The tale of an ex- cross country runner training for a half-marathon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Food Blogger Cookie Swap, Dorm Edition

Finals week is upon us, and by us I mean college students and their professors.  Unfortunately the due date for this post coincides directly with finals week, so bear with me, I'll come back and edit this post once finals week is over (that is, of course, assuming it has an end).

Onto a more upbeat topic--cookies.  A couple weeks ago while perusing Love and Olive Oil, I found out about the Food Blogger Cookie Swap. One of the things I miss most about living in a dorm is cooking, so when the opportunity to force myself to bake came up, I took it.

I needed to make a recipe that was gluten and corn free, as well as vegan, which narrowed it down to about one recipe: Chocolate Puddle Drop cookies, adapted from 101 Cookbooks.   I had first heard of these through the Jules Clancy's cooking blog Stonesoup.  I've recommended her blog before, but I'll say it again, her blog is great for any other college students, or really anyone with limited cooking supplies and baking abilities.  All of the recipes are 5 ingredients or less, use only a few dishes, and usually don't take too long to prepare, which are basically the three rules that govern cooking in a dorm.

The Process:

A lovely snapshot of the toasted nuts, right before I spent an hour and a half chopping all of them up.  I highly recommend one of those handy slam-chopper things if you duplicate this recipe.  Note the lovely set up of the dorm kitchen.  I considered cropping the photo, but I think it gives a really accurate picture of dorm life.  Note the makeshift cooking supplies, trash can filled with a variety of unmentionables, decorations straight from the 1950s, and the lone ramen noodle.

I made 3 batches, two for the cookie swap and one for a class presentation on Internet cookies.  I can't resist a good pun.

The result:

 The final product!  They turned out pretty well.

The link to the original recipe is above, but I substituted a few things, so here's the edited version below:

Chocolate Puddle Drop Cookies
Makes 18 cookies 
3 cups walnut and/or pecan halves, toasted & cooled. 
4 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar (To make corn-free, you can try replacing castor sugar, but if you do use way less than this recipe calls for. I learned the hard way that castor sugar does not equal confectioner's sugar.)
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 large egg whites, room temperature (To make vegan, use any egg replacer except flax seeds and water, it makes them spread like crazy.  I hear ener-g works well, but I couldn't find it at the local Whole Foods.  Yeah, I was shocked too.  If you can't find a vegan egg replacement there, where can you find it?)
1 tablespoon vanilla flavoring

1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit and position racks in the top and bottom third (I just put the cookies in the oven, but feel free to arrange your racks however you'd like.)
2.  Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. But parchment paper is probably a better idea.
3.  Toast those nuts.  425 for 10-15 minutes should do the trick.  This probably goes without saying, but make sure they cool before chopping them up.  I learned this the hard way as well.
4.  Mix the confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and sea salt. Stir in the walnuts, then add the egg whites/egg replacer and vanilla and be prepared to get a good arm workout.  (Although, it might have been so thick because I used too many nuts.)
5.  Spoon the batter onto the cookie sheets in mounds of about 2 tablespoons each, The original recipe says: "Allow for PLENTY of room between cookies. These cookies are like reverse Shrinky Dinks - they really expand. Don't try to get more than 6 cookies on each sheet, and try to avoid placing the batter too close to the edge of the pan."  Mine didn't spread all that much (Again, this may have been because I used too many nuts), but they grew, a lot.  Use way less dough than you think you need per cookie.
6.  Bake them until you see cracks on the surface, a little over 10 minutes.
7.  Ignore the fact that they really do resemble baked mud, eat & enjoy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Back for another one...

Okay, so, blogging kind of fell to the wayside as fall semester started back up.  This is mainly due to the amount of homework professors have been assigning, so blame the education system, not me. (Just kidding, government, please don't cut the education budget further than you already have.)  The race went well though, considering I decided at the start line I wanted to finish the race in under 2 hours (For comparison, my previous estimates had me finishing in two and a half hours), and somehow managed to pull that off, finishing in 1 hour and 57 minutes.  How that happened, I have no idea, but I'll take it.  Now I have some down time before the next half marathon in March (For some reason, my friend and I decided it would be a good idea to sign up for two half marathons before running one.  We were so young and naive.)

And now I segue into a topic that is near and dear to my heart stomach:

One of the things I miss most about living in a dorm is my kitchen.  The dorm has a kitchen, but it's just not as convenient, mostly because it doesn't make sense to buy ingredients that I'm only going to be able to use with one recipe, so that pretty much rules out any recipe with over four ingredients.  Alas.  I feel that I should also confess that the lack of a well-stocked kitchen has only fueled my stalking of food blogs.  And so, in memory of the kitchen I used to have, here is a roundup of the recipes I wish I were cooking this week. (If you're lucky my workload lightens up, maybe this will become a regular installment.)

Jules Clancy from Stone Soup's Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato:

**I think I actually will be making these for Thanksgiving dinner.  There's no way a dish with pecans, sweet potatoes, thyme, and parmesan cheese could go wrong.

I love Stone Soup, mostly because Jules Clancy is committed to making every dish with 5 ingredients or less, making most of the recipes dorm-kitchen and budget approved.  Plus they all look delicious, as demonstrated by the photos above.

Pumpkin Hummus from Slashfood:

For some reason, this fall I've had an abnormal obsession with all things pumpkin, to the point where my roommate makes fun of me.  I walk past the cans of Libby's canned pumpkin wistfully, trying to think of something beyond the all-too-obvious pumpkin pie.  This recipe for pumpkin hummus offers the exciting prospect of bringing pumpkin to meals beyond dessert which ultimately maximizes pumpkin consumption, something I fully condone.

The Vegan Stoner's Lentil Loaf:

To be fair, I think I want to make everything on The Vegan Stoner simply because of the adorable drawings.  But this lentil loaf looks like the perfect fall dinner.

What do you wish you were making (or better yet, what are you actually making) this week?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Walk and Think

I planned on going on my run today, and thinking up a super-witty, hilarious, well-organized blog post.  And then I started running.  Instead of thinking up the perfect topic and a fantastic opening line that would jump out and grab the reader, that was the best I could do.  So here goes my attempt at blog-improv:  What do you think about when you're running?  Really, sometimes it's just agonizing because there aren't any distractions.  Just you, the open road, the sound of your own breathing/wheezing, and whatever you happen to be running by (which, the other day, was a fox.  A fox, I tell ya.  If that doesn't prove to you I live in Maine, I don't know what will.  Thankfully it looked more like the first image, and not the second.) 

Calm fox.
Not so calm fox.

Wildlife aside, I think the mental aspect of running is the most difficult part.  I can run through sore legs, slow down to catch my breath, but if my head isn't in it, it ain't gon' HOP-pen, to quote Glozell.  And on those days where you just aren't feeling it, suddenly you start to feel like you're falling apart because first it's something small, like a cramp in your calf, then that turns into a cramp in your quad and then your whole leg and then your whole body, and then you start to feel like you can't breathe and yeah, pretty soon you're stopping to take a quick break, which turns into a longer break which turns into walking all the way home (I call that the real Walk of Shame.)  These are the days when I really question why I run if it can make you feel so awful.

But then there are also those days when everything feels so in sync; you aren't breathing too hard, nothing's sore, and your mind seems to forget the concept of quitting a run before it's over, and even seems to want to continue running even after the workout's over.  Not to sound all hippie, but on days like those I even feel like I'm meditating.  Meditating. What?  I haven't exactly mastered the concept of sitting meditation (10 minutes feels like a lifetime.  One times for a class we had to meditate for one hour, and I almost thought I was going to go insane.  Seriously, how often do you ever just sit and do nothing?  It's much, much harder than it seems.)  But I don't think I've ever been closer to a state of meditation than on my good days of running.  Is there such a thing as transcendental running? If there is, I'm hoping that that's the state of mind I'm in during the half. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dorm sweet dorm

Blogging will be temporarily postponed as I move back into the dorms.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day Off

Today was one of the three scheduled days off a week.  Three. Days. Off.  During cross country, we got excited for one day off a week, and that was if we were lucky.  And don't get me wrong, I definitely appreciate a day off here and there, but sometimes the weather's perfect for running, and it's so beautiful outside, the temperature is just right, the sun is shining down, and how can you resist that?  You just can't.  So I've tried to find ways to exercise without running, so it's still technically a day off.  The other day I tried walking, which was nice, but I felt a little awkward, mostly because I was one of those people that you see walking, in normal street clothes, without a dog, that look completely out of place and you just run past them really fast hoping they won't jump out and attack you or something because really, what could they possibly be doing alone on some road besides waiting to claim their next victim?  And of course I ran into the entire high school boys' cross country team, who judged me hardcore for not running.  So yeah, the walking adventure didn't go so well.

Next up, I took to the interweb for exercise videos, which is where I stumbled upon POP Pilates on Youtube. (It's pilates, mixed with pop music. Get it? Get it? So clever.) And oh my lord.  My muscles burned in ways I didn't know they could.  I don't know if we were doing the same workout, but somehow the instructor kept a smile on her face the entire time.  How she was able to stay so peppy and chipper is beyond me, because my abs burned to the point that I couldn't tell if I was moving anymore (Oh yeah.  6 pack, here I come.).  Excessive perkiness aside, the videos were really good, and okay, fine, her excitement kept me from giving up.  I'll probably be sticking to these videos since I can do them in the comfort of my own home, without all the awkward encounters.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rainy Days, Long Runs, and Mexican Soup

Today's weather was sub-par at best.  Between the off and on rain, cooler temperatures, humidity, and just general gross-ness, it looked like it was shaping up to be what I used to refer to as a really, really good day not to run.  But the schedule had a long run planned for today, and so long run I did.  It was six miles total, which isn't really all that far off of what I was running prior to training (5 miles), and went by surprisingly quickly.  Especially after the last mile went from a slow jog to a Usain Bolt-like sprint after a dog decided to chase me. (In retrospect, maybe it was just trying to race me?)   Thankfully, I finished the run with all of my limbs intact and without any puncture wounds, which allowed me to make this soup.  And oh, is this soup worth a run in the rain and a dog chase.  I would go so far as to say that this is the best soup I've ever eaten.  It has about a billion ingredients, but it's easy to make and nearly impossible to mess up.  Just throw everything in, cook, and eat.  I'm sitting here trying to type any words that do justice in describing this soup, but I can't, so just try it.


Confession: I'm not a professional food photographer at my other job.

Long Run Recharge Soup, Mexican-style:
Makes about 4 servings


1/2 can of stewed tomatoes, Mexican style.  I used only half the can of tomatoes, but all of the juice.
2 cans of water, drained from the stewed tomatoes (Just fill the can with the leftover tomatoes up with water, then pour it through a strainer into the pot.)
1/2 can of black beans
1/2 can of white beans (It called them "Great Northern" beans on the can, but that sounds more like the name of a constellation, so I'm calling them white beans.)
1/2 of a tomato, cut about the size of the stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup of wax beans (I really only added these because we had just harvested a ton of them from the garden.  They add a nice crunch, but if you don't have them, the soup will be fine.)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 a Large Hass avocado, chopped (The name kills me.  Because they really are some large ass avocados)
A few stalks of cilantro, chopped
1 scallion, sliced thinly

1/2 teaspoon of cumin (I haven't been able to say this seriously since Teresa from Real Housewives of New Jersey said she thought it was pronounced cuh-min)
A couple shakes of salt
A bit of freshly ground pepper
Barely a pinch of aleppo pepper, or any pepper, really
A few drops of hot sauce.  I used one that looked like a thoroughly unamused cowboy, but any hot sauce will do.
1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Extra virgin, none of that "light oil" crap.

Put all of the ingredients, minus the avocado, cilantro, and scallions, into a soup pot.  Cook at medium heat.  Once it starts to boil, turn down to medium-low.  Cook for about half an hour or so, stirring occasionally. Add the avocado, cilantro, and scallions, and cook for another 10 minutes on low.  Resist the urge to marry this soup.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mission Statement

Let me preface this blog by stating that the title is not a reference to the Black Eyed Peas song of the same name.  Fine.  Maybe it is.  Don't judge me. It's good workout music.

So, here's the story of this blog in a nutshell (What does that saying even mean?):

I used to run XC and track in high school, and I remember thinking at my last race, Ugh, thank GOD I'm done with this.  Running sucks!  Why did I choose to do this for four years?  I then proceeded to enjoy a lovely summer sans-exercise.  Then, along came college, and I started getting the urge to run again.  I fought it for as long as I could, but I started running one month into my freshman year and haven't stopped since (That makes it sound like I've been running for years.  I'm a sophomore now, you do the math.)  Now that I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'm a runner, through and through,  I've decided to run a half marathon.  Yeah, I know, the marathon is the real race, blah blah blah, whatever.  The most I've ever run was 8 miles, once, like two years ago.  So 13 (13.1!  Don't forget the extra .1!)  is kind of a big deal.  I decided to start this blog to chronicle the successes/trials/failures/difficulties/whatever else you encounter while training for a race.   I'll be following the Ultimate Half-Marathon Training Plan from Runner's World, mostly because it has ultimate in the title.  I'm a sucker for anything that sounds official.  Anyway, I'll be including other topics outside my running, because, well, that would be boring, both for me to write and you to read.  I think that just about sums it up.

And on that note, let the training commence!*

*As I write this, I'm five days into training, so technically the training has already commenced.  But the symbolism is still there!