Thursday, March 31, 2011

There's No "I" in "RUN"

I've played team sports my entire life. It began with soccer as a wee one, then eventually in high school I moved on to Field Hockey and Lacrosse, and I sprinkled some Track and Cheerleading in there too. When I graduated on to college I remember feeling mildly depressed about losing that team atmosphere. There is just something incredibly bonding about team sports. Only your teammates can fully understand the anxiety behind the dreaded Monday Timed Mile, or understand the elation in beating an undefeated team, or cry with you when you lose your last game as a Senior. To this day some of my best friends are still the ones who shared those experiences with me. I'm on the top right with the long, blond hair.. ha! And my future sister in law is bottom right!
As an "adult," and I use that term loosely, I often find myself searching for that same sort of team camaraderie. When I began running more competitively, it scratched the itch a little bit. It was awesome to feel like I was competing again in some form. But as many will say... it's not so much whether you won or lost the big game that clings to your memory, but every day you spent working to get there. That is what was missing for me with running for a long time. Running at the gym on the treadmill just for the sole purpose of... losing weight? Getting faster? It just wasn't enough to fulfill me.

After TGB was born, I began training with some friends for National Half. Of course we had done countless runs together before, but this was the first time we would all really be training together. We all have kids and jobs and husbands and very full lives. Guaranteed the night before a workout someone was up way too late folding laundry or finishing up work or tending to a sick baby. But we all love running, so we all show up for each other no matter how early, dark, or cold it is out there. We cheer each other on, and we push one another when someone is falling a few seconds behind or having an off day. I'm a better runner because of it.

Going into National Half, I was truly happy just to be racing with many of my "teammates." Even two who were benched for injuries made the long trek out to DC just to cheer us on. I ran with my friend close to the entire time, and we kept track of one another, making sure we didn't go out too fast, or exert too much energy on the hills, or give up during those last painful and crucial miles. It really was a team effort. And my team extends far beyond the girls I run with... my husband who stayed at home with a sprained ankle and three kids so I could race, and of course the Man Upstairs who continually blesses me with good health, good friends, and a great family.

My time was 1:35. I'm thrilled about it. It was the smartest run I'd ever raced. It was the fastest half I'd ever raced. But I'd be lying if I said I did it all on my own. The best thing about the whole experience was not race day at all, but the lifelong friendships I strengthened along the way.

Okay... are you dying to know how this ties into food?? At my cooking shows lately I've been applying this same team concept. It's just way more fun to break into teams and get hands-on with the recipes then sit there are watch me drone on all night (because clearly, I can talk). Here's one of everyone's favorites. Super easy to make and they are pretty too! Perfect for entertaining. And there are strawberries on top! So they're healthy, right?

Super Simple Strawberry Brownie Bites

Chocolate Brownie Mix (plus eggs and vegetable oil)

Baker's Joy or some type of Cooking Spray with Flour

1 pint of strawberries

1 cup of white chocolate chips

1 tsp sugar

Make brownies according to package directions
Add 1 cup of white chocolate chips. Why white? No reason except I felt like it.
Spray the tins with the Baking Spray
Use a small scoop to fill 1 tablespoon into each tin

Now, one package of Brownie mix should fill 48 tins, but if you love brownie batter and you only had leftover eggs and grilled cheese crusts to eat all day, you might end up with a few less.

Pop in the 350 oven for 12 minutes max. In the meantime, get the strawberries ready. By the way strawberries at Harris Teeter are something ridiculous like buy 1 get 2 free. Strawberry season is fast approaching! From May to June, they should be available locally, and will most likely be on sale at every store.
Anyway I took the tops off and put them in my Manual Food Processor. A food chopper would work well too.
Chop them up til they are pretty small
Remove the blade and add 1 tsp of sugar
stir it up and they will get kind of syrupy
When the brownies come out, use a Tart Shaper or the flip side of your scoop to press a dent into the tops of each brownie It's easiest to do this while they are still warm! If they start to stick to the scoop, dust it lightly with flour.
Move them to a platter
Then use the scoop to spoon in enough so that the strawberries fill the tops.

So easy, and so pretty! And I didn't feel bad letting the boys gobble them up since at least there was some fruit involved. :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Menu Planning Monday

My calves are currently killing me. That's all I can say about National Half right now. I raced it smart, I was able to hang with my faster friend for 12.5 of it, and I scraped 7 minutes off my last time, so I'm happy with it. But my body is still recovering from waking up at 3:50 am to bang out 13.1 fast miles and I just don't think I'm ready to sit down and talk about it anymore right now!

So let's talk about food instead!

And the fact that it is supposed to SNOW on Wednesday/Thursday! Clearly I plan my meals around the weather...


Family Burrito Bake

(in the deep covered baker, if you have one look for the email soon to come)


extra sriracha please



using puff pastry instead of pie crust... thanks for the tip Jen M!



60 degree weather forecast... I'll take it! Peace out March!

Grilled Chicken and Mango Salsa

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Close... But No Cigar

When it comes to running and racing, I'm not much into the business of "beating" others. I feel like placing in your age group or placing overall is all relative to who showed up that day. The only person who is going to be there to challenge you every single race, every single time is YOU. The time on the clock at the end is way more rewarding to me then passing so and so or finishing behind whoever.

With that being said... this weekend, I won a 5k?? Before you get all excited, this was a SMALL race in my neighborhood. But I'm not going to lie... I kind of felt like a superstar.

I went into it hoping to test out my speed for the upcoming half marathon I've been training for over the winter. I fully expected to run my fastest 5K. I did NOT expect to experience hearing people cheer "First Female!!" on the course, or to experience breaking that finishing ribbon. I definitely did not expect to leave that morning with over $600 worth of cash prizes and most awesomely, a trophy that is literally taller than TGB. As much as I have never been into running to beat anyone but myself, there was something REALLY fun about winning. Enter Charlie Sheen joke here.

But seriously, it was so fun.

The boys think it is the most amazing thing ever. I think it is the most amazing thing ever that they got to see Mommy excel at something. As a stay at home mom, most of what they know about me revolves around picking up toys, forcing disgusting foods down their throats and wiping butts. Showing them that Mommy can also work really hard and run really fast gives me greater joy than any title I took home Saturday.

Still, I'm sitting here this week a touch disappointed because even though it was super fun to win, I didn't beat myself. I could have, and I probably would have, but we will never know. The course was accidently marked .14 miles shy of a certified 5K course, so even though I was on pace for a 6:23 average finish time, I can never claim it as my fastest 5K time, because technically I didn't run a 5K. It was close... but no cigar.

This weekend I'm running National Half Marathon and I'm thankful for the little chip God put on my shoulder after this week's race. I still have more to prove to myself. Winning isn't everything.

Here's a super simple pantry meal I've been whipping up almost every Friday since Lent started. It's kind of like a grown up Tuna Noodle. I love that all the kids (even TGB) can eat some part of it, I love that all the ingredients were taken straight from my pantry or freezer (well, parm from the fridge, but parm lasts forever), and I love putting a can of tuna in my dinner. Is that weird? It's a great cheap-quick-healthy protein to throw into food and it's kinda like chicken.

Well, it's close... but no cigar :)

I also like to use this Frozen Fettucine Alfredo with Mushrooms from Trader Joe's......and add my own peas and tuna to it. That's literally a 5 minute dinner. But to be fair to you poor peeps without a TJ's, here's the lengthy, albeit lighter version.

Grown Up Tuna Noodle Pasta

Cream of Mushroom (I'm kinda partial to this TJ's one, but any will do)
thick egg noodles
1 cup peas
2 cloves garlic
1 cup grated parm
1 can of tuna
1/3 cup of white wine
1 tablespoon parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup pasta water, reserved

Boil the water to get the pasta started. Meanwhile I grated the cheese.

Add the cream of mushroom to the skillet and then add wine

whisk together over a low heat

Add 2 cloves of pressed or chopped garlic

Add a generous amount of parsley - I did about 1 tablespoon. Fresh is grand as well, just wouldn't make this a "pantry meal" :)

Add 1 can of drained tuna

Mix it all together with the grated parm and peas

Mix it up, then add 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water

Take the noodles from the pan to the skillet

Stir it up then add salt and pepper to taste!

Easy, insanely cheap, and all from the pantry or freezer!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's Simple Part Two

Nothing like stretching one dinner into two. In my continued effort to torture Superman, I mean, make dinners we can all eat together, I planned to make Chicken Pot Pie from the leftover chicken broth and pulled chicken from the Simple Crockpot Chicken.

I was a little nervous because Chicken Pot Pie is a touch too close to baking for me and if you've read this blog before you know how I feel about that! I was scared the pie crust wouldn't cook correctly or brown properly and all that, so I definitely did not even attempt to make my own. I actually happened to have this Trader Joe's pie crust in the freezer already since Thanksgiving, when I thought I might attempt some sort of pie but never mustered the courage.

This came together in about 15 minutes. I was able to put it together in the morning before school so that I could just throw it in the oven at dinner time. I also love that I could totally make and freeze this! I also loved that it was a yummy pot pie that had a fraction of the fat as the store bought version... take that Marie Calendar!

Add whatever veggies your people will eat... I went with carrots and green peas because they are my safest bet, but whatever you have will work!

Leftovers Chicken Pot Pie

Pie Crust (make sure the package has 2, do they all?)
3 cups of chicken broth (I used the leftover broth I refrigerated and saved)
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen peas
3 tbl olive oil
3 tbl flour
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup 0% fat Greek Yogurt
Salt and Pep

FIRST get that chicken stock going. If you saved it from Crockpot chicken, there will be a layer of fat on the top after you refrigerate it. Skim that off, and then voila you have fat free chicken broth. It will look like jello! That means you did it right, congrats. So just put it in a saucepan over low heat and in 1 minute...
It will go from Jello to broth. If you're just using a box of broth, add some thyme. Mine already had thyme in it from the night before.
Peel and chop the carrots while that is heating up
Then throw them in the broth and let them simmer over a low boil so they can get soft. That's the only way my kids will eat them, anyway! (TIP - to speed things up this week I crockpotted carrots with the chicken so they were already cooked and ready to go into the pot pie, skipping this step altogether)
In another saucepan whisk in the flour with the olive oil
Immediately add 1/3 cup of milk, and keep whisking
Add in the carrots/broth, keep whisking

Add the Greek Yogurt, peas, and chicken, add salt and pepper to taste, and just stir it up and let it sit over low heat while you get the pie crust together
I was so scared at this point. Okay, just laid the pie crust down... no pam or flour or anything on the pie pan first. Crossing my fingers I don't screw this up.

Poured the mixture in

Put the top layer of pie crust on and pinched the edges around to seal it

OH forgot this in the ingredient list... but just whisk together 1 egg and a touch of water to make an egg wash for the top.

Brush onto the top
Put in a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes! It's so pretty! And I felt so domestic making a pie!!

I served this onto my finest dinnerware, a Thomas the Tank engine plate. I think it could have used another few minutes in the oven. 30 minutes for the pie crust might be better.

And now the true test!

No tears? Hooray! Worked for every member of the fam, even the smallest