Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sticky 4 Mile Tempo

Sorry to rub this in your face, but we’ve been having beautiful weather here in Texas.  My car said it was 70 when I left work to head to the park!  It felt great except for the humidity.  I felt sticky just walking, and I was completely disgusting by the end of the run.  I’m not sure how I’ll handle the summer humidity while running. 

But for all of you up North, don’t worry – we have our fair share of nasty weather coming our way.  It starts with thunderstorms tonight, a wind advisory for tomorrow and a hard freeze advisory tomorrow night.  And they (the weather people) are actually predicting snow for us on Friday!  I’m a little excited :)

Despite the humidity tonight’s run was awesome.  Maggie and I planned to do the 4 mile tempo run just a little faster than we did last week’s 4 miles.  And we did!  The first mile warm-up pace felt good at just over 10 minutes.  My legs were feeling stiff in the beginning but I could feel them loosening up as we went.

The second and third tempo miles felt fast.  I didn’t really want to slow down.  My legs and breathing both felt pretty good until the end of the third mile, when I had a burning feeling shooting through my legs.

Although the tempo miles felt good, I was ready to slow down when we hit mile four.  We started the mile at a 10:30 or so pace, but after we began to cool down, I could tell we were starting to push it again.  We hit our 5k at 29:10 (another new 5k record).  I would have been happy to keep it slow, but my running partner was a speed demon tonight!  I found myself pushing to keep up with her, but it was great motivation to really give a little extra toward the end.  And I was happy I did because it led to a great time.  Our splits:

  • Mile 1:  10:11
  • Mile 2:  9:04
  • Mile 3:  8:52
  • Mile 4:  10:00
  • Total:  38:07 (9:32 average pace)

Once again, it’s great to see week to week progress.  Our fastest tempo mile last week was 9:06.  Part of me wonders if sometimes we’re just not pushing ourselves as hard as we could.  But it’s nice to see progress.

I hope y’all stay warm if you’re in the blizzard this week!  And if you live in the South – any tips for surviving the “hard freeze” would be greatly appreciated.  I’ve never heard of covering pipes or leaving faucets dripping all night until I moved down here.  I’m not even sure I know what covering the pipes means :-p

Sloppy Joes

I first began cooking my junior year of college, after moving out of the dorms and into an apartment.  At the time I had just a few recipes that I would make over and over again, including this recipe for Sloppy Joes.

I love the version from Allrecipes.com, and after becoming a vegetarian, I’ve continued to make a meatless version of it.  It doesn’t take long (even less time if you don’t have to brown the meat!), and it’s great comfort food.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package soy ground crumbles
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder

I always start by chopping up the veggies.

Sauté the veggies in olive oil with the garlic.  I love the smell of onion and garlic cooking in the kitchen.

Next, add the soy ground crumbles and break them up.  Then add the ketchup and the rest of the ingredients.  Now it will smell really good in your kitchen!

Pat eats his Sloppy Joes on hamburger buns, and I eat mine on sandwich thins.

What do you put in your Sloppy Joes?

Banana Bread

What are you supposed to do when you have rotting bananas lying around?

Make banana bread of course!  In grad school I had a roommate who would always make banana bread when we had rotting bananas.  It was bad for the waistline, but her bread was so, so good.  I’ve actually never made it myself before.

I searched some of my favorite sites and cookbooks for a recipe and couldn’t decide which to try.  Many were similar with just slight variations, so I made my own.

Ingredients:

  • 4 “ripe” bananas
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup shredded (unsweetened) coconut

Start by mixing the bananas, butter and egg in a bowl.  I put the butter in the microwave for just 10 seconds to soften it and then went to work at mashing the bananas.

I then mixed in the rest of the ingredients.  I even broke out the handheld mixer for this one.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

It was delicious!  It came out a little crumbly, but I think I cut into it too soon.  After I gave it more time to cool the bread seemed to thicken a bit.

It’s very moist.  I think the flaxseed adds a nice nutty flavor, and the unsweetened coconut is very subtle.  If you want a sweeter bread I would try sweetened coconut.  I will definitely make this one again.  In fact, I have 4 bananas sitting on the counter now, just waiting to ripen :)

6 Miles or Dip Week

I set up my training schedule so every 4th week I see a dip in my weekly mileage and a shorter long run.  From what I’ve read, giving yourself a week of lower mileage allows you to keep up with your training, but gives your body adequate time to recover.  Although I like to see my mileage increase each week, I would also like to avoid injury.  I hope it will also help me to avoid burnout from trying to always top my distance from the previous week.

Over the past 4 weeks I ran 6, 7, 8, and 9 miles.  Today it was time to drop back to the 6.  Maggie and I met for a late morning run.  I expected our normal running trail to be less crowded today since the Houston Marathon is tomorrow, but it was busier than usual and filled with lots of walkers.  Which meant lots of zig-zagging around other people.

The last time I ran 6 miles (on January 2, 2011), I ran at a pace of 11:09/mile and finished in 1:06:54.  It is amazing to see the improvements I have made after just one month of following my training plan.  I cut more than a minute per mile off my pace!  Our splits:

  • Mile 1:  10:00
  • Mile 2:  9:49
  • Mile 3:  9:58
  • Mile 4:  9:51
  • Mile 5:  10:12
  • Mile 6:  9:36
  • Total:  59:26 (9:55 average pace)

That’s more than 7 minutes off of my previous 6 miles.  And it felt pretty good!  By the time we hit mile 5 I could feel myself getting tired.  I know it’s all mental, but I wanted to slow down a bit so I could really push it in the final mile.  My left knee started hurting during the last half mile, but it wasn’t terrible.  We sprinted the last 0.20 miles as fast as we could to have a strong finish.

I’ve noticed these past 3 weeks that I feel really sleepy after these long runs.  When I get home I always stretch and foam roll, and then shower before eating some lunch.  After lunch I have been falling asleep on the couch (while cuddling my puppy – it always seems to fit her nap schedule!)… but I’m not sure why I feel so tired.

I’ve never been much of a napper.  Usually when I nap I have trouble falling asleep at night.  I thought the past few weeks were because 8 and 9 miles were farther than I’ve ever run, but I didn’t expect to feel so sleepy after just 6 miles today.  I wish I didn’t get so tired, because between the long run and my nap, I feel like I’ve lost most of my Saturday.

Do you take naps after your long runs?

5k (unofficial) PR

The training plan called for an easy three miles tonight.  But after Maggie and I came so close to running a 5k in under 30 minutes on Tuesday, we decided to see if we could meet that goal tonight.  So we settled on a goal of a steady but somewhat speedy 3.1 miles.

I wanted to take the first mile a little slower, and speed up as we went.  I always worry that if I use too much energy early on, I won’t have any left by the end and I’ll want to walk or jog too slowly to meet a goal.  I guess this is why negative splits seem to be encouraged, but it can be hard to keep it slow when I feel most of my energy at the beginning of the run.  We did great with this tonight though.

Our first mile felt good, but the second mile felt rough.  I wanted to slow down and have a nice easy jog, but tried to push through it.  By the time we got to the third mile, I was telling myself that one mile is easy - and it didn’t seem so hard to keep a fast pace.

Not only did we beat our goal of 30 minutes, but we beat it by 36 seconds!  Not bad at all considering the time for my first 5k back in December was 31:42.  Our splits:

  • Mile 1:  9:48
  • Mile 2:  9:32
  • Mile 3:  9:18
  • Mile 3.1:  8:10 pace
  • Total:  29:23 (9:29 average pace)

The excitement of our run today (and all your encouraging comments) was the push I needed to sign up for a real 5k on February 12, 2011:

2011 Texas Med 5k

I know I can set a real PR at this race – and hopefully do just as well as we did tonight!

What race(s) are you training for?

Feeling Speedy

The title says it all:  I felt speedy tonight.  I did six quarter mile intervals tonight.  I had a lot of pent up “energy” from today, and I felt much better after running it out.  My splits (by pace):

  • Warm up:  (10:46)
  • 1/4 mile 1:  7:45
  • Recovery:  (10:59)
  • 1/4 mile 2:  7:26 !!
  • Recovery:  (11:09)
  • 1/4 mile 3:  8:14
  • Recovery:  (12:53) -> this is where I began walking
  • 1/4 mile 4:  7:41
  • Recovery:  (13:17)
  • 1/4 mile 5:  8:00
  • Recovery:  (14:22)
  • 1/4 mile 6:  7:38
  • Recovery:  (11:36)
  • Total:  3.25 miles, 32:58 (10:09 average pace)

I’m pretty happy with these speeds.  You’ll notice my recovery pace got slower and slower as I went – but walking seemed to allow me to speed up during the quarter miles.  Also, during my last recover, “Awful” by Hole came on my iPod and gave me the push I needed to jog the whole thing.

I was hoping to do at least a few of the quarter miles at around an 8:00 pace.  I had no idea that I was going that much faster!  I’ll be honest – I loved the feeling of weaving in and out of other runners.  There were a few runners who would pass me while I was jogging/walking, then I would speed by – then they would pass me again.  I wondered if they thought I was weird for doing that, but hopefully they weren’t paying too much attention.  If only I could hold those paces for more than a quarter of a mile :) 

I think speedwork is starting to grow on me.  I really have noticed improvements in my speed each week.  Being a fairly new runner, I have a feeling that the longer I run the slower the improvement will be.  But a big part of why I’ve been motivated to keep running is that it doesn’t take long to notice improvements.  Even if it’s just 2-3 seconds off a mile or average pace, it’s something.

Do you do speedwork?  If so, do you enjoy it?  What is your favorite speed workout?

4 Mile Tempo

It was great to get back to my normal running routine today.  Maggie and I ran a 4 mile tempo run in pretty good time.  This run felt great.  I’m finding that the fourth mile is always my favorite.  That seems to be when my legs really wake up and I get a jolt of energy.  Part of me was itching to keep going tonight, but I didn’t want to overdo it.  I’m supposed to run the next two nights now, and I didn’t want to hurt myself or wear my legs out tonight. 

The goal for tonight was a warm-up mile at 10:30, 2 miles at 9:40, and a cool-down mile.  Of course, we ran our speedy miles in less than 9:40, but I pick that pace because it’s my 10k goal pace.  Our splits:

  • Mile 1:  10:35
  • Mile 2:  9:28
  • Mile 3:  9:06
  • Mile 4:  10:15
  • Total:  39:25 (9:52 average pace)

Our 5k was somewhere around 30:08.  Getting close to my goal of finishing one in under 30 min!  I’m actually thinking about registering for a 5k in February, but I haven’t decided for sure yet.  It would mess with my training schedule, but I’m sure I could work around it.  We’ll see!

Baking on a Rainy Day

It was raining today.  Although I tried to tell myself to toughen up and make it out in the freezing rain, it didn’t happen.  The weather is supposed to be much better for the rest of the week, so I’ve decided to alter my schedule this week and do my 4 mile tempo run tomorrow night instead.  It will be okay.

Since I didn’t get a run in tonight, you get another recipe post instead. For dinner, I made one of my favorite comfort foods (and a favorite of the husband’s), Tofu Pot Pie.  Since I had more time this evening from not running, I also decided to do the logical thing and bake instead.  I made Cranberry Oatmeal Bars.

Let’s start with the tofu.  The Hungry Girl recipe for chicken pot pie was always my favorite.  Since becoming a vegetarian, I make the same recipe but swap tofu for the chicken.  It’s delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 block of tofu
  • garlic powder, onion powder & pepper to taste
  • 2 cans mixed vegetables
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1 roll Pillsbury Seamless Dough Sheets

Start with draining and pressing the tofu, and then cut it into small blocks.  To me, the smaller the blocks, the better, because that’s more surface area that will become crunchy.  I then saute the tofu with the garlic powder, onion powder and pepper until it is golden brown.

Next up, toss the mixed veggies and cream of celery soup in a bowl and add the tofu.  Then pour the mixture into a round baking dish.

I promise you, it tastes better than it looks.  Now bake the tofu in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Once it’s done, take it out and add the seamless dough sheets over the pot pie mixture.

Not exactly a work of art, but it will do.  It goes back into the oven for 8-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your dough.  I like mine at 8 minutes, which leaves it doughy and light.  Pat likes his at 10 minutes, browned and crispy.  Sometimes I take my serving out early and put it back in for him; other times (such as tonight) I bake it for 9 minutes for a compromise.

Just right!

Perfect comfort food for a rainy day.

Cranberry Oatmeal Bars

This recipe is directly from Cooking Light. Which leads me to a question for y’all:  Is it okay to re-post ingredients lists?  From what I’ve read, no one can own a list of ingredients, and therefore, it would be legal to post, as long as you write your own instructions.  But is it ethical?  I’m curious what your thoughts are on this topic!

When I “adapt” a recipe and change a thing or two, I feel comfortable posting details and writing my own instructions.  But when I don’t change a thing, it just doesn’t feel quite right.  Either way, until (or unless) I feel more comfortable with the legality and ethics of posting exact recipes, you’ll have to go to the original recipe for the exact ingredients, but I promise it’s worth the extra click!

You start by mixing the crust – flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, butter and fresh orange juice.

The orange adds a nice, subtle citrus flavor to the crust, which is not something you would expect from the looks of theses bars.

I forgot how much I love oranges.  Actually, to be completely honest, i just love the juice from the oranges.  I don’t like the texture or the bitter taste from eating the fruit, but the juice alone is refreshing.

Next, pat the crust mixture into the bottom of a (PAM-sprayed) pan.

Next, mix up the filling: dried cranberries, fat-free sour cream, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, one egg white and orange rind.  I accidentally got a taste of the orange rind on its own – yuck!

And then sprinkle some of the remaining crust on top.

Into the oven for 40 minutes at 325 degrees, and out comes this tasty bar:

These are so good that when I volunteer to pack them up to share at work tomorrow, Pat actually asked for me to pack a few to stay at home as well.  I don’t bake often, but Cooking Light dessert recipes have never let me down!

What is your favorite recipe to bake?  Share links!  Also, what are your thoughts on re-posting recipes?

Theme Dinner: Italian

I love planning dinner menus with a theme.  Tonight’s dinner actually started with inspiration from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  He has a whole chapter devoted to how to cook veggies, and I have decided I would like to work my way through this chapter.  I hope to discover ways to enjoy veggies that I previously have not liked or have not tried before.  This chapter, of course, starts with Artichokes. 

On the menu tonight:  Braised Artichokes, Lemon Risotto and Tofu Parmesan.  Served with Chardonnay.  And water.

I first decided to braise artichokes with lemon juice and parmesan cheese.  Pat loves anything lemon (he actually eats them raw, for dessert).  So I began looking for other recipes that feature lemons, and found one for lemon risotto, which also called for parmesan.  From there I wanted to add a protein.  I’ve been wanting to make Tofu Parmesan for awhile now, so it seemed like a good opportunity.

Braised Artichokes

I love spinach-artichoke dip, but I’ve never actually cooked with artichokes before.  Clueless, and unable to find artichokes in the produce section at the grocery store, I decided to buy canned artichoke hearts for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1.5 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

I began by sauteing the EVOO and chopped garlic in a skillet on medium heat.  I chopped the bottom part of the artichoke hearts off before cutting them in half.  I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do that, but they were weirding me out so they had to go.  I then added the artichoke heart halves to the skillet.

I then added the rest of the ingredients – the juice from one lemon, italian seasoning and parmesan cheese.

These were delicious.  Pat was impressed with the strength of the lemon flavor.  I was surprised by how tart they were for having used just one lemon, but I really liked them.  The artichoke hearts really soaked up the lemon and garlic flavors.

Delicious, fast, easy and covered in cheese.  My favorite kind of veggie.

Lemon Risotto

Pat and I both agreed, the risotto was the star of the dinner.  Everything was good, but it was the risotto that made us go back for seconds.  I found the recipe at Smitten Kitchen.  I love that Deb has an entire section devoted to recipes that use lemons.  She adapted the recipe from epicurious, and this is my vegetarian version (only slightly different).

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 3.5 tbsp smart balance butter
  • 1.5 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 small yellow onions
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1/3 cup chardonnay
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • juice from 3 small lemons
  • little bit of lemon zest

Begin by heating the veggie broth, and then cover it to keep warm while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Next, melt 1.5 tbsp butter with the EVOO.  The butter reminded me of running eggs as it melted.  Mmmm, fat.

Next, I chopped up two small yellow onions to saute over the butter/EVOO mix.  Oh, how I love onions!  I really do, but these two made me cry.

Next up, add the rice to the skillet, and let it cook dry for a minute.  Then add the wine and wait for it to evaporate.  Then add just 1.5 cups of the hot veggie broth.  You wait for the broth to be absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup of hot veggie broth, and then continue to add a half cup of broth at a time over 30-40 minutes.

After all the veggie broth has been added, you can then add the rest of the ingredients.  I added the remaining butter and cheese first, and let that melt into the rice.  It became thick and creamy very quickly.  Then the parsley, followed by the lemon juice.  I didn’t measure how much I used, but it was the juice from 3 lemons.  I must have some cuts on my fingers because they were stinging by the time I was done.  I tried to scrape some lemon zest in as well, but didn’t have a good tool to do so and gave up pretty quickly.  It still tasted amazing!

It had just a hint of lemon, but it wasn’t over-powering.  I will definitely be making this again.  Next time I make dinner for guests.  Hint,hint.  Anyone want to try some lemon risotto?

Tofu Parmesan

I have wanted to try making tofu parmesan for awhile now, and when I saw the parmesan crusted tofu featured on Running Around Normal, the pictures made me crave it even more.  It seemed like the perfect way to add some light protein to the heavy risotto.

Ingredients:

  • 1 block of extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • tomato sauce, for dipping

First, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Then, drain the tofu and press it to get the water out.  I always do this with paper towels, and would love to have an actual tofu press someday.  But Pat would probably tell you it would be one more kitchen gadget that would wind up buried in a cabinet, only to be seen once or twice a year.  And he might be right.

Anyway, I cut the tofu in half length-wise and then created 8 slices.  A few broke in half during the pressing process.

Next, I prepared the crust mix for the tofu.  I added the panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, basil and garlic powder into a bowl.

The mixture smelled so good, I had to taste it.  Yum!  I then dipped the tofu strips first in the egg white, and then in the bread crumb mixture.  The crumbs had a few issues sticking to the tofu, so I really had to press the mixture into the strips.  The result looked pretty good.

Bake in the oven for one hour.  The hour they spent in the oven was the perfect amount of time for me to prepare the artichokes and risotto.  I flipped them about halfway through and when they were done, I topped each with a little tomato sauce.

These were delicious as well!  The bread crumb crust added a nice crunch to the tofu, making the texture not so… tofu-y (please note:  the spell checker does actually recognize tofu-y as a word).  The texture is the hardest part in selling tofu to others.  I’m still not completely over it myself, but having a nicely cooked outer shell definitely makes a difference.

Overall, it was a very nice dinner.  Lots of lemon and parmesan cheese, and the risotto was a big hit with the husband.  I’m embarrassed to admit, we rarely use our table to eat dinner.  We usually end up eating in front of the TV.  But tonight’s dinner earned its place at the table, and was enjoyed with a glass of wine.  We should do this more often!

Do you always eat dinner at the dinner table?  I always did with my family when we were growing up, but I wonder if it is different for people who don’t have children.  I would imagine that some day, all our meals will be back at the dinner table, but it’s hard to get in the habit when it’s just the two of us.

9 Miles on the Buffalo Bayou

I set a new personal distance record today!  I was overwhelmed by the thought of running 9 miles, but just kept telling myself it was only last weeks’ run plus one more mile.  And I didn’t feel so bad after last week’s run.  I had to psych myself up for this one all week!

Maggie and I decided to try a new route for this long run.  We chose the Buffalo Bayou in Houston.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trails, but I knew it would be gorgeous scenery.  Next time I will have to bring my camera!

(source)

I wore my old Asics for this run.  I’m still breaking in the Brooks, and wanted to go with shoes that I knew would have enough cushion for the long mileage.  A co-worker had a good suggestion for me this week – to buy insoles for the Brooks to add some cushioning.  I plan to do that before I wear them again next week.

Before we headed out for the run we debated whether to take water bottles with us.  Not familiar with the trail, I wasn’t sure how many water fountains we would find.  At the same time, I didn’t want to have to carry the water the whole time.  We decided to go without them, and less than a tenth of a mile into the run, there was a nice guy handing out water bottles for free.  We gladly accepted, and it was a good thing we did!  It definitely helped to have easy access to water.

My first impressions of this course were that it was beautiful, but I could do without the hills.  There were quite a few hills, most not too long, but each hill made my heart rate go up and my quads burn.  I kept thinking that each hill was going to burn me out and I wouldn’t make the whole 9 miles.

My goal pace for today was 10:30.  Early on I was worried that we were going too fast and I would have to start walking at some point, but it actually felt pretty good.  I couldn’t believe the second mile was under 10 minutes – it didn’t feel like we were going that fast!  My favorite mind game is to tell myself that for each mile I run faster than my goal, I get to add that time into later miles.  I know I should do a better job of pacing myself for the entire run, but there’s some comfort in knowing that if I have to walk later, I can still meet my goal.

During mile 5 I took my only walk break, to take my Gu.  I strategically took it as we were going up a pretty steep hill :)  I was sick of those hills already!  I tried the Strawberry Banana flavor this time.  I liked it better than the vanilla, but it still had a disgusting aftertaste.  Again, I don’t know that the Gu gave me any special energy, but I’m guessing I would have been more tired by the end without it.

I could tell I was slowing down during miles 6 and 7.  I was tired and I was becoming concerned about finishing strong.  My legs were tired, and my knees (especially my left knee) were beginning to really hurt.  But when we finished mile 7, it just hit me that there were only 2 miles left to go, and I knew I was going to be able to run the whole thing!  That thought alone gave me a little extra energy.

Miles 8 and 9 (almost) flew by.  I was excited when I realized that I might come in under 1 hour, 32 minutes and I pushed to finish the last mile as fast as I could.  Our splits:

  • Mile 1:  10:04
  • Mile 2:  9:50
  • Mile 3:  10:06
  • Mile 4:  10:10
  • Mile 5:  10:29 – Gu
  • Mile 6:  10:28
  • Mile 7:  10:34
  • Mile 8:  10:18
  • Mile 9:  9:52
  • Total:  1:31:53 (10:13 average pace)

I’m really encouraged by the average pace.  It makes my goal of running 4.1 more miles at a 10:17 pace seem more realistic.  I also really liked the course, aside from the hills.  It’s probably good training, but my normal course is much more flat.  We also commented on the fact that this is a course we would probably not do on our own – you go under a few bridges and through some secluded areas, and there weren’t all that many people out running.

I felt really good after the run, but really sore.  I did some stretching and foam rolling, so hopefully that will help me to feel better by tomorrow.  I then showered, ate lunch (leftover Thai food, yummy!) and then fell asleep on the couch cuddling my puppy :)

How do you best recover from long runs?