28 March 2012

Mocha Oatmeal Muffins from Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook

Mocha Oatmeal Muffins

Note to self: It's not a good idea to bake when you are sick. I turned a simple muffin recipe into an almost two hour venture. I managed not to actually screw the recipe up, though I made an adjustment that altered the recipe a little. More on that later.

Project PB&J logo

Artisan Books is one of our sponsors for Project PB&J, so to promote them Cindy and I decided to bake a few recipes from the cookbook the winners will receive. I learned about Back in the Day Bakery from Cindy and have been mesmerized with their recipes ever since.


A long, long time ago, I tried cooking oatmeal with coffee. I learned about it through various blogs and thought it sounded good, but in reality it tasted too bitter and fostered my hatred of oatmeal. But when I saw these mocha oatmeal muffins from Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, I knew I needed to give the combination a second chance. (Thanks for copying the recipe, Cindy!)

Because muffins are baked (duh), the coffee flavor would have more of an opportunity to mellow and blend with the other flavors. These are described as a breakfast muffin, which makes sense because people often drink coffee and eat oatmeal (separately) for breakfast. However, 'mocha' isn't just coffee - it's chocolate and coffee... For breakfast. But that's okay, since we who eat chocolate tend to be slimmer.

(I really don't eat chocolate very often. I don't eat salads, either... I digress.)

Mocha Oatmeal Muffins

So I carefully measured out the ingredients, double- and triple-checking. When I'm sick, I tend to overlook the most obvious details and make boneheaded mistakes. I did replace half the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat intentionally. The one I'm-going-to-do-it-anyway-and-hope-it-doesn't-mess-anything-up" move I made was to substitute whole oats for the quick oats called for in the recipe. I measured the same amount and coarsely ground them. Once the batter was mixed together and I filled the 12-cup muffin tin, I had extra batter remaining.

I encounter this "problem" quite a bit when I make muffins and cupcakes, and I don't know how it happens. Perhaps I ended up with more oats than the recipe called for, subbed in white whole wheat flour, or I didn't fill up each muffin tin as much due to the makeshift parchment liners.

But I didn't yell or curse, because I had mini cupcake liners! As the first batch baked, I filled almost two dozen mini muffin tins with the remaining batter. They're pretty cute. I'm pretty satisfied.

I liked the way the muffins baked up. There was a subtle tang from the buttermilk, which keeps the crumb moist and tender. The mocha flavor is always a favorite flavor combo of mine, so of course I enjoyed that aspect of this muffin. While they might blur the line between a muffin and a cupcake because of the addition of chocolate, the level of sweetness places it back in the muffin category. It's clearly not a dessert if we're judging it by how sweet it was, though it's special enough to perk up your mornings.

You will not be disappointed if you make these. And I'm going to stop talking because I'm sick and shouldn't be rambling.

Mocha Oatmeal Muffins

Recipe after the jump.

Mocha Oatmeal Muffins
Recipe from Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients -

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats, plus extra for sprinkling
4 large eggs
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup freshly brewed strong coffee
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray 12 large muffin cups with cooking spray, or fill them with paper liners.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until thoroughly combined. Stir in the oats.

  3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, buttermilk, coffee, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts with as few gentle strokes as possible.

  4. With a large ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them approximately two-thirds full. Sprinkle the tops with oats and turbinado sugar.

  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops or golden. The tops should be firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

  6. Turn the muffins out of the pan and enjoy warm or at room temperature. The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.


26 March 2012

Overcome A Running Slump By Trying Something New

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Spartan Race for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

We have all experienced a running slump at some point in our lives. Sometimes we can work our way through it in a few weeks, other times it lingers for months. It is not easy to find the motivation to continue putting one foot in front of the other when running starts feeling monotonous.


If you are currently going through a rut, one way to work through it is to try something new and unfamiliar. If you can't think of something new, you might consider a different kind of race, one that focuses less on running and more on the experience, such as the Spartan Race series. Spartan Races are challenging trail races of varying distances that include obstacles of all kind, like water, mud, and fire. Expect to get down and dirty, maybe even a little bruised, and expect to challenge yourself differently than you have before.

Go ahead, ask me what I'm smoking. I admit that my idea of a good time doesn't often include mud and fire, but it would definitely be a good way to alleviate the boredom of your everyday run around the neighborhood. If you're interested, you can check out their website for a complete list of events, frequently asked questions, and much more. If you're worried that the Spartan Races would be too challenging for you, fear not - there are different distances and levels so that everyone can participate.

Have you ever completed a Spartan Race or obstacle race before? Share your experiences in the comments and let us know what it's like and what to expect!

Visit Sponsor's Site

24 March 2012

Notre Dame Holy 10k Race Report

As you may recall, I entered this race on a whim. It wasn't planned and I wasn't even sure I wanted to run it, but I'm glad I did.

The flat course loops around and through the Notre Dame campus. The constant change of scenery is nice and you'll never be alone on the course because there will always be a half marathoner somewhere along the way.

The unfortunate part is that there will always be a half marathoner somewhere along the way. During the trail portion of the race, the paths are so narrow that you're weaving in and out of clustered runners, running around puddles and more groups of runners, and making sharp turns, sometimes around... You guessed it, more runners! The issue might have been resolved had the 10kers started out first, and as the 10k field was much smaller it might not have been as bothersome to the faster half runners.

Weather-wise, I got lucky. It has been hot all week and I was worried how that would affect my race. Then on Friday it started to rain and cooled down, and by Friday evening I was assured of cool temperatures and overcast skies on race day.

Notre Dame Holy 10k

I ran a 48:51, a one minute personal record. My splits averaged 7:51.

My objective for this race was to determine where I am at in my training. For example, I felt much more fit during this race than I have during previous races. Usually, I feel like I'm hanging on the last two miles due to a lack of fitness, but today I felt strong (I was told that I looked pissed during the final .2, though).
Another example is that I didn't feel like I failed to run hard enough. Sometimes I am able to end races with a rather strong finishing sprint because I ran too timidly. Part of the problem is that I didn't have an idea for a goal pace. Running tempos has helped solve the problem (as well as input from others) and prepare me for what it feels like to run fast and strong.

Because I didn't start my watch at the beginning and because I kept hitting "lap" at the wrong mile markers, I don't have accurate mile split. I'm upset, as I really looked forward to going over my splits for this race. I'm pretty sure I ran a negative 5k the last half, though. Or maybe I didn't. Whatever.

Mentally, I don't remember much about the race. I was concentrating pretty hard on my pace, how I felt, and dodging runners that I didn't notice much else, though that wasn't a concern of mine anyway. I did keep note of a woman who had passed me around mile 3, whom I used as a rabbit. She had more of a kick the last two miles and I lost sight of her, though she was just faster than I was so I wasn't going to try and catch her.

To end on a food related note, I woke up at 6:00 AM. I ate a waffle with strawberries and syrup, followed by a cup of tea with milk and sugar. I finished that with a cup of coffee with a splash of milk. About an hour before the start of the race, I took an energy shot. Fifteen minutes before the race, and after my warm up, I ate half a packet of honey stingers. It sounds like overkill, but if there's one thing I have figured out about my racing, it's how to fuel beforehand. I know how much I need to eat so that I have enough energy to last through the race without feeling stuffed.

The end.

22 March 2012

Lazarus Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Lazarus Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are a million and one ways to make a chocolate chip cookie. You've either tried them all and are still looking, or you've found a recipe you like so much that you quit looking. I'm in the middle of the two, and when a customer of my dad's gave him a recipe for chocolate chips cookies along with a sample (a long time ago), I knew I needed to try this other version.

You have probably heard of it before. The version I made is called Lazarus Chocolate Chunk Cookies, also known as the Neiman-Marcus cookie. What makes it different from other recipes is the addition of oat flour which gives the cookie complexity without changing the texture too much. Along with chocolate chunks (or chips), melted chocolate gets swirled into the dough.

Lazarus Chocolate Chip Cookies

I added a tablespoon of instant espresso powder to the dough, and I suggest you do the same. You could also sprinkle the tops with coarse salt and sub some of the all-purpose flour for bread flour, a la the NYT chocolate chip cookie. Perhaps in place of instant espresso powder you could add freshly ground coffee to the dough like I did in for the NYT cookies. Possibilities are endless. I'm constantly merging recipes to find my ultimate recipe, so I play around a lot.

Lazarus Chocolate Chip Cookies

The oat flour is what does it for me. I was so impressed by the flavor and chewy texture back when I first tried this recipe that I started experimenting with oat flour in other recipes, like a biscotti recipe I need to blog about, and my recently posted oatmeal scones. Because of the chips and melted chocolate, this cookies packs an intense chocolatey punch. Next time, I'd use more brown sugar than white because I like a deeper molasses-like flavor in the dough portion.

So, even if you have already found your favorite go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, I urge you to give this recipe a try. It may not replace your favorite recipe, but it will give you another option for when you want a cookie with a little more substance.

Recipe after jump.

Print this recipe

Lazarus Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from various sources on the internet

Ingredients -

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups oats, ground to a flour in the food processor)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
4 ounces melted milk chocolate chips

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 375°; line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oat flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

  2. In a large bowl, beat butter with both sugars until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add espresso powder and vanilla and mix just until combined. Using a large wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour mixture until a few streaks of flour remain. Add the chocolate chips and melted chocolate, stirring until chips are mixed throughout dough. Chill in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

  3. Portion out 1-2 tablespoon portions onto prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1-2 inches of space in between dough balls. Press down with palm of your hand until the cookies form 1/2-inch thick disks. Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until tops of cookies are just set and edges have browned slightly. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minute, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.


21 March 2012

Red Star Yeast Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread & Project PB&J

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

In case you were not aware, National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day is coming up on April 2. To celebrate, I have partnered with my new blog buddy Cindy, from Once Upon A Loaf, to bring to you Project PB&J. We've invited bloggers to participate by creating a recipe that pays homage to the classic sandwich that is much beloved by many. Starting next week, you can expect to see the bloggers' PB&J-inspired recipes. We'll be posting link ups, so check our blogs to stay up to date.

What does this have to do with Red Star Yeast? They are one of the sponsors of Project PB&J. To show our thanks to the at the enthusiasm of the companies who are supporting us in our endeavor, Cindy and I are giving a shout out to them by making their recipes, or creating recipes from their products, like the Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Doug's Nuts I posted last week.

So why did I decide to make a loaf of bread? Because bread makes or breaks a sandwich, and good bread goes a long way in making a sandwich a pleasant eating experience. Peanut butter and jelly on dry, store-bought bread? No, thank you.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

Cindy passed along a few recipes provided by Red Star Yeast. Their Old Fashioned Buttermilk White Bread stood out to me, and it just so happened that I had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge. I've never made a yeast bread with buttermilk so I was looking forward to tasting the results.

I changed the recipe a little by replacing half the bread flour with white whole wheat to add a little more nutrition to the loaf. I also made it by hand. Kneading dough is pretty relaxing and is more fun than push ups, and I recommend it as a workout if you can't get to the therapist or the gym.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

The Red Star Yeast instructions say to mix the yeast with the flour, but I opted to proof it first as I usually do, so I mixed it with half of the heated water and buttermilk, and a bit of sugar.

Like I mentioned above, I used white whole wheat flour. It's much lighter in texture than traditional whole wheat and gives the bread a nice complexity without being noticeable on its own. If you want a heartier whole wheat taste, use regular whole wheat flour. To the flour, I added a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten. I add it to almost every bread I make except for artisan loaves. It contributes to the dough's texture and rise, and keeps it fresh longer.

The dough seemed a little dry once I mixed the liquids into the flour, but it kneaded up into a smooth dough and I didn't even need to add any extra flour. After that, I let it rise until an indent pressed into the dough remained.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

When it comes to rolling the dough into a loaf, I've created my own method after countless number of loaves baked up with gaps. In the large picture (and continuing clockwise), press the dough out into a rectangle, with the long side facing you, and dimple the top with your fingers. Next, pinch the dough after each roll. I've found that this prevents gaps from occurring. Once the dough is rolled up, press your finger into either end of the loaf until it meets the final turn of the roll (does that even make any sense?), and pinch shut.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread
Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

Place the loaf inside a prepared bread pan, cover, walk away, and let the dough rise until it's higher than the sides of the pan.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

I love it when bread turns out right, and this loaf definitely turned out right. It had a nice, high rise and a lovely brown crust. I couldn't wait to slice into it, but I managed to keep away for an hour to give the bread a chance to cool. If you slice it too early, the bread will be gummy and more difficult to slice.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

How did I feel about the taste of the buttermilk? It definitely had a strong tanginess to it, quite different from sourdough, but it wasn't bad at all. I mean, I ate a couple of slices. I will probably decrease the buttermilk next time, though, because I like my bread to be a little more mild in terms of flavor.

On the plus side, the texture of the crumb was incredible - very moist and tender, almost buttery and melt-in-your-mouth. A perfect platform for peanut butter and jelly.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

Print this recipe

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread
Adapted from Red Star Yeast's Old Fashioned Buttermilk White Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients -

1/2 cup water
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions -
  1. Heat water and buttermilk to 110°. In a small bowl, place yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar. Add half the heated buttermilk mixture and stir to combine. Let stand until proofed, about 5 minutes.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, oatmeal, wheat gluten, remaining sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour; pour in the proofed yeast mixture along with the remaining buttermilk and the oil. Stir to form a shaggy dough.

  3. Turn dough out onto a counter, dusting lightly with flour if necessary, and knead for ten minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. A pastry scraper helps. Form dough into a ball and place into mixing bowl. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until and indent remains in dough when pressed, about 1-2 hours.

  4. Punch risen dough down and turn out onto the counter. Patt into a rectangle, dimpling top with fingers. Roll short side up, pinching to create a seam after each roll. Pinch seam shut; press a finger into both ends of the roll, then pinch sides shut. Place in a greased 9x5-inch bread pan; cover with damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until dough expands over sides, about 1-2 hours. During last 15 minutes of rising time, preheat oven to 375°.

  5. Bake loaf for 35-40 minutes, or until crust has browned and loaf sounds hollow when underside is tapped. Remove loaf from pan and let cool on a wire rack.


18 March 2012

Week 3 - Training Recap

I realized this week that I'm not entirely comfortable with training. I haven't been at it for very long (I wouldn't consider what I did previous years to be true training), which adds to my uncomfortableness. In my mind, I feel a little more in shape than I was two years ago when I ran the Holy Half Marathon, so that leads me to believe a sub-1:50 half is possible. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to doubt that. Just six weeks remain in my training plan, which isn't enough time to make significant gains in training for what I'd like to accomplish (two of those weeks are cut back).

Remember the Holy Half Marathon? On a whim, I signed up for the 10k this Saturday. Racing the 10k supposedly will help determine what time to shoot for at the half. Unfortunately, I'm dreading the 10k. I haven't mentally been in a great place lately, and much of racing is keeping things together mentally. I'll see how it goes. I can't seem to get excited about any of these races lately.

Monday -
6.4 miles - My easy pace has seemed to improve a little lately, so I ran this one at an 8:55 average pace. I just felt like it, really.

Wednesday -
5.05 miles - This was the most encouraging tempo of the cycle. I managed to keep a 7:40 average pace for the three tempo miles, though that's all I think I can do at that pace for now.

Thursday -
7.05 miles - If you live in the Midwest, you are more than aware of the recent heat streak we're having. While I normally run later in the afternoon, I've been running earlier in the morning to avoid the heat. Most people don't have problems running in the heat - I'm not trying to be special, but I can't seem to manage it. My heart rate goes up, my breathing gets shallow, and I really just can't keep running. Add in a blazing sun and all my energy gets zapped. I was keeping a 9:10 pace for the first four miles, then I had to start adding run-walk intervals to finish. The good that came from this is that the running intervals were still at a 9-ish pace, but at that point it felt more like a sprint than a slow pace.

I suck.

Saturday -
11.11 miles - Saturday long run time. My schedule needed adjustment due to the race next week, so I ran 11 miles this week. It was better than I expected. Although I didn't eat as much prior to the run as I'd like, I got out early to avoid the heat and had a solid run. My brother biked alongside me to hand me water, and I took a GU at mile 7. I started fading during the last two miles, but kept the sub-9 pace I had been running since mile 7. The fatigue was due to not fueling enough prior to the run, so I'm not concerned about that at all. I felt fine the rest of the day and have no soreness today.

Total - 29

I seem to be running more than I had planned. Most of my weeks were supposed to be in the mid-twenties, but they're creeping up to the thirties. It's probably for the best that I get a little more mileage in.

Even if I can't run a sub 1:50, I can at least try to quit doubting myself in general. I always assume something is going to go wrong (not just running related), or that I'm misjudging my ability to succeed, both of which adds to doubting myself. Even with the few good long runs I've completed, I still go out every weekend waiting to blow up during the run. It's just not a healthy way to think. Hopefully I can work on it a little this week, but I'm not entirely sure how to go about it.

13 March 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Doug's Nuts

Peanut Butter Banana Loaf with Doug's Nuts

Banana bread, anybody? How about banana bread with peanut butter? It's definitely less messy than a sandwich! This recipe isn't unique at all, and it's an adaption from a Cooking Light recipe, but you should make it because it's a very tender and flavorful quick bread.

Peanut Butter Banana Loaf with Doug's Nuts

Besides having peanut butter on the brain, I wanted to incorporate the supply of Doug's Nuts I received yesterday into a baked good. I'm working with Doug's Nuts on an upcoming project, so I'm going to talk a little bit about them for a second.

Their carefully selected nuts and seeds are delicious, crunchy and addictive. It didn't help that I started eating them immediately after a run, which led to me eating half a bag. The flavorful glaze consists of organic evaporated sugarcane juice, honey, oatmeal stout beer, sea salt, organic vanilla extract, and other natural flavors. The glaze coats a wonderful blend of roasted almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and pumpkin seeds. Unlike other mixed nuts that are filled with an excess of peanuts, there was a fairly equal amount of each in both the packages I received.

Peanut Butter Banana Loaf with Doug's Nuts

Back to the bread. Half of the chopped nuts are sprinkled onto the center of the loaf, and the rest are sprinkled on top.

Peanut Butter Banana Loaf with Doug's Nuts

The loaf comes out tall and browned. Once it cools, a peanut butter glaze is drizzled on top. I expected a thicker glaze, but it turned out for the best since it didn't hide the nut-speckled top.

Peanut Butter Banana Loaf with Doug's Nuts

Sometimes quick breads come out dry and lacking in flavor. This was the complete opposite. It was slightly tangy, the banana and peanut butter complimented each other nicely, and the tiny bit of cinnamon tied it all together. The nuts added a crunchy element that rounded out the bread. It also doesn't weigh heavy in the stomach and would be perfect as a pre-run (or midday) snack.

Print this recipe

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Doug's Nuts
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light - Christina Provo

Yields - 1 9x5 inch loaf

Ingredients -

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe banana mixed with 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cups Doug's Nuts, coarsely chopped (or nuts of your choosing)

Glaze -

1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk flour with baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

  2. In a large bowl, blend butter with peanut butter until incorporated. On medium speed, beat sugars into the peanut butter for 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Mix in bananas with vanilla extract just until combined. Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with yogurt. Give the batter one final stir with a spatula.

  3. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup chopped nuts, swirling lightly with a knife. Carefully spread the remaining batter on top, sprinkling with the remaining nuts. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.

  4. Whisk milk and creamy peanut butter together in a small bowl. Add confectioners' sugar and whisk to combine. Spread over top of cooled loaf. Let stand for 5 minutes to harden before slicing.


11 March 2012

Week 2 - Training Recap

The theme for week two was WIND. Every single day I went out, it was extremely windy. I either had to succumb and walk, or run a longer route to avoid running into the wind for as long as possible. I also didn't run proper paces for any run but my tempo and long run, for no reason other than I was angry and didn't feel like controlling it. It wasn't terribly fast or anywhere close to tempo pace, but not what it should have been.

Monday -
5.5 miles (breathing issues came up, so I had to walk half mile before I was able to run again)

Wednesday -
6.5 miles (I ralked 1.5 miles of this because I started off too fast and died when faced with 30mph wind gusts)

Thursday -
6.4 miles, 3 at tempo pace (this really surprised me - based on the two previous runs, I didn't have high hopes. However, I surpassed my low expectations by running the tempo miles at 7:43, 7:34, and 7:19, respectively. Not consistent splits, I know; I think I kept speeding up thinking I was compensating for the wind.)

Saturday -
10 miles, progression (I felt very comfortable during this entire run and was energetic during the hilly portion. I haven't run 10 miles since forever - or the last time I trained for a half - yet it felt fine. I didn't bring any water or energy supplements, though my plan is to bring one during my upcoming 11-miler.)

Total - 28.4

Overall, I'm fine with how this week played out. Minus the first two runs, I did well and stuck to the plan. I'm somewhat encouraged by the tempo and long run. I still think I can't breathe well in the wind. We need to quit relying so much on corn, dig up the cornfields, and plant more trees.

I'm continuing to do yoga twice a week, and the hundred pushups challenge three times a week. Since I haven't done any push ups since the last time I tried this challenge, I began my program in the easy column. Already, I'm having to repeat day 1 from week 2. I'm planning on quitting before completion if I feel like I'm at risk for developing Madonna arms.

As for yoga, I can tell I'm developing better balance, strength, and flexibility. Many members of the running community are quick to say that stretching doesn't benefit running at all, but I always feel better when I'm stretched out - my stride feels fluid, I don't feel stiff, and I seem to recover better. However, I'm not stretching before or after running, just when I do yoga.

Here's to hopping the wind dies down this week.

Foodbuzz Tastemaker: Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

I love making homemade fries - Yukon gold, regular ol' russet, and of course, sweet potato. The downside is that it takes around one and a half hours of cooking time! Thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided a coupon to try out Alexia's frozen foods. They have quite a few different variety of fries, some plain, some flavored, and I ended up choosing the sweet potato julienne fries.

Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

Frozen tots and fries are my favorite treat. They're quick to prepare and taste delicious. Alexia's line is all natural and contains no trans fat. While it costs more than store brands, sometimes it's better to pay more for quality when you can. I can't remember how much this bag cost where I purchased it, but it wasn't more than $5. This 15-ounce bag contain about four servings (although I could have easily eaten half myself...).

Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

Before sticking the fries in the oven, I spritzed them with a little olive oil spray and sprinkled with more kosher salt. I like salt, what can I say?

Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

These fries take around twenty to twenty-five minutes to cook, tossing once or twice. The fries roasted up with a crisped shell that gave way to a soft, sweet innard. Most complaints that arise with homemade sweet potato fries is either that they stay too soft, or they get a little charred. Alexia sweet potato fries were just about perfect and tasted as fresh as it could have tasted for being frozen. I'd definitely buy these again if they're on sale, or if I want a quick treat.

Alexia Sweet Potato Fries

I served these with my go-to aioli recipe. I nixed the sweeteners and added in lime zest and sriracha sauce for a hint of spice.

09 March 2012

Yoplait Giveaway Winner

Hey guys! I just picked the giveaway winner from Tuesday's post using Random.org. The lucky person is:

Manda, 08 March, 2012 10:39

Tweeted your giveaway to my followers!


Thank you
Manda V

Congratulations, Manda! Look out for an email.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and I hope you all have a great weekend.

07 March 2012

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones

Hello, guys! Today reminds me of one of those "blustery days" mentioned in Winnie the Pooh. Winter seems just about over, so I'm not going to complain.

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned the scones I made with peach yogurt (psst, enter the Yoplait giveaway if you haven't!). I hope you were curious, too, because these are amazing! There's a light peach taste, a hearty oatmeal flavor, and it's all tied together with lemon extract and a light lemon glaze.

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones
Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones

When I was little, my brothers and I looked forward to family trips because it meant instant oatmeal packets -- specifically, the "cream" flavored oatmeal packets, like peaches 'n cream, strawberries 'n cream, etc. I'm not sure we liked them as much as we did, but that was the inspiration I used to create these scones.

Only instead of cream, I used yogurt. Let's just overlook that part.

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones

I ground up the oatmeal so that it would blend better in the dough make an even texture. The only form of peach in these muffins comes from the yogurt, though if I had a peach I probably would have added half a cup, finely chopped. Even so, the peachy flavor was pretty decent. Rounding off the two flavors is lemon, in the form of extract and a light lemon glaze that gets brushed on the scones after they're baked.

Scones are basically enriched biscuits and usually contain cream (or buttermilk), an egg, sugar, dried fruit, a glaze, and so on. I only added two tablespoons of sugar to the dough because the little carton of yogurt already had 26 grams. and I didn't want to make the scones too sweet. It's also not necessary to brush these scones with an egg glaze to aid browning -- the sugar takes care of that for you.

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones

Many scones require you to pat the dough out before slicing into shapes, but I opted to go the drop-scone method. The scones are more rustic-looking, though still delicious and easier to deal with. Because of that, the dough is more wet than traditional scone dough, meaning that the scones remain moist and tender after baking.

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones

After a quick fifteen minutes in a hot oven, the scones come out beautifully browned and well-risen. This is when you brush the lemony glaze on top, creating a shiny coating. I might just start have to start keeping peach yogurt on hand to make more of these the next time I have a craving.

Print this recipe

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones
Recipe by Christina Provo

Yields 8 scones

Ingredients -

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup oats, ground
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup peach flavored yogurt, chilled
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp lemon extract
4 tbsp confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 425° and line a large baking sheet with parchment. Whisk flour, ground oats, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in flour until mixture resembles coarse sand.

  2. Mix yogurt with beaten egg and lemon extract. Pour into dry ingredients and mix quickly until dough forms a cohesive ball. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, portion out dough into eight scones. If there's any dough remaining, press it onto formed scones. Bake for 15 minutes, or until scones are golden brown.

  3. As the scones bake, mix the confectioners' sugar with fresh lemon juice. Whisk until glaze is smooth. When scones have baked, brush glaze evenly over tops of scones while on baking sheet. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely, or serve warm.


06 March 2012

My Blog Spark - Yoplait Lactose Free Yogurt Review + Giveaway

**Giveaway Is Closed**


February was National Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month (yes, I know it's March), for which Yoplait announced their new lactose free yogurt, available in a variety of tasty flavors. Through MyBlogSpark, Yoplait provided me with a prize pack, including a coupon to try the new yogurt, and an additional prize pack to host a giveaway.

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones">

Although I don't suffer from lactose intolerance, I am familiar with lactose free dairy as I've used it before to make lactose free desserts for family members. In case you can't eat regular dairy products, now you know of another option.

Yoplait's Lactose Free Yogurt comes in 6-ounce containers and tastes just like regular flavored yogurt. Besides being lactose free, it's also fat free, though it contains 170 calories, much of which is from sugar. The packaging mentioned that Yoplait Lactose Free Yogurt offers 50% of the daily value of calcium, compared to 25% from other brands. It had a good peachy flavor and probably would have tasted good frozen, too. If I recall correctly, the yogurt was 79¢, though price may vary based on location.

Peaches 'n Cream Oatmeal Scones

Instead of simply eating the yogurt, I used it to create peaches 'n cream oatmeal scones. They came out perfectly the first time! They're soft and tender with a subtle peach flavor enhanced by a light lemon glaze. I didn't have any peaches to use, but they would be excellent with a few chopped peaches mixed in. The recipe will be up tomorrow.

Giveaway Info

Yoplait Lactose Free Prize Pack

Eager to try it out for yourself? Along with a VIP coupon for a free yogurt, the winner will also be getting a lunch tote, two freezable gel packs, a bowl, and a matching spoon.

There are two ways to enter:
  • Comment on this post and tell me your favorite way to eat yogurt

  • Tweet about this giveaway: Yoplait Lactose Free Giveaway from @RunningFoodie http://bit.ly/yEoCS9 #MyBlogSpark!
    Leave a second comment to let me know

Giveaway is eligible for US readers only and ends on Friday, the 9th, at 12 P.M.. Winner will be announced shortly after (please include your email I can't contact you).

04 March 2012

Week 1 - Training Recap

Week one is in the books! I ran each run as planned, minus the tempo that I felt was inaccurate due to the heavy wind, and the recovery the next day that I ran a little faster than I meant to.

Monday -
5 miles, easy

Wednesday -
5 miles, 3 at tempo

Thursday -
6 miles, recovery

Saturday -
9 miles, progression

Total - 25

Simple enough week. I do pretty well running four days a week, and it doesn't tire me out much. It's still low, but it's doable because I'm not planning on going over 30 mpw for this training cycle.

Types of runs I'm incorporating into my training plan

Easy - You all know what this is. However, I'm varying my easy days by running some and the faster end of my easy pace, whereas my recovery runs should be closer to the higher end.

Tempo - Right now I'm just running 3 miles at tempo pace, which is fine for me. I might contemplate adding another mile during the peak weeks, but I'm waiting to see how I get through these next four weeks.

Recovery - Self explanatory. The only difference is that I moved this run the day after my tempos instead of the day before my long runs.

Progression long runs - I've been having issues running my long runs at the proper pace, i.e., slow. I have this fear that if I don't maintain a somewhat faster pace, I won't be able to run fast during a race. Dumb way to think. Enter: Progression. What I do is split the long run up into segments, like 3-3-2 for an 8-miler, 4-3-2 for a 9-miler, and so on. I run the first segment at the higher end of my slow pace, second at the middle, and last segment at the lower end of slow pace. This breaks up the distance mentally, as well, because it's not all one long stretch and I'm constantly waiting until the next segment to speed up.

Rest days - Save for Sundays, my rest days during the week are "running rest days" aka cross training weeks. I've been doing yoga, and have just started the One Hundred Pushups Challenge again. Hopefully I'll stick to it this time because it's part of a preexisting formal training plan.

That's it! I'm hoping the wind settles down next week so I can attempt a proper tempo. I'm curious to see if I can run the pace myself when I'm not pushed by the wind.

02 March 2012

Southwestern Split Pea Soup with Turkey Meatballs

southwestern split pea soup with turkey meatballs

About a week ago, I found myself with a container of cooked split pea puree leftover from when I made my homemade enchiladas. I meant to turn it into soup the next night, but other dinners got in the way. Yesterday, I finally used it for soup. I was inspired by a little bit of ground turkey in a container, dry corn tortillas, and mini bell peppers.

southwestern split pea soup with turkey meatballs
southwestern split pea soup with turkey meatballs

As I worked on the soup I wondered if anyone would actually be able to make it. I mean, who has a container of split pea puree in their fridge? Who has just a quarter pound of ground turkey in the fridge? But anyway, if you ever do find yourself with those two ingredients in the fridge, you now have a tasty way to use them up.

I used vegetables that many of you might have in the kitchen -- bell peppers, onions, a little red onion, an jalapeno, and a leek. The leek is optional, I just used it because it was in the veggie bin.

southwestern split pea soup with turkey meatballs

Although I call this "southwestern split pea soup", you'll find that I didn't add a single southwestern spice, like cumin. For the meatballs, I added finely chopped mini bell peppers, half a cup of oats, one egg, and a little salt and pepper. It's a little soggy at first, so I let it sit while the veggies sauteed to give the moisture time to soak into the oats.

southwestern split pea soup with turkey meatballs

The split peas? When I made them, I cooked two cups of dried yellow split peas with a chopped onion, garlic, and oregano. I kept adding water until the split peas broke down and thickened into a puree. After they cooked, they were mixed with some salt and a packet of Goya seasoning. All you'll need is three cups of puree, so why not use the extra to make those enchiladas I talked about, hmm?

southwestern split pea soup with turkey meatballs

Once the vegetables have sauteed for five minutes, I added a carton of chicken broth along with two cups of water. Stir in the split pea puree and bring the soup to a boil. The texture of the soup will be thin with a little substance. I don't like pea soups that are really thick because it's more like baby food than what I feel a proper soup should be. Let there be broth!

As the soup comes to a boil, roll out half tablespoon portions of the turkey and drop into the pot. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.

southwestern split pea soup with turkey meatballs

Just prior to serving the soup, stir in ripped day-old corn tortillas. Oh, what's that? You don't just happen to have dry corn tortilla sitting on your counter because you forgot to put them away last night? This will probably work with normal corn tortillas, or just top each bowl with crushed tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream.

All I could think about during the last mile of my run yesterday was coming inside and enjoying a warm bowl of soup! It turned out much better than I expected, considering I didn't do all that much to it. Like I said above, the soup is brothy, but has substance. It'll thicken upon standing because of the corn tortillas, so keep that in mind if you're making this ahead of time.

southwestern split pea soup with turkey meatballs

Print this recipe

Southwestern Split Pea Soup with Turkey Meatballs
Recipe by Christina Provo

Yields 5-8 servings

Ingredients -

1/4 pound ground turkey
2 mini red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 mini red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped
32 ounces chicken broth
2 cup water
3 cups yellow split pea puree
3 cups dry corn tortilla strips
Sour cream and sliced green onion for garnis

Directions -
  1. Mix together ground turkey with finely chopped bell peppers and red onions. Stir in oatmeal, beaten egg, and a teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

  2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium. When hot, add onion, red onion, bell peppers, jalapeno, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt; saute for five minutes.

  3. Pour in chicken broth and water. Stir in split pea puree and taste for seasonings, adjusting as necessary. Bring to a boil.

  4. As soup comes to a boil, roll half tablespoons of turkey mixture into balls and drop into the soup. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 20 minutes.

  5. When meatballs have cooked, they will have risen to the surface. Stir in corn tortilla strips just before serving. Top bowls with sour cream and green onions. Ole!

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