Kelly the Culinarian: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For the Win!

Do you know what this is?
A working oven! For the not-so-low price of $250, we now have a new electric igniter (which gives me a flash back to our broken furnace) and an oven that can create all my favorite tasty treats. It's a good thing, too, because I'm having some lovely ladies over for a chocolate party Sunday and would like full use of my oven.

Another fun delivery today is my Smirnoff party pack from House Party. The ladies and I will be enjoying adult beverages from Smirnoff through this program. They also sent me some decorations, party games, cups and a digital camera.

I already did my Insanity workout for the day, so now it's on to cleaning for the get together and using my newly renovated oven!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Training Tuesday: Insanity Day 7

I'm a week into it and have stuck with the Insanity program almost perfectly. I did skip a workout on Black Friday in lieu of a 9-mile run with Maggie and Amanda. It was a recovery workout anyways, so I figured it was all good.
My weight this morning was 129.8, so I haven't lost an incredible amount of weight. I'm down less than half a pound, but keep in mind that I've eaten my weight in turkey, pie, butterscotch fudge bar bites and blueberry lemon crock pot cake. The fact that I didn't gain like 10 pounds is a small miracle, so these ass-kicking workouts must be working.
In fact, I can already see increased definition in my legs. This my just be a placebo affect, since you can't really change your body in a week, but a girl can dream. I'm interested in seeing how my results on the fit test stack up next week.
By the way, did you catch Shaun T on Conan O'Brien last night? If I could get abs like that, I'll so whatever these videos tell me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stand Mixer Sunday: Lemon Blueberry Crock Pot Cake

I should rename this the Lemon Blueberry Mistake Cake. Subtitle: You're my favorite mistake. I knew I had a box on Duncan Hines Cake and Wilderness blueberry filling from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program and knew exactly what I wanted to make today. I blended all the ingredients for a lemon crumble bar with blueberry filling, assembled the whole concoction, then got ready to bake it into delicious, fluffy and gooey perfection.

Except the oven didn't want to play. It's red LCD display glared 100 degrees back at me. I tried unplugging the oven, starting again, etc. And nothing. The interior remained as cool as a the tile floor. Seriously, how much crap in my house can break at the same time? To prove I'm not prone to dramatics, see exhibit A (the wash machine), exhibit B (the electrical in the kitchen) and exhibit c (the furnace).

So it was time for plan B. I pulled out my beloved crock pot and hoped for the best, amending the topping slightly to make it all work. When all was said and done, I was very pleased with the deliciously moist cake that resulted from baking in the slow cooker. It's not so attractive, but what this cake lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor.

Lemon Blueberry Crock Pot Cake
1 box Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme Cake Mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar-free applesauce
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 can Wilderness blueberry pie filling
1/2 stick butter, cold
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the cake mix, eggs, applesauce, vegetable oil and water until combined, then mix for two minutes.
Spray the crock pot with oil, then spoon half of the cake batter into the crock pot. Spoon the blueberry topping over, then top with the remaining cake batter.
Mix together the remaining ingredients, then top the final cake batter layer with the topping. Bake in the crock pot for 2 and 1/2 hours on low, then allow to sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Butterscotch Fudge Bar Bites

Today has been super productive. I steamed all the floors, put up some more holiday decor, planned out what I'm going to do with our basement/gym space, cleaned up the office, touched up the paint in the bathroom and our bedroom, put away laundry, brought in the trash cans and took out the dog about a million and a half times. I also ate a ton of leftovers and did another Insanity workout before trying some recipes.

I tried a healthy brownie recipe that was so terrible, it went to the trash after one bite. Tim said "I love you, but I'm not eating any more of that." Fair enough, I don't think even the dog would eat it. Luckily, I had something yummier in store that was not healthy, but indeed, delicious. These bars were an adaptation from a Pillsbury recipe that went over very well. It combines my favorite things: chocolate fudge, butterscotch chips and cookie. So in case you're wondering what kind of Insanity results I'll post this week, here's a hint: these were awesome and I enjoyed each bite, however many bites that was ...

Butterscotch Fudge Bar Bites
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups crushed graham crackers
3/4 cups butterscotch chips
1 package chocolate chip cookies
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon butter

Combine the melted butter and 1 and 3/4 cups of the graham cracker crumbs. Mix, then press into the bottom of a 13x9-inch pan. Place in the freezer to firm up while you finish the next steps.
Next, combine the remaining graham cracker crumbs and the chocolate chip cookies, then set aside. Finally, mix together the condensed milk, butter and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave in 30-second intervals, pausing to mix and repeat the process until smooth.
Remove the graham cracker crust from the freezer. Top with the chocolate fudge mixture and gentle smooth to fill the dish. Crumble the cookie mixture and distribute over the fudge, then top with the butterscotch chips.
Baked for 25 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Let cool completely before cutting, at least two hours.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stranger Danger

I thought of something else I'm thankful for: my employer closes on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Although I went to CVS yesterday for a few things (yay extra care bucks!), I didn't do any other Black Friday shopping. There's nothing I need enough to wait in line in the dark and elbow people to get. We saw people lined up at Target last night on our way home from my mom's house and it was only 6 p.m.

Instead, I got a Facebook message from Maggie (in the blue top) earlier this week asking if I would like to meet a bunch of strangers from the Internet in the woods. I told her I liked to live on the edge, so why not. I met up with some lovely ladies first thing this
morning at Waterfall Glen for a nine-miler that made me curse myself for eating so much and skip my Insanity workout (it was the "recovery" workout anyhow, so I figure it's all a wash).

After making a wrong turn, I eventually found myself at the
trail head. Holy hills, this was a tough run.

When it was all said and done, we meandered 9.35-miles through the woods in about an hour and a half, including bathroom breaks and a short walk when I thought my heart was going to explode going up a hill. I didn't get murdered or anything and the other runners were so friendly. In addition to meeting Maggie in real life, I met Amanda and a few other runners. They might have blogs too, but I have a hard time with this whole networking thing while I'm trying not to die going up a hill.
I ate the first of many leftovers that day in the car before trekking home: one baked egg and a handful
of pretzels with a gallon of water. Or maybe a little less water. I had coffee, an ice bath and leftover oatmeal before we put up the holiday decorations.

Tim bought me this tree when we first moved in.
We bought the house Oct. 24, 2008, and said we wouldn't buy a tree until after Christmas when they went on sale. But Tim realized it was important to me a surprised me with the tree. It was sweet enough that it made me cry. Most of the ornaments are sentimental items that my mom gave me when I moved out and a lot of the decorations around the house are things she collected over the years. I love bringing this stuff out almost as much as I love Christmas.

She also bought me this super cool lighted garland last year, which goes well with our embroidered stockings (and Napoleon's stocking that says "Santa, I've been doggone good!". We're those people.). And yes, I got photobomed by the dog today. Just like every day. Look for his piercing little eyes between the "I" and "S" of Wish.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday: What We Ate

I always have so much to be thankful for. A fridge full of food, a roof over my head, clothes on my back and a healthy body to enjoy it all with. I also have a lovely husband who puts up with me and a furry baby that always listens and is even sometimes excited to see me.

We started the day with a 6 a.m. wake up call and a round of Insanity. I then donned my eating dress and worked on a breakfast for Tim's family, which was a lovely way to start the day. Last night, I made banana bread and eggs cups and prepped a fruit salad that I served in this super fancy crystal goblets my father-in-law's girlfriend gave me. They are perfect and go really well with our nice plates and silverware (the plates aren't china, but they are lovely). I also prepped a healthy French toast casserole that went in the crock pot first thing this morning. It turned out very well and was the star of the show.

Healthy Crock Pot French Toast Casserole
1 pounds low-calorie whole wheat bread (Costco makes a great version that's 80 calories per slice and has a short ingredient list)
6 eggs
2 cups skim milk
1/4 healthy choice margarine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Use stale bread or let the bread dry out on your counter top for a day or two. Slice the bread into bite-sized
cubes, then set aside. Whisk together the milk, eggs and cinnamon, then add the bread and fold the bread gently to combine without mashing it together. Refrigerate overnight.

Combine the remaining ingredients, which will be the topping.

In the morning, spray your crock pot with oil. I used a 6-quart crock pot, but a 4.5-quart pot would work, too. Spoon the bread evenly into the crock pot, then spoon the topping over the bread. Cook on high for two hours, then allow to set undisturbed for at least 20 minutes.

I also put together at oatmeal bar for this shin dig. I made a huge pot of old-fashioned oatmeal

(my favorite, swoon), then put it out with all my favorite toppings: sliced bananas, chopped apples, raisins, skim milk, Splenda (brown and regular), brown sugar, almonds, pecans, walnuts, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Irish-cut oats can also be made in the crock pot for the ultimate in easy brunch entertaining.

One of my keys to easy entertaining is to set up a drink table in the living room. That way, when people arrive, they can help themselves to beverages and take a seat while I finish up everything in the kitchen. It works for me!

Two cycles of the dishwasher and three loads of laundry later, we headed to my mom's for the full Thanksgiving experience. My mom is an amazing cook and got up at 5 a.m. to make a 22-pound turkey with potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, stuffing, pies, asparagus, wine and everything fabulous. I don't know how she does it every year, but it's truly impressive.

We all have so much to be grateful for.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Chocolate-Dipped Bacon

This weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of celebrating a momentous event: Mandy finishing graduate school. Mandy got an undergrad from Illinois State University, then went on to start her Public Service Administration program at DePaul. At 22, Mandy is all finished up and has a master's degree (and she's looking for a job, if you know somebody who knows somebody). We are all very proud.

My family got together for a little celebration to mark the date. She turned in her thesis last week and on Saturday, we had cake, deliciously awesome baked goods courtesy of my mom and more Mexican food (as previously stated, I might have a Mexican food problem).
My sister loves bacon and has referred to it as the candy of the meat world. We also both love chocolate, so why not have the best of both worlds? Yes, this is a sometimes treat.

Chocolate-Covered Bacon

1 package thick-cut bacon (don't scrimp here)
1/2 cup milk chocolate
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake the bacon until crispy, about 15 minutes. Make sure it's crispy, the texture is important. Remove from the baking sheet to drain on paper towels until cool.

Meanwhile, melt together the remaining items in the microwave, heating for 30 seconds and stirring, then repeating until smooth.

Place the melted chocolate into a shallow dish, then dip one half of the bacon into the chocolate. You could also drizzle the chocolate over the bacon if that's your style. Place onto a cooling rack wrapped in Saran wrap or parchment paper, then refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

Serve to an adoring public.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Training Tuesday: Insanity Day 1

There was a great article in Competitor last month about the importance of off-season training. As much as I love the magazine, I really dislike the Web site. I can't find the article, but it talks about the importance of cross training in the off season. There were two articles: one about how to design the perfect off-season plan, and the other a column by Scott Jurek talking about how Kenyans might not take a single running stride for weeks. Instead, they spend time with their families and recuperate. Scott Jurek says he doesn't even think about the weight he gains and enjoys "taking it easy," which I'm sure is still more miles than I can knock out in a summer.

In the same vein, I decided to finally finish an entire round of Insanity. We bought the DVDs during the spring off of Craigslist. We finished the first month and made it into the second month, but stopped doing it because it was finally nice enough to go outside to run. There's not much danger of that happening now, so we might as well hunker down for the long haul and get ready to enjoy the great indoors.

I'm not at a point where I'm willing to share photos of myself before unless there's a nice after to show next to it. I will say this, this morning I weighed in at 130.2. My stable-state weight tends to be around 127, but we had a decadent couple of days around here (chocolate fountain, delicious Mexican food lunch, Garrett Popcorn, etc.). My goal is to reach 124, which I've been working on since I started this whole healthy living thing in July of 2010. My starting weight was 144, so I'd like to say I've lost 20 pounds. Who cares if it took me a year and a half.

The Insanity program is a two-part approach: high-intensity interval training and an eating plan. Last time around, I tried to do the eating plan, but it's so specific that it's boring, expensive and time consuming. This go around, I plan to keep doing what I do: eating 300ish calories every three hours I'm awake, adding extra calories and treats in the morning.
After my first fitness test today, I whipped up a protein-heavy dinner, which is what's called for in the plan. I had some Land O Lakes Eggs from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, so I made a quick scramble with one whole egg and two egg whites. Sometimes I top it with salsa, but tonight I went with a bit of cheddar and a small side salad. I eat a ton of eggs (seriously, like two dozen a week between scrambles, hard boiled eggs, egg salad sandwiches and protein muffins), and there are some tricks. Here's how to made the perfect
  • Preheat the pan to medium
  • Beat the eggs well with a whisk or fork
  • Spray the pan with oil
  • Use a stiff spatula to fold the eggs over
  • Remove the eggs from the heat just a little before they're set and leave in the pan for a few seconds to finish the process

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grounded in Gratitude

Last night, I went to a really cool event at Lululemon. They hosted a candlelit yoga session with the theme of "grounded in gratitude." The class focused on identifying things in your life that annoy or frustrate you and finding the positive aspects about that.

For me, I find the holidays very stressful because we have to schedule and divide our time. It gets frustrating to try and be in two places at once. However, the upswing is that we have so many people in our lives that want to see us.
After an hour of yoga, they also served up snacks, including chocolate fondue and a chocolate chip cookie cake. Don't mind if I do ...

Another thing I'm grateful for is to have today off of work. Tim and I headed downtown to enjoy the day before the heavy holiday crowds set it.

We hit up one of our favorites, Cemitas Puebla, for a lunch courtesy of a Living Social deal.
Then, off to Navy Pier for some fun.
And also some shopping. I learned a fun fact from a book about Yorkies at the store: they are tough little cookies. I guess I should have known that. Napoleon is pretty badass.
We wrapped up the afternoon back at Navy Pier, which had a pretty good $14 parking deal now that it's the off season.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Make it Better Substitutions

Today was all about substitutions. Instead of working out on the elliptical, I substituted a push-myself 5K outside while trying to not freeze my fingers off. A mere 26 minutes later, I was done.

Then, I made a protein muffin and substituted on Tablespoon of coconut flour for the two Tablespoons of whole wheat flour I usually

I tried it with two Tablespoons of coconut flour and it was just too dense. The verdict? Now, it's perfect. Especially with peanut butter. Everything is better with peanut butter.

Next up, I ran off to Nordstrom Rack to substitute the running top I wanted at Lululemon for a far more

affordable running top for cooler temperatures. It might not have a million pockets, but it still has thumb holes and was only $20. Win.

I stopped at Ikea and substituted the Ikea lunch I was going to have with lunch at Whole Foods instead. For about the same price, I got vegan quinoa and black bean chili with a pretzel roll. It was hot and satisfying, but under seasoned.

Finally, I needed a quick dinner before evening yoga. I made a turkey roll up and substituted
Sabra Greek olive hummus for mayo that I got through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. It has 30 calories less per serving and far more nutrients than mayonnaise. Partnered with bell pepper and turkey, it was mighty tasty.

Now I'm off to substitute yoga instead of sitting on the couch.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I am very thankful for chocolate today. Although my chocolate came in many forms, my favorite was the flowing chocolate fountain kind, which made its appearance tonight after a several year hiatus.

I'm equally thankful that I now have a dishwasher. I remember trying to clean this stupid chocolate fountain when I lived in an apartment without a dishwasher. It was a pain and a major ordeal that involved Q-tips, paper towels and dish rags.

I'm also thankful for working out, which allowed me to indulge in lots of chocolate-covered treats with only minor guilt.

I'm thankful for the tiny squeaky tennis balls from Kong, which keep Napoleon quiet until he breaks the squeaker, which is usually at least a day.

I am thankful for Amazon Prime, which has brought me many of my Christmas shopping items over the past few days without paying for shipping. It's way easier to stay in the holiday spirit when I'm not fighting crowds to buy that one last thing I forgot.

Finally, I am thankful for a comfy bed. After several nights of sleeping in a clean but not so comfortable hotel mattress last week when traveling for work, I'm very happy to be back at home in my own routine. I like sleeping in my own bed with Tim and my favorite sheets.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rough Night, Short Blog

I screwed up, big time, which resulted in a very rough evening and resulting morning. Because Napoleon is a yorkie, he needs his eyes cleaned regularly from tear stains. I was cleaning his little puppy eyes and realized that a little patch of his hair/skin near his eye came off. I freaked, called the vet, freaked some more, then slept restlessly thinking of how I injured my dog and and going to a specific corner of hell for people who abuse animals. My stomach also ached, preventing me from sleeping more than a handful of hours.

Except the vet wasn't nearly as concerned about it as I was. In fact, she didn't even think I needed to bring him in for it. But mommy guilt is a powerful thing. I roused early today and took him to the vet at 7 a.m., as soon as they opened. The vet cleaned his eye and added some ointment, then sent me on my way with more ointment. Mommy guilt sort of assuaged.

Napoleon is extra clingy tonight, so I'm off to make nice so he won't plot my death in revenge.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Training Tuesday: Channeling Honey Badger

So I know this is old news, but I heart honey badger:

The honey badger is really pretty bad ass. I channeled the honey badger tonight on my run. It's already winter-y in the Midwest, so it was dark. But you know, the honey badger don't give a shit, and neither do I. While in the past, I would have spent the evening unwinding with a beer and television, this time, I strapped on my gym shoes, reflectors and lights, then set out for the streets. I was actually pretty fast (for me), finishing five miles in 45 minutes.

This is in addition to three runs while I was in Houston: a 5K and two 4.5-mile runs in
beautiful weather. It was really lovely there. Must be nice to live in Texas.

Once I came home, it was time for more eats! I had a sample of Green Giant Steamers veggies to use from the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program, so I decided to make stir fry. While the veggies steamed in the microwave, I cooked some whole-wheat spaghetti and defrosted a cup of shrimp, which I then tossed with soy sauce and wasabi. Once everything was ready, I added half of a chopped green pepper (for crunch) and enjoyed a pretty speedy veggie-packed dinner with left overs for tomorrow.

It's strange to be running without training for anything right now. The climate this time of year is so unpredictable that I don't really want to sign up for races in advanced. So what's next? After a half marathon comes ... a full marathon. I know I want to run a marathon next year, and Rachael and I have been talking about doing a fall marathon. There is no doubt in my mind I can do it: I'm physically able, injury free and love running. It's simply a matter of mental toughness and training. So I'm taking all suggestions as to what fall marathon we should run. Preferably, it should be in a climate that is relatively cool at the time of the race and we hope pretty flat. Big pluses for small races in easily-accessible towns, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday: All the Small Things

It will be a light posting kind of weekend. I'm out and about, which leads me into this week's Thankful Thursday.
  • I'm thankful to not only have a job, but have a great job that allows me to travel. While my friends and family enjoyed (or not) the first snowfall of the season, I was headed to Houston, where it might top 80 this weekend. Yippee.
  • I'm thankful for compression socks. It's a strange thing to be thankful for, but I'm really happy I ran into a medical supply store right before the Big Hit Half and picked up a pair of $9 compression socks. They make post-race recovery more comfortable and long-distance travel safer as endurance athletes are prone to blood clots.
  • I'm thankful to prescribe to a sport that's as portable as I am. I'm in a new city and the streets are paved with possibilities.
  • I'm thankful that we've moved into apple season. I really need more apple and apple recipes in my life.
  • I'm thankful for for Pinterest, which is super addictive. If you'd like to follow me on Pinterest, you'll soon learn how much I dream about dessert.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Long Overdue Headshots

A lot can change in a couple of years. My last headshots, while they're beautiful, were taken in 2007 when I live in DC. That was a couple of pounds ago, before I bought a house, got married, got a bossy little dog and had a couple of jobs since then. But my headshots remained.

a week ago, that all changed. My friend Naperville photographer friend, Kate, has and awesome side business as a photographer. Her business, Appelman Images, specializes in photojournalism-style shots. She had me over for a hot date and tried out some new lights on me. I brought over a couple of outfits and she picked out something fabulous for me. She's
seriously the most fashionable person I know. At eight months pregnant, she still looks more chic than me. For real.

I paid her in banana bread and after gossiping and catching up while she shot away, we had a tasty pizza dinner. She already photoshopped my face to perfection and sent over her favorite shots. She rocks:

I guess I didn't really change all that much in the past four years, but I'm happy to have a fresh set of headshots to share.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Training Tuesday: Finding Science in My Art

So much about running is personal: where to run, what to eat before, how to fuel during, shoes and so on. Running is really just a series of personal choices. But with the aid of a lab of really expensive equipment, I've now learned way more about myself and my fitness level than I ever knew possible.

Elmhurst College has a kinesiology department, which I contacted about a month ago. They put me in contact with an exercise physiologist whose students used me as a guinea pig last night. It was truly fascinating to get my VO2 max measured. First, the students took a bunch of stats from me, like my weight, blood pressure (111/68) hear rate (52) and body fat percentage (21.78 percent). However, the professor told me that body fat percentages aren't as useful as one would think. While most people assume that it's an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percent, he explained that it's more like two standard deviations of 3.5 percent. Basically, the margin of error is more like plus or minus 7 percent. So really, the number itself isn't all that useful except as a tool for comparison. So retesting it in a few months can tell me if I'm improving, but it can't really tell me if my body is, in fact, about 1/5 fatty mc fat fat.

Then on to the fun part. First, I warmed up on a treadmill for 10 minutes. I have never run on a treadmill, so that was interesting. Next, they hooked me up to an apparatus that measured my oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output and had me start walking on the treadmill. They started me at a 12-minute mile jog, then increased the speed by .3 miles per hour every minute until I couldn't run run any further. It took about 20 minutes.

When all was said and done, I found out that my VO2 max puts me in the 80th percentile
for women my age. Additionally, the pace that I can currently maintain for a prolonged period (maybe indefinitely, depending on what scientist you prescribe to) is 8:50. With training, the students informed me, I could hope to increase my VO2 max by as much as 30 percent. I also spoke with the professor regarding my blood test from a couple of weeks ago that indicated I have high cholesterol. He told me while my total cholesterol is high, it's because what's considered good cholesterol is super high, which is great.
Fascinating stuff indeed.

However, when it was all over with, I was starving. I was looking for the quickest path from
famished to at least not homicide-inducing hangry. I ran home and mixed up what might have been the best dinner ever: two cups of cooked broccoli spears from the night before, 1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta and a 1/4 cup of Classico Light Creamy Alfredo Pasta Sauce that I got from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. I topped it all off with Parmesan cheese and had a really tasty dinner in less than 15 minutes for less than 300 calories.

I devoured the whole thing and wondered why I don't buy more broccoli. Must buy more broccoli.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday is My Run Day

Daylight savings time is pretty cool. It means I got up pretty early today and was fully rested. I had a leisurely breakfast of whole wheat toast with flax, peanut butter and bananas. After that, I hit the road to enjoy what could be one of the last nice days we get in Illinois. I'm not training for anything specific, so I decided to keep a comfortably slow pace for a long run. I ended up doing 11.16 miles in just less than two hours. I won't be breaking any records there, but it was nice to see the fall colors in the area. The weather was also ideal: 55 degrees the whole time, cloudy and just a touch windy.

I took an ice bath when I got home, which took way longer than expected because the first time I got in, I spilled my coffee everywhere. I had to clean up the mess, get a new mug and start the process over again. I really only drink coffee when I do ice baths as a distraction from the fact that I'm subjecting myself to my own personal polar plunge. I also talk to my mom on the phone or read a magazine for further distraction.

After that debacle, I had a lovely lunch with a college friend at Las Vega's Burrito. If you're ever in Glendale Heights, this place totally rocks. It's in not the greatest little strip mall, but those places have the best food. Get the steak tacos; you won't be sorry.

Next up was the hardware store to get a new furnace filter. After a $400 repair, cleaning and inspection yesterday, the very helpful repair guy suggested I start buying the cheapo air filters so that the furnace starter wasn't working so hard. He explained that because the furnace was working harder to push air through the fancy filters, it would reach maximum internal heat, shut off, cool down and start again repeatedly throughout the day. Here I was thinking I was doing the smart thing by using the mid-grade filters. Live and learn.

Finally, I hit up my favorite Goodwill and got some great goodies for the blog. I've been looking for some black plates and clear mugs to take better photos of my food and Goodwill certainly delivered. I also got a few cheap and cute spoons and forks for photos, too.

Sunday/Run Day/Fun Day indeed!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What's Better Than Free Yoga?

A free yoga mat! I go to lululemon's free yoga on most Saturdays. They've dubbed November a month of gratitude and gave all the participants this morning a free yoga mat. The manager told us that if we had a mat we really loved, still take one and share the gift of yoga. Score!

After yoga, I went to Aldi to deal with the case of the super nasty canned pumpkin. The sales associate told me that they had actually pulled the
brand of pumpkin I had from the shelves because the packaging was faulty, causing the cans to dent easily and probably explaining while it tasted like ass. I got my money back and a free can of the new vendor's pumpkin. I used the pumpkin to make myself a protein muffin when I got home, and it was exactly what I expected. I'll be heading back for a case of the new vendor's pumpkin as it's only $.89 a can. Another score!

What's not full of win is our furnace situation. After paying $100 to get the outlets in the kitchen fixed two weeks ago, I'm now waiting to pay another repair person to come and fix the furnace. Who knows how bad this will be, but it was 58 degrees this morning when I got up. Here's hoping it's a quick fix, not a new furnace.

Since I'm stuck at home waiting, I'm making Tim some breakfast items for the week. This easy breakfast is low-carb and can be made in a batch to last the week.

Breakfast Egg Bites
6 eggs
6 slices good-quality ham

Spray a 12-opening cupcake pan with oil, then
fashion the ham into little meat cupcake liners. Crack one egg into each ham wrapper, then bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the eggs are set. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, then reheat as needed throughout the week. You may wish to sprinkle cheese on top when reheating.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Celebrating my 500th Post with Ultimate Brownies

Seriously, it's here? How do I have enough to say to fill 500 posts? Simple, I never shut up. True story, ask my friends.

So in honor of this post, enjoy the Ultimate Brownies, which are also known as No Calorie Left Behind Brownies.

My coworker had a birthday this week and she mentioned she liked brownies. And I immediately thought, do I have a brownie recipe for you.
Because the recipe for this is so simple and is more of a method than anything, I'm mostly just sharing photos.

Ultimate No Calorie Left Behind Brownies
1 package oreos
1 package cookie dough
1 package of chocolate icing
1 package family-sizes brownies, prepared as directed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper. Press the cookie dough into the pan to form the first layer.

Arrange the oreos on top of the cookie dough. You may need to cut some of the cookies into pieces to make it all fit, but you likely won't use the entire package of cookies.

Carefully pour the brownies on top of the oreos, spreading to cover the oreos evenly. Bake for one hour, or until the brownies are cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cook completely.

In the meantime, use a stand mixer with the whisk attachment to whip the prepared icing. It looks nicer and is fluffier that way. Complete the awesomeness that is this brownie creation with the icing and serve to the amazement of all your friends.

Then run like 10 miles, because these are downright sinful.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday: An Ode to My Parents

Thanksgiving is this month, but I have more to be thankful than can be celebrated in one day.

My parents know about my love of pumpkin. Hell, everyone who knows me even a little bit knows I *heart* pumpkin. I love making and enjoying all things pumpkin this time of year: beer, muffins, bread, yogurt, oatmeal, whatever. I even enjoy pumpkin candles.

A few days after the trailer/quidditch trip, my dad texted me. I can't figure out how to take a screen shot on the droid, but he wanted me to know Aldi had the elusive pumpkin I've been looking for. Both Aldi locations near me have been cleaned out since I heard they had it in stock. I usually get a case this time of year because the brand-name canned pumpkin is a little pricey.
My mother not only bought me the pumpkin, but she went through the whole case to ensure none of the cans were dented. So sweet.

Alas, the Aldi pumpkin this year isn't so great. I made what should have been an amazing pumpkin cake with apple cider glaze earlier this week, but the taste was just off. It tasted ... chemical like. Still, it's the thought that counts and it seriously warmed my heart that my parents remembered and indulged my obsession.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Race Report: Big Hit Half Marathon

I really only have nice things to say about the Big Hit Half Marathon. It's incredible for me to think that a year ago, I thought I would die when I ran. Two years ago, I would have told people to call the cops if they saw me running. Now, I am a runner. I am a half marathon finisher.

Rachael and I got up very early Saturday and hit the road by 7:30 a.m. It was a pretty easy drive to Louisville, but of course, with all the hydrating we were doing, we had to stop quite often. We snacked on protein muffins with peanut butter and had a picnic lunch at a rest stop. When we got to Louisville, we went right to the expo to get our loot. Rachael signed up for the quarter marathon, but they also offered a half marathon relay.

Parking was plentiful and we got our bibs in no time. The shirts ran small and we both had to size up, but they're nice fitting performance T-shirts that are ladies cut and pretty cute. I'll wear it again.

The expo was small with less than 10 booths. We did hit up the BondiBand booth, where Rachael treated me to a new one with a shark on it that said "Om Nom Nom," which is exactly what I did after the race.

We headed to bed early Saturday, then got up at 6 a.m. to get ready. We drove over to Louisville Slugger Field and paid $5 for close parking. Worth it.

The ample bathrooms were not so ample and we hit those up before waiting inside as it was literally freezing. We
started walking to the start line at 7:35 for a 7:45 start. I never found the two-hour pacer, just a 1:50 and 2:10 pacer. So we lined up and froze our asses off before we got moving at close to 8 a.m.

The first three miles were rough. I couldn't quite feel my legs because I was so cold and my first mile was close to 10 minutes. I made it up by the third mile and took my first gel at the fourth mile. By then, I was feeling good and started to settle in. Timing clocks were at almost mile and I was keeping a good pace. There were plenty of water and Gatorade stations that we were well-staffed and tons of portable toilets. An interesting feature they offered at this race was women only port-a-potties. I didn't need to visit it,
but it was interesting.

This was an out and back course through some scenic neighborhoods and the University of Louisville. There was a bridge that you had to go over twice around the 7/8 mile mark, which sucked. This was also the point at which they distributed peppermint-flavored gels. I took one but stuck to my mocha shot around mile 8. Nothing new is my mantra. Around this time, I chatted up a local runner who was running at an 8:40 pace, and I ran with her until almost the 12-mile mark. I didn't catch her name, but she was a lifesaver. Runners are the best!

When I saw I was at 10 miles with 1:29 on the clock, I knew I was going to finish the damn thing. The last clock at the 12-mile mark read 1:47, so I knew I could finish in under two hours, but I was in major pain. It was a huge push to get it done. I repeated every motivational cliche I'd ever heard in the last few minutes.

Runners finished by crossing home plate. The race director announced your name as you crossed the finish line and flashed your name and image on the big screen. I felt a huge rush crossing the finish line, but I was in enough pain that I cried because it hurt. Volunteers immediately distributed medals and water. There was a short wait to get your instant timing print out and remove your reusable chip.

The instant timing was fascinating: I finished in 1:57:02, which was 22/77 in my age and gender division. My pace was 8:57 (faster than I thought possible) and my pace was pretty even too, with my first half being 58:30 and my second half at 58:33. I've never had such detailed timing, which I get geeked out on.

The only downer about finishing on home plate was you had to climb a set of stairs up to the stadium concourse. It might as well have been Mt. Everest. Once I scaled the stairs, there was a great backdrop to take photos in front of along with an ample food table
stocked with oranges, bagels, bananas, peanut butter crackers, granola bars and some kind of hot soup. There was also an engraving company, but it was not complimentary and I had no cash. There were free sports massages, but only two people doing it, so I wasn't willing to wait that long. We drove back to the hotel, showered and went for our victory breakfast. After our delicious meal, we headed back home for a boring drive.

I'm so very proud of my race performance and will certainly do a half marathon again. I'll most likely stay close to home, though, because I'm a bad driver and this was tough.

Cost: $65 for the half in advance

Time: 1:57:02 for a half marathon (Faster than my two-hour goal!)

Pros: Mostly flat and scenic course, nice race shirt, decent finisher's medal, easy parking situation, entertainment along the way

Cons: Could have used more bathrooms at the start and more sports massage people at the end

Would I race it again: Absolutely