30 January 2012

SneekPeeq Giveaway


A sneeqpeek representative contacted me last week about hosting a giveaway for my readers. After reading up on it and looking around their site, I decided that it would be a great prize for you guys.

Sneekpeeq is a virtual boutique offering limited time products for a great value. You have the option of purchasing through three sub-store categories, living, style, and taste. Right now in the Taste boutique, I can decide between a selection of gourmet chocolates, cookies, and toffees. Each day you receive twenty "peeqs" to use throughout the store. To use them, simply click on an item's price tag to peeq at the discount price. If you like the item, add it to your cart.


For my readers, SneekPeeq is offering one lucky winner a chance to win a $10 discount to go shopping. It doesn't sound like much, but I can say with certainty that it goes a long way when combined with the marked down prices.
This offer is valid for new sneeqpeek members. Although only one person can win the $10 prize, SneekPeeq is offering a 20% discount for everyone who registers. Here's how:

- To register for SneekPeeq and be eligible for the giveaway, click this link and follow the instructions - http://bit.ly/wS0hO1
- Upon signing up, you'll receive your 20% discount

Criteria -

- SneekPeeq is currently limited to U.S., therefore the giveaway is only open to U.S. residents
- Remember, to be eligible for the giveaway and promotional discount, you must be a new sneekpeeq member
- Giveaway ends on Wednesday, February 1, 2012, at 12 p.m.
- The winner will be announced on my blog. Please check on Wednesday or Thursday to see if you won

Good luck!

27 January 2012

quinoa salad with toasted almonds

quinoa salad with toasted almonds

In need of a healthy and tasty lunch? Look no further than this salad, featuring protein-packed quinoa and toasted almonds. Using Martha Stewart's recipe as my starting point, I switched out various vegetables and added other ingredients. I also used dried thyme instead of fresh. Otherwise, I followed the cooking method exactly as written.

quinoa salad with toasted almonds

The ingredients were prepped and I began sauteing the green onions, onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes. After the onions soften, the quinoa is added along with water, thyme, and salt. Halfway through, sliced zucchini is mixed into the quinoa. The total cooking time to cook the quinoa was about 17-20 minutes.

As the quinoa cooked, bacon was cooking in a skillet and almonds were toasting in the oven. The remaining ingredients were prepped and ready to be tossed with the quinoa.

quinoa salad with toasted almonds

Place the cooked quinoa into a large mixing bowl to toss with additional ingredients.

The flavor of the thyme with the heat of the red pepper is really delicious. I would recommend that you do not leave out the toasted almonds because they add a lot of flavor and crunch. Each portion is packed with a lime wedge to be squeezed over the salad before serving, which adds another dimension of flavor. I would recommend adding chopped flat-leaf parsley, too.

Besides packing for lunches, this would make an excellent light dinner or tasty side dish.

quinoa salad with toasted almonds


25 January 2012

homemade quinoa granola

homemade quinoa granola

I hadn't planned on blogging about this granola. I made it on a whim for breakfast since cereal isn't very filling and I don't always want to eat eggs (hot oatmeal doesn't do it for me). This is probably the least complicated recipe I've made, but it is one of the best. It has quinoa for a little protein, and is packed with fruit and nuts. I didn't use much much quinoa because I wasn't sure of the proportions, so next time I'll add more.

homemade quinoa granola

To make this granola, dry ingredients, minus the dried fruit, are mixed in a large bowl. The wet ingredients, butter, pancake syrup, and a little orange juice, are heated together until the butter is melted, then poured over the oatmeal and mixed until coated thoroughly. Little clusters will begin to form. Simply spread it out on a greased baking sheet and bake for a quick thirty minutes. The granola will be lightly golden.

homemade quinoa granola

I like how the clusters of oats are studded with quinoa. The quinoa doesn't have too strong of a taste when it's eaten like this.

I've been craving crunchy granola bars and I just might have to play around with this recipe to see what I can do about it. The quinoa will definitely help with the crunchiness.

homemade quinoa granola

When I think of granola I think of crunchy clusters of sweet, crispy oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit. Well, there are clusters here - many of them. It ended up not being as sweet as I expected, but the sweetness of the dried fruit helped out. Instead of using honey like I normally do I subbed it with pancake syrup. That's probably why it wasn't as sweet.

I ate a bowl with Greek yogurt, milk, and fresh fruit. I didn't mind that the granola itself wasn't very sweet because I don't want to ingest a sugar bomb so early in the day anyway. Try it out for yourself if you want a healthy, tasty granola.

Print this recipe

homemade quinoa granola
Recipe by Christina Provo

Yields 4-5 cups

Ingredients -
3 cups quick oats
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pancake syrup
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons orange juice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 300°. Grease a rimmed baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix together oatmeal, quinoa, and almonds.

  2. In a medium, microwavable bowl, heat the pancake syrup with the butter, orange juice, and pinch of salt for 2 minutes on high heat, stirring occasionally until butter melts. Pour over oatmeal mixture and stir until oats are coated and clusters begin to form.

  3. Spread evenly onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and stir granola. Bake for an additional 15 minutes; granola should be lightly golden and crisp. Let cool for 10 minutes before mixing with dried fruit.


16 January 2012

Emeril Lagasse's Apple-of-My-Eye Crisp

Apple Of My Eye Crisp

So, it snowed this week. I guess that means winter is finally here, so now I have to put up with the flaky white stuff, winds, and chilling temperatures for the next two-three months. It's not so bad when I get around to baking, which is what I did this weekend. My long run was on Saturday and I was anticipating cold, anger, and rage, so I decided to make a dessert to look forward to eating afterward.

I didn't want a cake, tart, or some sort of pretentious dessert that takes five hours to prepare, just something warm and comforting. After reaching that conclusion, my mind shifted to cobblers, crisps, and the like. That led me to my final destination of Emeril Lagasse's Apple-Of-My-Eye Crisp from There's A Chef In My Soup!, a cookbook I had given my brothers a very long time ago. Lil bro had often made the apple crisp and it became everyone's favorite.

Apple Of My Eye Crisp

What I like about this recipe is the perfect buttery, crispy topping, and the tender apples become that are infused with flavor and suspended in caramely sauce. I forgot that my brother always doubles the topping, uses more brown sugar and less granulated, and increases the apple filling by half, so I made it again yesterday. I'll include the recipe for the normal amount of apples and double the crisp, because the best part of a crisp is... the crisp. Right?

Apple Of My Eye Crisp

To make the topping, mix together flour, a pinch of salt, and both brown and white sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse, then chill in the fridge while you prepare the apples.

Apple Of My Eye Crisp

The recipe calls for two types of apples, Granny Smiths and Golden Delicious, though I used Granny Smiths and a firm red apple suitable for baking. The apples are thickly sliced to keep them from breaking down during baking. The apples are then tossed with lemon juice, then the sugar-corn starch-cinnamon-ginger mixture.

Apple Of My Eye Crisp

It doesn't look very saucy, but as the apples cook the moisture is released, which helps create the juicy, thick, and spicy sauce.

Apple Of My Eye Crisp

Carefully spread the crisp topping over the apples, then bake for an hour and fifteen minutes until the apples are bubbly and the topping is a deep brown.

Apple Of My Eye Crisp

After it bakes, you might be tempted to dig right in. It smells delicious and looks tempting, but you'll probably burn your mouth and the filling won't have set, so let it rest for a little bit. If you don't have any, now would be the perfect time to go on a whipped cream run. You can eat it plain but the cream goes really well with this.

Next time it snows and you're looking out the window in disgust, don't bother leaving. Just head on in to the kitchen and get baking. In particular, this apple crisp.

Print this recipe

Apple-of-My-Eye Crisp
From There's A Chef In My Soup!

Yield - 6-8 Servings

Ingredients -

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Granny Smith apples
3 red baking apples
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon corn starch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x9-inch baking dish; set aside.

  2. Place the flour, brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, whisking to combine. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate crumb topping while preparing remaining ingredients.

  3. Peel apples, slice in half, then cut out the core. Place one apple half on the cutting board and cut lengthwise in six slices. Place the slices in a large mixing bowl and toss with the lemon juice.

  4. Mix the remaining granulated sugar, cornstarch, and spices together. Toss with the apples until well-coated. Pour the apples into the prepared baking dish and crumble the topping evenly over the mixture.

  5. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Carefully remove the dis from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.


08 January 2012

Running Recap

This was a decent week of running. It started out really cold, snowy, and wintry, but the latter week warmed up nicely and wasn't too bad. I hope it won't get much worse, though you never know around here.

Saturday marked the fourth week of running over twenty miles. It's a doable distance on four days of running a week, though I'll be adding a fifth day soon to prepare myself for running more often. Minor changes for 5-a-day weeks include adding short runs of three miles and reducing the mileage in my midweek runs to one four, five, and six-miler instead of two five or six milers. The long run remains the same.

As for the long runs, I've gotten through three seven-milers and an 8.5 miler pretty well, which leaves me hopeful for half marathon training. In two weeks, I'll alternate between eight and nine milers to slowly increase my endurance.

Most of my runs have been at a slightly quick, yet still manageable pace. I start off slow, then speed up during the latter half of a run. While it feels alright, and considering I haven't done any speed work it's not too bad, I realize I need to focus on maintaining a legitimate slow pace. This week, I'll run two of my runs at a 9:30 pace, specifically the long run and a midweek run. The remaining two will include strides each mile, and a mid-range pace run, so something around 8:40-50. I'll see how that goes.

Monday - 5 miles

Wednesday - 5.6 miles

Thursday - 6 miles

Saturday - 7 miles

Total - 23.6 miles

03 January 2012

Oh Nuts Pistachio Rum Balls

Oh Nuts Pistachio Rum Balls

I still remember the day I tried my first rum ball. It was part of a Christmas cookie package and the aroma of the rum permeated the tin. It was chewy, strong, and delicious.

Immediately afterward, I looked up recipes and was amazed by how simple rum balls are to make. It's almost like a Larabar in texture, though very unlike a Larabar except for the nuts. Do you think they'd ever make a rum ball Larabar?

Oh Nuts Pistachio Rum Balls
Oh Nuts Pistachio Rum Balls

Oh Nuts had sent me these roasted, unsalted pistachios back in December. I had thrown ideas around, never settling on anything. Time eventually flew by and I still hadn't made anything with them. As New Year's approached, I decided the proper use for them would be in a rum ball.

Oh Nuts Pistachio Rum Balls

Rum balls are classified as a no-bake cookie. All you do is finely grind the nuts, finely grind vanilla wafers (or puffed rice cereal, shortbread cookies, etc.), and mix the two with confectioners' sugar, a bit of cocoa powder. The dough is made by stirring in rum and corn syrup. I hadn't finely ground the nuts enough, or the wafers, so I think it affected the consistency. I added a little extra water, corn syrup, and rum. I wanted to add more rum, but I hoped the amount I did add (1/3 cup total) would become stronger as the dough refrigerated overnight.

Oh Nuts Pistachio Rum Balls

When I started rolling them out, I tasted a bit of the dough. There was a little bite of rumminess in the back of your throat, but it wasn't as strong as I remembered. I ended up liking the flecks of pistachio and was glad I didn't grind them more finely after all.

Oh Nuts Pistachio Rum Balls

You can coat these in anything you want, like melted chocolate, chopped nuts, sprinkles... I chose cocoa powder mixed with confectioners' sugar.

Oh Nuts Pistachio Rum Balls

It's a good thing I didn't add more rum or else nobody would have enjoyed them. I'll have to make myself a stash of rum balls some other time.

The texture on these was great. They held their shape, but it was very soft and chewy. They're addictive, though I only managed 5 over the course of the night. I bet these would be great to fuel a run, don't you think?

If you're interested in the recipe, check out the recipe at Joy of Baking.

01 January 2012

2012 Resolutions?

Pertaining strictly for my blog, I asked myself if I would bother making any cooking and/or running resolutions. I usually don't make resolutions on New Year's I typically make them up throughout the year. As I've found with my running schedule, though, I seem to stick with a plan compared to making schedules up on the fly so perhaps I should create a list after all. Here goes.

Cooking -
  1. Learn techniques -
    I'm decent enough on the cooking and baking front, though I don't feel that I always have basic techniques down. What I have been meaning to do in the past is work my way through a "how to learn everything" cookbook. Martha Stewart has her cooking and baking handbooks, and the Culinary Institute of America has their versions. There is no particular reason why I've always wanted to do this other than to develop a comprehensive culinary knowledge. I don't have any plans to formally enter the culinary world, though I've always wanted to work at a bakery/cafe because it seems fun. Basically, I would like to learn the techniques that separate the chef from the at-home cook, and maybe one day enter the Gordon Ramsay cooking contest show on FOX (not Hell's Kitchen, because the idea of running a kitchen really does sound like hell).

  2. Cook and bake more consistently -
    Maybe not so much bake, because who needs that many sweets lying around? But cooking... I get really lax. At best, I make up pasta dishes comprised of sauteed vegetables, maybe a protein, and the pasta. It's weak, and not worth writing home about. Or posting about. Part of this problem comes from a lack of planning, general laziness, or feeling like if I don't create a full meal (with a main entree and sides), it's not a meal. Instead, I could make a nice little stuffed chicken with a vegetable side in 45 minutes. Like I said, I'm just lazy and lack the foresight.

    Bread. I used to bake bread religiously, then I fell off the bandwagon. I rarely eat bread nowadays because store-bought bread repulses me. It just isn't that good, and if it is good it costs $5 a loaf. Why pay that much for one loaf when I can buy five pounds of bread flour for approximately the same price? Also, bread making is an art, particularly artisan bread. I've made a few baguettes in the past, and though I really like the no-knead bread technique I want to learn how to really make traditional artisan break.

    Pies. Pies are my weakness. The pies I made for Thanksgiving were the best. Why? Because the bottom crusts were crispy. I baked them for much longer than the recipe said to, otherwise it would have been a failure like usual. I don't know why this is. Maybe a pie a month, at least.

I can't think of anymore cooking resolutions right now.

Running -
  1. Training -
    I use the word "training" very lightly. Mostly what I mean is that I want to be consistent and build a respectable (for myself) weekly mileage base, like around 30-35 miles per week. I'd like to incorporate speed work, long runs, and whatever on a semi-regular basis so I can be decent at races if I choose to run them, without actually training for any particular race. What I'm saying is that I want to be ready for spur-of-the-moment decisions. I'd also incorporate rest weeks/months where I just run without worrying about speed and crap.

    December has been a good month. While the grand total of 94 miles isn't impressive, it represents consistency and the fact that I created a plan for myself that I stuck to. I'm hoping I'll remain consistent as the weather begins to deteriorate. I'm not sure I have any motivation right now other than the realization that I'm no longer young and it's not going to get any easier, so I better do it now. There's nothing like fear to get you moving.

  2. Races -
    Um... My racing schedule is tentative. There is the Sunburst half marathon that I've always wanted to do, but couldn't because I never ran enough during the winter to support a decent training plan. I have until the end of January to register for the earliest entry fee of $55, which is the most I'd ever consider paying for a half. I'm saying this because the cost of the race is relative to the effort I'm putting into it. If I know I've slacked off and I won't race as well as I want to, I'm not going to sign up for an expensive race.

    Why Sunburst? Sunburst is important to me because if it wasn't for this race, I would never have started running. I trained for it all by myself using a 5k plan from Cooking Light, managed to not get injured thanks to my lack of knowledge (I had no concept of pace -- the first 400s I ever ran were horrible), ran two 5ks leading up to Sunburst, and finally ran the Sunburst 5k in 24:54. It means a lot to me.

    Other races are up in the air. I considered the Holy Half in late March, though I'll most likely not run it. There is a half in May I considered, but I'm not signed up for it yet and I still don't know how I feel about it. As for any 5ks and 10ks, my lack of motivation is prompting me to bag racing all year, like in 2011. I'm just not there mentally, and I'm okay with it.

Cool story, right?

Now that I have nothing more to say, I'd like to hear about your goals. What are they, and what do they mean to you?

Happy New Year, folks.
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