strawberries for today's bowl.

Recipe after the jump

Print this recipe

orangey granola
Recipe by Christina Provo

ingredients ~

2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pepita seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup wheat germ
1 tsp cinnamon
grated zest of two oranges
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 325° and spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. In a small saucepan, bring orange juice and brown sugar to a boil. Boil for 1 minute; remove from heat and let cool.

  2. Mix together everything from the oats to the salt in a large bowl, making sure the ingredients are well distributed. Stir in the orange juice syrup and the vegetable oil and toss until the oats are thoroughly coated. Spread evenly onto baking sheet.

  3. Bake granola for a total of 45-55 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. You're looking for an even golden tone and the oats should no longer feel wet. Remove from the oven and let granola cool on baking sheet to room temperature. Place in a container.

Can be stored, covered, for 1 week


22 June 2010

banana scones with orange glaze

Please vote for me in the Recipe Rivalry. Only two days left to vote!

banana scones with orange glaze

I made these scones on Sunday for breakfast. Usually scones have eggs (added richness), but I was out so I Googled "eggless scones", which essentially is a biscuit, and found a version by Bobby Flay that I liked. I changed the recipe a bit, subbing chopped banana for the fruit in the original recipe and making a glaze with sugar and fresh orange juice instead of the icing topping. And besides grating the butter, I cut in cubes of cream cheese.

The funny part is that this wasn't the eggless scone recipe I found. But as this was linked to the other actual eggless recipe, and I liked the sound of it better, I went ahead with this version and simply omitted the egg.

banana scones with orange glaze

Though I only used 2 ounces of cream cheese, they gave the scones extra tenderness and a softer, fluffier flavor. You'll want to cut in the cream cheese first since the grated butter won't take very long to mix into the flour.

For the glaze, I brought freshly squeezed orange juice to a boil with sugar. This idea came from a muffin recipe I've made before, and I liked the way the muffins tasted and looked with the sheen and the orangey and slightly sticky coating. I don't know if I'd use this again because it made the tops soft the next day. An alternative would be to thin apricot preserves with a bit of water (heat until hot) or just use the glaze the recipe suggests.

The scones were nice and light, and just sweet enough to make a good breakfast treat. The bananas add their own sweetness tasted good with the orange flavors. Since these are drop scones, you don't have to worry about shaping them with all the added mess that imparts. To me, that's what makes these perfect for a lazy Sunday morning.

Recipe after the jump

Print this recipe

banana scones with orange glaze
Recipe from here, adapted by me

Makes 12 scones

ingredients ~

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated rind of two oranges
1/4 cup frozen unsalted butter, grated
2 ounces chilled cream cheese, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup cream (I used 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/4 cup water)
1 cup chopped bananas
2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

directions ~
  1. Preheat an oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange rind. Sprinkle with chilled cream cheese cubes and toss to coat. Cut into flour mixture until it resembles the texture of cornmeal. Stir in grated butter to mix.

  2. Toss chopped bananas into flour-butter mixture. Pour the cream on top and mix with a spatula just until combined. Scoop twelve portions out onto the prepared baking sheet (I used a spoon, but you could use an ice cream scoop), dividing evenly. Bake until tops and bottom are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, bring orange juice and sugar just to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and cool. When scones have finished baking, brush the tops with the orange glaze. Let scones cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


21 June 2010

Make it to the Finish Line: Training Tips from Iron Girl and Fitness Magazine

Hey Readers!

I recently was invited to join in on a "webinar" hosted by Mary Anderson, Fitness director for Fitness Magazine, Judy Molnar, Race Director from Iron Girl, along with Iron Girl's official coach, Coach Troy Jacobson. They'll be hosting a presentation centering around nutrition and training tips for your first race. I've been asked by some readers about reentering the field of running, and I thought of you guys when I was asked to sit in on the talk.

The presentation ends with a Q&A session and here is where I'll be able to ask them some of your questions about nutrition, gaining a competitive edge in your racing, general training tips, fitting in training and exercise around your schedule, and more. If you have a question you'd like me to ask, leave it in the comments. Although I probably won't be able to ask every question, I'll make my way through as many of your comments as possible.

Also, Iron Girl is giving me a goodie bag filled with loads of cool stuff! I'm not sure exactly what's in it, as I'll find out on Wednesday, but they're also giving me an extra bag to giveaway to one of my readers! I'll be hosting that giveaway on either Wednesday or Thursday, when I relay the information I learn from the webinar.

Make sure to leave your questions! I'll probably be Twitting during the webinar, so if you're not already a Twit follower, go ahead and follow now.

19 June 2010

Spud Run 5k '10 Race Report

Before I begin, I'm going to ask that you please vote for me in the Recipe Rivalry. I would also appreciate if you passed the word along and got your family and friends to vote as well.

Spud Run 5k '10

Coming off a rather dissatisfying 5k (only because I knew I was capable of more) the idea of running another 5k greatly appealed to me. I've never run two races so close together, but after talking it over I decided that I didn't feel dead and I should do it. My goal time was 23:28, or a sub 24.

The only obstacles in my way with this race wasn't vehicle issues, but a lack of power due to the storm that blew by the night before. Sucks, but I roll with the fist bumps and don't let it get me down. I did get an amazing 9 hours of sleep since I went to bed at 9 pm, so waking up at 0635 felt great.

Spud Run 5k '10

Mile 1 - 7.34
ALL MILE SPLITS WERE MARKED. DID YOU HEAR THAT, CHICAGO? (This race was also a fund raiser, so anyone who gets mad at me for ragging on a $40 race with 1,200 entrants, cannot.)

Anyway. I could tell that I started off pretty fast. This race was just as fast as Chicago, but with less people. I wanted to push the pace and hang on as long as possible, so I did without feeling like death.

Mile 2 - 7.54
I drove the course the day before and noted that mile 2 was marked right as it changed over to 2.1. Don't know about the accuracy and I didn't feel as if I slowed down that much, but whatevs.

Mile 3.1 - 8.30
That works out to a 7.43 minute for the last mile, which wasn't fast enough to get my goal time. The only reason I ran a sub-24 was because I really kicked it in at the end, which is always great but I'd rather have more of an insurance with an overall faster pace. I always say that I could have run faster, and I know I can definitely run faster miles, so I wasn't pleased by that aspect of this race. I was happy with my time, all things considered, because I won 1st in my age group again!

Total Time - 23:58

Spud Run 5k '10

For this mile, though, I felt like an actual competitive racer. I zeroed in on two ladies (who weren't in my AG, actually, but whatever) and decided it made sense to catch up and pass them. I've been in a competitive rut where I refrain from caring if I pass people because I'm "only racing for time", and I couldn't get myself to push during the end of the race. This is one aspect of my racing I'm working on because I really want to race competitively. In order to do this, I need to push beyond my comfort zone and realize that I may feel crappy for only a bit at the end, but that's just what a person has to do if they want to race well.

I've also come to the point where I MUST focus on speed work more than I have been if I want to improve. On the running front I've done well, but my running will greatly benefit by added speed training to increase my foot turnover and smooth out my stride. Not only that, but I need add in some strength training, too.

Spud Run 5k '10

I'm also really proud of my brother, who snagged 3rd place in his age group with a time of 22:13! Way to go, little bro! This was faster than his time in Chicago (I forget what that was) and the Sunburst. (All his running accomplishments are courtesy of me, who got him started.)

I'm still chasing a 23:23.


18 June 2010

Jim Gibbons Traffic Jam 5k '10

Please vote for me in the Recipe Rivalry. You can vote one time everyday from now to the 23rd. Thanks!

Jim Gibbons Traffic Jam 5k

So I hadn't run in 5 or so days, I wasn't feeling particularly rested, and to top that off by the time we got to Chicago it was 5:30 (race starts at 6:25) and I didn't get to warm up like I wanted. Whatever.

My plan was to try and keep my brother in sight for as long as possible (he was attempting a sub 22) but I lost him after mile 1. Way to wear all black, bro.

In fact, I had no idea where mile 1 was. Or mile 2. Or mile 3. All of which were VERY CLEARLY MARKED last year. Now I was left running by feel, which isn't fun when you aren't feeling well. The good news is that during mile 2 I didn't feel like I was slowing down since the other runners weren't passing me like a communal tidal wave.

My time was 24:23. I feel really bad about that because it's a minute slower than the time someone called for me to run, though the splits averaged out to 7:50s, which is definitely faster than my time last year, so it wasn't too bad. I know I can do better, though.

I found out just a moment ago that I took first in my age group! Granted, the 1st and 2nd winner overall for the women's were also in my age group, leaving them ineligible to claim the AG award, but I'll take it. I was about a minute and thirty seconds faster than 2nd place, so that was good running on my part.

To finish the evening, we headed over to a restaurant to watch the Lakers win again! Pretty cool finish to our trip.

17 June 2010

Recipe Rivalry -- Time To Vote!

Decisions! Decisions! The goal of the challenge was to find unique and interesting ways to add the legumes into the every day menu. And the goal of this post is to remind you to VOTE - everyday - once a day (literally, one vote a day only) - until the 23rd. For me! Heh. (If you're one of the first 500 to vote, you win a free bag of dry peas or lentils -- hop to it!) Click here to vote

But I digress.

It turns out that picking "the one" to vote on proved more daunting a task than coming up with "the six" needed for the contest itself. That means visions of legumes and their use yet dance in my head - expect to see more recipes in future posts, heh heh.

So, just as I had a time deciding between which recipes made up the "six", I struggled with which of the six to select as "the one" (selection for the contest).

I loved the complex taste of the first two (lentils made risotto style and the lentil olive salad) along with the ease of preparation.

I drooled over the thought of chowing down on the enchiladas and the rangoons.

Yet the marriage of textures and flavors in the spring rolls along with the fun of sprouting lentils caused me to lean to this being the pièce de résistance.

In addition to the fun ways the legumes were used was the ease with which they would be added to any party menu.

Yet, as I mused over this and that with the five, I kept coming back to the ease, the taste, the texture and multi-use nature of "the one" - the roasted garlic and lentil bechamel.

In my post, it was used as a sauce for fettuccine paired with roasted tomatoes - a sensational taste and texture combination - and also a sauce for poached eggs.

Upon weighing whether to use the sauce I created kept popping up. For instance, it could be the base for an enchilada sauce - red or green; change the herbs and it becomes a new taste sensation altogether; add cheese and use it for an alfredo topping on pizza, or mixed with pasta and baked for macaroni and cheese.

So given the simplicity of the basic recipe and, by its very nature, the variations an inventive mind can create (I know many of you probably have thought of a few), I decided it would be "the one" showcased for the contest.

So win, lose, or draw I hope I have helped broadened the way lentils will grace the tables of whoever happens upon this blog.

Please pass the link to voting along to your friends and family, and ask them to vote, too (every day!). Every vote counts, and I need your help!

Vote for me in the Recipe Rivalry!


16 June 2010

Lifetime Supply of Dry Peas & Lentils Giveaway Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway! The winner has been chosen:

random number

Congrats to Jannifer! Please send your mailing info to caudagaliATyahooDOTcom so I can pass along your info.

Again, I appreciate the support everyone has shown throughout this contest. Please remember to mark your calendars for June 17th (tomorrow) and spread the word to vote for me, She Runs, She Eats, in the Recipe Rivalry.


USA Dry Pea & Lentil Recipe Rivalry


15 June 2010

Greek Festival Eats '10

Today's the last day to enter the Lifetime Supply of Dry Peas & Lentils Giveaway! Head on over to enter.

Greek Festival

I spent this past weekend at the local Greek Festival in South Bend. I originally went for the food (really for the desserts, honestly), but enjoyed the atmosphere just as much as what I ate. I was a bit camera shy so I didn't capture the atmosphere to share with you as much as I wanted, though I'll get better about that.

Some festivals leave you feeling as you've entered the third world of carny-ism, like you can't wait to get home and take a shower to wash away the memories. But this festival left you with a wonderfully calm, joyful feeling. Despite the fact that you were surrounded by people you didn't know, there wasn't a sense of awkwardness of being disconnected guest at someone else's party. For example, when you go to a restaurant it's you, your party, you have a good time, eat and leave, but you have to interaction with the table next to you. Here, although you were there for yourself, you didn't get a sense that you weren't part of the enjoyment happening with the group next to you, or that you were isolated from the majority of parties.

Other than the rejection from the local cops when we were stuck in the mud (our car, not us) to offer aid of any sort, there was no lack of concern and elbow grease from the average church member when they saw our plight. A ready team of volunteers grouped to help problem solve, and when their efforts proved futile they called in the forces, i.e., a son who had a truck and a "tow pull" to resolve the situation. In their self-imposed need to apologize, they offered us tickets for an abundance of free food for the following day, in addition to drinks and food while we waited for help to come. Additionally, the next afternoon when we came, they refused to take our money for the entrance fee when they remembered who we were. And who can leave a place like that not feeling satisfied inside and out from not only the food, but the genuine love and care that was generated from the people present towards one another. They sought to make strangers feel like friends and friends feel like honored guests. Even watching the grandsons with the very old grandmothers, and the daughters taking care of their mothers, and the favorite uncle taking interest in the small children of his family, was an unexpected but welcomed experience that epitomizes why the festival left you with such a sense of happiness and well being.

Greek Festival

For my dinner choice I went with a gyro, which I'm sure I could have picked something other than what probably was a typical choice, though I wanted the taste of the warm pita bread and the tzatziki.

Greek Festival
Greek Festival

But the lamb! I thank Mary for sacrificing her little lamb because it was incredible. The meat was incredibly succulent and tender, and definitely was worth getting again. The sides, Greek green beans and rice, were simply just sides and not worth getting into. The salad was a bit skimpy, though we found out later that this year's festival sold the most food so they were probably getting low on everything. Despite the rain, the turnout was great and the tables were pretty much packed. So I'll pretend we returned the next day for the salad, though that's not true.

What I liked about the salad was that the vinaigrette wasn't incredibly tart, nor extremely greasy, and definitely not sweet, but just a nice blend of light flavors. The feta cheese wasn't as salty and overpowering as feta often has a tendency to taste, so it definitely wasn't the abundance of feta that made everything better.

Greek Festival

See that sign? Greek coffee? YES. I didn't drink enough of those. Originally I meant to get the frappe, but I opted not to after seeing the $5 price tag, vs $2 for the hot coffee. The frappe can easily be made at home, so I made the wise choice.

Greek Festival
Greek Festival

This may not be everyone's cup of coffee, but as one of the ladies who made my cup the next day said, "After drinking Greek coffee you see all the wonderful things of life!" Who could refuse that?

To make Greek coffee, finely ground coffee beans (to be authentic, find actual Greek coffee) are added with some sugar (his standard for preparing the coffee was metrios, or medium, made with one spoonful of coffee to sugar, with additional sugar packets available if you desired your coffee to be glykys or vari glykos, almost honey sweet. If requested, he probably would have prepared the coffee sketos, without sugar, strong and bitter) are added to a briki with water and stirred once (and never again, even after it's served). The briki then heated over a low heat and, holding the briki by its long handle, heated until the foam bubbles and rises to the very top and immediately removed from eat. Traditionally, you would wait a minute for the coffee grounds to settle before pouring into cups, but for the festival there wasn't enough time to wait. Yes, my first sip included coffee grounds, yet it wasn't that disgusting.

I never really sweeten my coffee unless I want to enhance the flavor (like in a vanilla coffee, or coconut coffee), but when the sugar is added during the brewing process it doesn't taste as harsh. I really enjoyed the strength of the coffee, which I'd put somewhere between an espresso and regular drip brewed coffee. I miss not being able to drink it, so I'll be looking to buy a briki soon.

If you want to make your own, follow these instructions.

Greek Festival
Greek Festival

Next up was the loukoumathes, Greek honey puffs. Dough balls are fried and tossed with a honey sauce and sprinkled with cinnamon. Unlike traditional fried doughnuts, these were spongy on the inside and crispy on the outside. These weren't delicate, and not only did they retain their shape but help up to the syrup without turning soggy. Wonderful stuff!

Greek Festival

Next up was a pecan blossom, phyllo baskets filled with glazed pecans and topped with honey. There seemed to be a layer of a ground and coarsely chopped pecans underneath the top layer, and it had a powdery, dry taste, but nowhere close to tasting like sawdust. Just a different, unexpected taste.

Greek Cookies

The top cookies, finikia (melomakarona), and kourambiedes were given to us after our car got stuck in the mud.

The finikia, honey-dipped cookies, a butter cookie flavored with spices, orange juice, and brandy or cognac are formed into ovals and dipped into a honey syrup. The crumb is moist, yet still reminiscent of a sandy fine-textured butter cookie. The syrup was light and very good.

Kourambiedes, a Greek Christmas cookie, is a rich butter cookie flavored with brandy (not really detectable) and doused in confectioners' sugar. Unlike "snowballs" these don't include ground nuts (there is a ground almond Greek cookie, though). The texture was light and crisp and very good.

The bottom dessert in the above picture is kataifi, shredded phyllo with honey and chopped nuts. Despite its appearance, this is NOT shredded wheat, which we joked about quite a bit as we ate it. We wouldn't have tried this except that a man was carrying a tray and walking around the tables, so we bought two. I was surprised at how much I liked it, though what's not to love about the crispiness of shredded phyllo moistened with honey and filled with nuts? In fact, next time I get shredded wheat I'm going to break it up and serve toss it with toasted pecans and drizzle it with honey. My version will include a splash of milk, most likely.

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the different Greek food that I tried as much as I enjoyed experiencing it firsthand. If you're near a Greektown or find a Greek festival taking place where you live, don't hesitate to go!

14 June 2010

Foodbuzz Tastemaker: Buitoni Riserva Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli

Thanks to Foodbuzz' Tastemaker program and Buitoni, I had the opportunity to test Buitoni's new premium frozen meal lines thanks to a coupon. I chose to test the Shrimp & Lobster with Garlic Butter Sauce because I love seafood, and the box says it's made with real Maine lobster. The ingredient list lists shrimp third and and lobster meat eighth, plus there's a lobster base further down the list. Overall, the ingredient list wasn't too bad, and most of the items were recognizable.

Buitoni Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Garlic Butter Sauce
Buitoni Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Garlic Butter Sauce

This is a "complete meal for two", with about 7-8 ravioli per person. Included is a packet of ravioli and a sauce packet. The sauce packets is added to the pot of water that's heated to a boil, then the ravioli are stirred in and cooked for a quick 5 minutes. Spoon the ravioli out into a bowl, open the sauce packet (carefully, because it'll be hot) and pour on top and toss to coat (I added the parsley on my own). Pretty simple.

Buitoni Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Garlic Butter Sauce

Firstly, I was pleased with the amount of lobster and shrimp the ravioli had, and that's always a good sign because oftentimes the main ingredients are rather skimpy. The flavor was good, and the ricotta filling wasn't overpowering to the flavor of the seafood. Unfortunately, I felt that the garlic butter sauce overwhelmed the flavors of the filling, and you couldn't quite taste the shrimp or lobster when you ate the ravioli with the sauce. The sauce tasted as good as you would expect from a frozen meal, but if it had been a bit lighter, to allow the filling to be highlighted, I would have enjoyed it more. Honestly, though, the consistency and taste almost reminded me of the garlic dipping sauce you get with pizza.

Buitoni Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Garlic Butter Sauce

Here you can see more of the filling. I found myself enjoying the ravioli sans sauce more than altogether.

So I didn't hate this, but it wasn't remarkable enough to make me want to buy it again. Thanks to Foodbuzz Tastemaker and Buitoni for letting me review their product!


13 June 2010

A Lifetime Supply of Dry Peas & Lentils Giveaway!

lentil pack

Now that I've shown you guys some new ways to cook with lentils, a lifetime supply of dried peas and lentils won't send your kids or live-in lentil haters searching for a new home. Thanks to the USA Dry Peas, Lentils & Chickpeas Council, the host of the Recipe Rivalry, one of my readers can win a lifetime supply.

lentil pack

One aspect of this challenge I really liked was the variety of lentil and split pea products I received. Like lentil flour. Did you know there was lentil flour? I didn't. I'll be posting a recipe featuring it soon. And did you know there are lentils matching all the colors of the rainbow? Okay, I exaggerate, though my eyes were opened to the many different types I hadn't been aware of, as I primarily cooked with brown lentils in the past. Seriously, this is a great prize, so make sure you enter.

Also, I can't thank the Lentil Council enough for giving me this opportunity, and I hope I used their products to the best of my ability for this challenge.

Giveaway Details

Now here's how you can help me. The contest isn't over yet! I still need to pick which recipe out of the six I made to enter into the contest, and I'd like your help. Take a look at the recipes linked below and pick your favorite, then follow these instructions for up to 4 entries:
  • Leave a comment telling me your favorite recipe -- 1 entry

  • Blog about this giveaway, linking back to this page, and comment again letting me know (include a link to your post) -- 1 entry

  • Fan She Runs, She Eats on Facebook and comment to let me know -- 1 entry

  • Follow me on Twitter and Twit about this giveaway -- 1 entry

Deadline for entry is on Tuesday, June 15th. I'll randomly choose a winner and post on Wednesday. Good luck!
(Open to US residents only)

Voting begins on Recipe Rivalry on Thursday, June 17th. I'll post a reminder on that day.

lentils with jalapenos, cilantro, and queso fresco
1. Lentils with Jalapeno, Cilantro, and Queso Fresco

lentil olive salad with fresh mozzarella
2. Lentil Olive Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

lentil filled enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce
3. Lentil Enchiladas with Homemade Ancho Chile Sauce

lentil sprout spring rolls with shrimp
4. Lentil Sprout Spring Rolls with Shrimp

roasted garlic and lentil bechamel sauce with roasted tomatoes
5. Roasted Garlic and Lentil Bechamel Sauce with Roasted Tomatoes

split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce
6. Split Green Pea Crab Rangoons with Sticky Ginger-Garlic Dipping Sauce

USA Dry Pea & Lentil Recipe Rivalry


12 June 2010

Split Green Pea Crab Rangoons with Sticky Ginger-Garlic Dipping Sauce

split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce

My sixth and final recipe for the Recipe Rivalry is finally here! It's been quite the experience, and I hope I've given you new and unique ways to cook with lentils and split peas that will please every palate.

Today, I present you with Split Pea Crab Rangoons. You know those awesome crunchy wontons filled with a gooey cheese filling at Chinese buffets? Now you can make them yourself, and a little healthier. The filling consists of neufchatel cream cheese, crab meat, green onions, garlic, and split peas that are cooked until tender and mashed. I went with traditional Chinese flavorings here of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper.

split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce

It took a bit to finally figure out the petal pattern to form the rangoons. I was sort of able to figure it out from the pictures here, though I never got the hang of the one hand forming technique. Also, I decided not to brush all the edges with egg white, but dab just the middle edges where the wrapper connects in the middle to make assembly easier.

split pea crap rangoon mosaic

Here's a picture tutorial of how I formed the rangoons, starting with the upper left picture. Make sure you press the center firmly so the wrapper adheres together. Don't worry if the petals droop because they'll spring back up after being dropped in the oil. It's magical! I seriously had quite a bit of fun frying these edible cuties up.

split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce

Out of all the filling, I got 38 rangoons. The amount might differ based on how much filling you use. I used a tablespoon measuring spoon, but I didn't fill it all the way, aiming for about 1/2 a tablespoon to 2 teaspoons of filling. Wonton wrappers usually come 60 to a package, so you'll be set for however much you end up making.

The tray was given a quick chill in the fridge while I made the dipping sauce and heated the oil. The sauce is a super simple sticky sauce based of the sauce my mom has been making for a long time to accompany chicken. Featuring soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and fresh ginger and garlic for flavor, the sauce is boiled until reduced and thickened. The taste is incredible and goes great with the rangoons.

split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce
split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce
split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce

Frying food can be fun! When you first drop the rangoons into the hot oil, there's a bit of sizzling and bubbling going on as the petals "bloom". After 20 seconds, the rangoons begin to rise to the surface somewhat.

I opted to use a wok for the frying so the surface area would be wider and easier to remove the rangoons. Since I couldn't really keep a thermometer in to gauge the temperature of the oil, I kept an eye on the level of browning that occurred within the 50 second cooking time and adjusted the heat accordingly.

split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce

The split peas gave the filling a nice flavor without being easy to detect. Their relative neutralness gives the different ingredients a chance to come out, but they still worked together. Biting into a the crunchy outtards to the smooth filling is a treat you simply cannot deny.

split pea crab rangoon with sticky ginger-garlic dipping sauce

Thanks for reading along during the many recipes featuring lentils! Come back tomorrow for a giveaway, and start thinking about which recipe from the six I blogged about is your favorite.

Recipe after the jump.

This recipe was created as part of my involvement with the USA Dried Peas & Lentils Recipe Rivalry. I've been blogging about recipes over the past week and a half, and now I need your help to decide which recipe I should enter into the contest! Tomorrow I'll be hosting a giveaway, courtesy of the USA Dried Pea & Lentil Council, so come back and enter. Voting begins on Thursday, June 17th. Please mark your calenders and spread the word to vote for She Runs, She Eats!

1. Lentils with Jalapeno, Cilantro, and Queso Fresco
2. Lentil Olive Salad with Fresh Mozzarella
3. Lentil Enchiladas with Homemade Ancho Chile Sauce
4. Lentil Sprout Spring Rolls with Shrimp
5. Roasted Garlic and Lentil Bechamel Sauce with Roasted Tomatoes

USA Dry Pea & Lentil Recipe Rivalry

Print this recipe

Split Pea Crab Rangoons with Sticky Ginger-Garlic Dipping Sauce
Recipe by Christina Provo

Makes 30-45 rangoons

Split pea ingredients ~

1/4 cup dried split green peas
1 1/4 cup water

Crab filling ingredients ~

6 oz neufchatel cheese, room temperature
6 oz can crab meat, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1/2-1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt
pinch white pepper

For rangoon assembly ~

1 egg white
30-45 wonton wrappers

Dipping sauce ingredients ~

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed

For frying ~

1 quart vegetable (4 cups)

Directions ~
  1. Rinse split peas and place in a small pot. Add water, and bring to just a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a constant simmer and cover partially with a lid. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until tender. If water hasn't completely evaporated, drain. Smash into a smooth paste. Let cool.

  2. Meanwhile, mix together cream cheese, drained crab meat, green onions, and garlic until blended. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Blend in cooled split pea paste; cover and set aside for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

  3. Have a baking sheet ready nearby to place formed wontons. Onto the center edges on all four sides, dab lightly with egg white (this will help the wrapper stick to itself, sealing in the filling). Dollop 1 1/2-2 teaspoons split pea and crab filling onto center of wrapper. Fold sides to create a blossom, or fold diagonally and press to adhere. Place on baking sheet and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap or a slightly damp cotton towel (this keeps the wrappers from drying out -- you don't want the towel to be wet enough to made the wrappers soggy). Repeat process until filling is used up. Place baking sheet in fridge to chill for 20 minutes.

  4. In a deep pot or a wok, heat oil until it registers 350 degrees.

  5. While wontons are chilling and oil is heating, place vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic in a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once sauce reaches a boil, lower to medium heat (still maintaining a rolling boil, but mixture shouldn't come close to boiling over) and continue to cook for 15 minutes to reduce sauce. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

  6. Remove baking sheet from fridge. Place a cooling wrack on a different baking sheet and line with paper towels; position near pot of oil.

  7. Once oil registers 350 degrees, carefully drop in 3 rangoons at a time. Fry for 40-50 seconds, or until edges are golden brown and the rangoons lose their raw look. The overall tone will be a light-medium golden brown except for the edges. Remove using a slotted spoon and place on prepared baking sheet. (I placed the rangoons on their sides, held up in a line by another rangoon, to keep the bottoms from getting soggy.) Repeat with remaining rangoons, cooking just 3 at a time. Pay attention to how the rangoons fry, and adjust heat accordingly if they're browning too fast or too slow.

Serve with dipping sauce.

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