Kelly the Culinarian: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Gluten-Free Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

I kind of have a reputation to keep up at work. I love making cute and unique treats for birthdays and different ocassions. I like to try different things, like my Kit Kat Cake or Rose Engagement Cake. I saw a recipe for a deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie on Chocolate Covered Katie and thought I'd give it a try. This made me anxious - it isn't a cookie or muffin where I can try one and if it isn't great, stop at Jewel and buy something.
But I threw caution to the wind and decided to serve my unsuspecting coworkers a gluten-free, bean-filled cookie pie. To soften the blow and uphold my street cred, I also brought ice cream and chocolate syrup.
After my boss had a slice and said she loved her birthday treat, I told her my little secret. She and I both agreed it had a different "mouth feel," but was still good. However, as she told me, you could put chocolate chips on shoe leather and it would be delicious. Because there's nothing raw in this, it turns out very ooey gooey and rich tasting. The cake went fast, with no leftovers at the end of the day, and many people came back for seconds. I'm not sure if people actually loved it, because I'm not positive people would tell me if they didn't like it.
My thoughts on this recipe that it's good, but doesn't taste like a chocolate chip cookie. The flavor is different, but the texture is very similar. But, the beans are much healthier than conventional recipes. Just don't mind that chocolate and ice cream I put on top of mine ...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Favorite Breakfasts

All those smart expert types say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You're "breaking the fast" from the night before, and if you hold off eating it, your metabolism continues to lag because you haven't given it anything to run off of. I read somewhere in my dieting that you should eat something, anything within the first hour of being awake. Of course, it's preferable that your breakfast is healthy. I like to eat more calories in the morning so that I get more variety and can concentrate on work for a couple of hours before I need another bite to eat. Here are a few of my favorite breakfasts:

A square of baked banana oatmeal with turkey bacon and a parfait of strawberries, blueberries, fage and homemade granola.

Special K cereal with flaxmeal, PB2, skim milk and sliced strawberries.

A vegan banana muffin with a sliced apple, almond butter and low-fat yogurt. I actually had the muffin and yogurt for breakfast, then the apple with almond butter for my mid-morning snack.
And my all-time weekday favorite, whole wheat toast or a whole wheat English muffin with natural peanut butter, flaxmeal and a sliced banana. This is what I've had before every race so far, so I'm going to stick with it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fort2Base Training update and dinner

I got an exciting package yesterday: my Fort2Base Race gear! As part of my ambassador program with the race, I got a box full of materials to wear and share in the 11 weeks left (!) until the race. The T-shirt is so much nicer than the one I picked up at the Downers Grove 5 Miler. The race is making both men's and women's tech shirts, and they're really comfortable and fit well.

I took my T-shirt out for a training run tonight. I did almost three miles, per my training plan, in just more than 26 minutes. This is a big improvement from my time even last week of 30ish minutes on the same route. My 5k time last fall was 33 minutes, so I'm happy that this program is helping me build a solid base and get faster.
Post run, I like to eat protein, so I made myself tilapia en papillote with edamame. Here's the recipe:

2 tilapia fillets

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic

Juice from one lime

Place each fillet on an envelope of parchment paper, then roll the edges over until you've closed the pouches almost completely. Mix the remaining ingredients, then distribute evenly between the two pouches through the remaining opening while gently shaking the marinade around the fish. Finish the crimping, then place on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Cooking with Kelly: Chocolate Microwave Protein Muffin

When I first started losing weight, I found it very difficult to get enough protein. I don't eat a ton of meat and I wasn't sure where else I could find 100 grams of protein each day. I was really excited when I found this protein muffin recipe at Smoothie Girl Eats Too. By popular demand, here's the recipe I enjoy the most:

Homemade Microwave Protein Muffin
2 egg whites
3 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce (or pumpkin puree)
2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour (Can sub 1 Tablespoon of coconut flour)
1/2 Tablespoon flaxmeal
1 Tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon Splenda (optional)
1 Tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Whisk the egg with a splash of water until frothy, then whisk the applesauce in before adding the dry ingredients. Place half of the batter in a microwave proof bowl, sprinkle the chocolate chips on the batter, then top with the remaining batter. Microwave for between two and five minutes, depending on your microwave. I typically nuke these for 2:45.
It's great because you get a chocolate fix for less than 200 calories along with 11 grams of protein. Every bit helps!

My favorite fix is with the coconut flour, no chocolate chips, topped with 2 Tablespoons of natural peanut butter. Yum!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Long Run

As part of my Fort2base Race training plan, I complete one long run per week along with a host of short runs during the week. While this week's plan calls for a four-mile run, I kept up my current running level and did an eight-mile run at Busse Woods.

This place is super awesome for long runs. There's plenty of shade and it's paved. I always see wildlife on this trail and have more than once came eye to eye with a deer. My only complaint is the bathroom situation there ... it's rustic. There's no lights and while there are lovely modern flush toilets, I'd much rather trade for a pit toilet with a door on it.
Anyhow, I'm sharing my pre- and post-run food. I like to fuel with the same food. Consistency is key in preventing runner's trot. So I start most morning, and definitely every race or long run morning, with the same breakfast: whole wheat toast or English muffin topped with natural peanut butter, flax and fruit. I usually go with a sliced banana, but we were out, so no-sugar-added fruit preserve was a good substitute.

By the time we finished our eight-mile loop, it was lunch time. I finished off some leftover edamame, along with multigrain tortilla chips, salsa and a turkey sandwich with provolone, hummus and lettuce on a sandwich thin. Protein post race and long run is important, hence the variety of meat and plant protein sources. Bon appetite!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Pretty Rose Engagement Cake

At work, we're celebrating an engagement! Our department's administrative assistant is getting ready to tie the knot and we're all very excited for her. To celebrate the ocassion, we had a little get together with treats. I love any reason to bake, and I especially loved making this cake. I followed this super simple Rose Cake Tutorial and got great results. I should have used a larger tip for the roses, but I went with what I had.

This cake, however, isn't easy on the waistline. Those roses require a lot of frosting. In fact, this cake was probably more frosting than cake, which is fine by me. Then again, this might be why my new running compression tights are extra tight. That just makes my muscle work harder, right?

Today's training included a three-mile run, which I don't have information for in terms of speed or pace because I didn't set up the app correctly. I'm still learning how to use this phone. I followed that up with strength training, per my Fort2Base training plan. I used some apps on my phone to guide me through a quick 15-minute session of strength training. Hopefully, this offsets the totally awesome cake.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fort2Base Eating Program

Diets suck. I don't do them. I certainly don't succeed at them or stick to them. So instead, I focus on eating well. I like to think that I'm not a dieter, but I'm a healthy eater. I eat food I enjoy like Taco Bell, cake, ice cream and burgers, but I'm working on all things in moderation.

On the Insanity program, I was provided a meal plan that I found very helpful. The program focuses on five small meals per day that are mostly protein based and includes lots of whole grains.

So I'll be following the same sort of structure leading up to this race. Here's what a typical day looks like for me:

7 a.m.: 1/2 cup Special K with 1 tablespoon flax, 1 tablespoon PB2, 1/2 skim milk and 1 sliced banana

10 a.m.: 1 apple with almond butter, string cheese and a baked oatmeal square

1 p.m.: Salad with 1 tablespoon dressing, yogurt with granola, carrot sticks with 1 tablespoon hummus

4 p.m.: 2 ounces of ham, 2 ounces of turkey, 1 ounce of cheese

7 p.m.: Turkey bacon, lettuce and tomato on a sandwich thin, edamame

If I'm going to have something decadent, like cake, I try to have it during the day so that I have time to digest it without disrupting my evening workout.

I also let myself have Taco Bell once a week. Old habits die hard.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fort2Base Race Training Plan

As the official ambassador of the Fort2Base Race, I have the pleasure of writing about my training plan and encouraging others to start thinking now about how they'll achieve the 10-nautical mile race. That's 11.5 miles, starting at Fort Sheridan and ending at the Great Lakes Naval Base on the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Coincidentally, the base is also celebrating its 100th anniversary during this inaugural race. Pretty cool, huh? The race will also benefit Salute, Inc., an organization that supports our military personnel and their families. There's so many reasons to be jazzed about this race.

Anyhoo, before I can claim my medal and finish the last 3.45 miles around the base, I've got to actually be able to run the distance. While I'm logging 15 or so miles a week already, including an eight-miler every weekend, I wanted to start at the beginning with my training and build a good base. I've chosen the Hal Higdon Half Marathon Training program for novice runners as an outline for my training. While the Fort2Base is just short of a half marathon, this 12-week program is a great starting point for anyone relatively new to competitive running who just wants to finish a race. I'm going to augment this plan with my favoritest cross training program ever, Insanity.

Tim and I bought Insanity this spring on craigslist and loved it. The plyometrics have improved my speed while the cardio really helps with my endurance.

Hal's plan calls for one day per week of stretching and strengthening, which I'll be using the Insanity cardio recovery DVDs for. The first four weeks, I'll use the Cardio Recovery DVD, the second four weeks I'll use the Core Cardio and Balance DVD and the last four weeks, I'll use the Max Cardio Recovery. This will allow me to ramp up the training.

Likewise, for the weekly cross training that Hal outlines, I'll be using a rotation of Insanity DVDs with the first six weeks featuring Level 1 workouts and the second six weeks featuring Level 2 workouts.

Tomorrow, I'll be blogging about what I'm eating to power all these runs and workouts.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Exciting News!

I'm now the official ambassador of the Fort2Base Race! I'm super excited to announce that in exchange for an entry to this inaugural race on Sept. 11, I'll be sharing my training plan, tips and progress here and on Facebook. Tune in tomorrow for more on the race, my training plan, and most importantly, my eating plan!

In similarly exciting news, I've joined the 21st century and finally gotten a smart phone. Despite working in social media for a living and spending much of my waking life in front of a computer, I was reluctant to spend the cash on a smart phone as well as the increased data plan charges. My dumb phone broke on Saturday and after much deliberation, shopping, conversing and price comparison, we now have his and hers Droid Charge phones. So romantic.

This phone is awesome. I'm looking forward to using the camera to take more photos when we're eating at restaurants. It's way more discreet to snap a mobile phone pic than whip out a camera. I'll also be using the Apps to find more recipes to tweak and perfect as well as train for my race. It'll be nice to accurately measure my speed, pace and distance.

Yay for big news!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Dads deserve a lot of credit. That's why they get a day of recognition, and hopefully, a little peace and quiet. My dad decided for his special day, he wanted to have a picnic at Independence Grove, a fabulous park in Libertyville that features a beach, lake, awesome playground, paved paths and rentals of all kinds. It's probably the nicest forest preserve I've ever seen. They have modern toilets with walls and everything! DuPage and Cook counties, take note. We headed out today to barbecue.

So we flew a kite. I also threw the frisbee in the general area of my family members, which was a big ol' fail on my end. I couldn't even get someone to play with me after a while. I need practice.

Dad got some great swag, including a Garmin Forerunner for his outdoor walking and workouts. I can't wait to see how he likes it!

And he made us some hot dogs and brats. I had forgotten how awesome charcoal-cooked food tastes. Note to self: move somewhere that allows charcoal grills, STAT.

So here's to all the awesome dads out there. Thanks for always being there for household repairs, advice on my 401K and ideas on what that strange sound coming from my car is. Love you, dad!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Race Report: Downers Grove 5 Miler

Last weekend, Tim and I took to the streets to run through Naperville. Now in its 34th year, the Downers Grove 5 Miler snakes through a residential area described as "scenic" and "rolling."

This is my first five-mile race. One year ago, I couldn't even run around the block. We ran a 5K last fall, but now we're stepping up to longer distances. To make this food related, I started my morning with my favorite breakfast: whole-wheat toast with organic peanut butter, flaxmeal and banana. Also, I only started running so I can eat more, so that's the tie in.

We got to the race around 7 a.m. without any incident. Traffic was nonexistent and parking was plentiful and free. There weren't any lines at the port-a-potties or registration. We picked up our packets the day before, but had to exchange our giant T-shirts for smaller sizes. Even with a size small, I was swimming in these tech shirts. They need smaller sizes because I'm not exactly petite and tech shirts should be fitted.

The race began on-time at 7:30 a.m. and the route was clearly marked. And holy hills, there were quite a few. I hit my version of a good pace pretty quickly and didn't have to fight a ton of people, since it was field of only about 500. The timings at the splits were clearly marked and I hit at 9ish, 18ish, 27ish and then 37ish. There were four water and gatorade stations along the way, which was great, but we had fantastic weather with a nice breeze, so I didn't feel like I needed to suck down water like my life depended on it.

The last mile was rather brutal for me. There was an uphill portion and I was trying to haul ass to maintain a nine-minute pace for my finish. Alas, I had to stop and suck in some air before heading to the finish line. My clock time was 45:55, so I was pretty happy with that.

There were only a few vendors at the post-race party and the standard post-race food: trail mix, oranges, bananas, bagels and gatorade. We didn't stick around long, mostly because they royally screwed up the times. They judged everyone based on the 10-mile course (it was basically just another loop of the same course, but here's a recap), so my ticket said I maintained a 4:29 pace. Unreal. When the official times finally came out on Tuesday, my time was 45:25.

I wish we would have stayed, because it turns out Tim won his age group! My champion finished in 41:24. I'm in the presence of greatness.

Price: $29
Time: 45:25
Swag: Technical shirt, items available from vendors post-race
Pros: Great volunteer support, easy parking and traffic, no crowds/lines, well-marked course
Cons: Gigantically sized T-shirts, inaccurate timing, "rolling" course with potholes, not a lot going on post race
Would I go again: Yes

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Vegan Banana Muffins

I'm not a vegan. I love burgers, cheese, eggs, butter and sometimes, milk. I don't eat a ton of any of these things, but I like having the option. However, a couple of vegetarian/vegan meals per week is good for the waistline and budget. These are so tasty, I didn't miss any of the butter/milk/eggs. Totally yummy AND easy! My favorite combination. Here's how:

Vegan Banana Muffin Recipe
4 crushed bananas
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix all ingredients, then spoon into greased muffin tins. I use a metal scoop to make equal muffins, but that's just an extra step. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Napoleon is 3!

Today, the little man is 3 years old. That means he's somewhere between 21 and 28 in human years, depending on which Web site you believe. Either way, I'm glad Tim checked a calendar today, otherwise, I would have forgotten his birthday ... again.
Anyhow, on the left is the first day we got him (I'm sure he was an adorable puppy, but we don't know) and the one on the right was earlier this week.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I may have a problem ...

With Mexican food that borders on an obsession. When given the opportunity, Mexican food is always my choice: a little dive place with awesome tortas, a homey authentic eatery with amazing mole sauce or even the ever-delicious Taco Bell. I will eat them all, and often in the same week.

I may need an intervention.

In the meantime, let me share another awesome place with you. Tacos el Norte is a staple in this house and it has multiple locations that my family frequents. We decided to go to the Libertyville location recently so we could eat on the patio and enjoy the lovely, amazing weather we had that day. This location has gone through many reincarnations in the time I've lived in the area -- it was a tapas place, a buffet, an awesome cheapo bar I frequented and now, a Mexican place I'm super excited to visit.

Because I'm endeavoring on the Downers Grove 5 Miler Sunday, I'm taking a card from some bloggers wiser than me and getting my game day face ready. Per Healthy Tipping Point's advice, I attempted to treat my body nicely this week by eating better, hydrating like I might be trekking through the desert and avoiding alcohol. I'm seriously the lamest person ever right now.

So while my mom enjoyed a delicious-looking frozen margarita, I had a steak taco salad. It was good, but the steak was a little on the greasy side. And let's face it, I'd much rather be eating steak tacos with cilantro and onion and a side of beans and rice. And a giant margarita.

Wish me luck on Sunday!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hot town, summer in the city

It was unbearably hot over the weekend. Like feeling you were standing in front of the oven hot. Clearly, I was not going to be cooking. We decided to spend the day downtown running errands. We started with stopping by DePaul to sell some books, then went to Cemitas Puebla. This family-owned restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives a couple of years ago and has been busy both of the times we've stopped by.

Word of warning ... you have to drive through some tough neighborhoods to get there, so we've only gone during the day. The food, however, is totally worth it. Their specialty, the cemita, is a sesame seed bun topped with avocado, meat, chipotles and amazing cheese. Tim got his with steak and I ended up finishing half of it. Why? I ordered a steak taco along with an arabe taco, which turned out to by too spicy for me when topped with their chipotle sauce. He took my spicy taco in exchange. The green sauce is soooo yummy. I'm not sure how they make it so creamy, but I'm a sucker for cilantro and doused almost all of my eats with this stuff. I could eat it on my cheerios and would buy it by the gallon, if they would only sell it to me. This place always hits the spot.

Next, we were off to the Lincoln Park Zoo, where it was so hot that the polar bear kept swimming in the same circle in the shade. If I was a polar bear with four inches of blubber who evolved to live in a place where it's not 400 degrees, I'd be doing the same thing too.

I can't remember what this animal is called, but it's in the African animal exhibit and reminded me of our puppy baby. Something about the eyes and the skinny legs, and the little perch they both share. Is it part yorkie?