Kelly the Culinarian: May 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Edit: I screwed up and deleted the photos linked to this post. I suck. Carry on.

1. I tried to cheap out on shoes and buy a pair online. They were my regular brand and my size, but they didn't fit that great when they got here. I tried to soldier through it, but I finally sucked it up and went to Dick Pond Athletics to buy real shoes from a real running store. I found a clearance pair of Saucony shoes and they are awesome. They're more minimalist than I thought I'd like, but I feel fast. It might be a placebo, but I don't care.

2. I'm racing again this weekend. If you're running the Cosley Zoo 10K (or 5K), let me know! I'll be doing this one solo and would like a buddy on site.

3. I made more of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe today with peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips. They're still rather awesome, but dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips are the best. The slightly bitter taste is perfect with the buttery dough. I still ate three, though, so it's not like they tasted like dirt.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thoughts from the Meatless May Challenge

While I technically have another day left of the Meatless May Challenge, I also have a crazy busy day tomorrow, so I wanted to get my thoughts together on the topic now.

Short version: I didn't miss meat. I'm cool with eating significantly less meat, but will probably never be a true vegetarian.

I never ate a ton of meat to begin with, so it wasn't a huge sacrifice to cut out meat for the past 30 days. It was easy enough to make delicious, meat-free meals that left me satisfied. It was also pretty simple to find vegetarian dishes at restaurants. I didn't have any fast food this month, but I did eat at two chain restaurants and two independent places. At all locations, vegetarian options abounded and/or business owners happily made accommodations.

The only challenge part of this challenge was the social aspect. When I'm a guest at someone else's home, I'm uncomfortable asking anyone to change anything for me. I choose to eat this way. Plus, I feel kind of rude busting out my own food, because there's nothing wrong with the food I'm being served. My solution is that I bring dishes to share and hope for the best. Business meals are also difficult when catering is involved. So far, vegetarian options have been available, but I'm not ready to call ahead to off-site engagements to see what's going down around lunch time.

It also didn't hurt my athletic performance as I finished my first tri first in my age group. I don't feel any different in terms of endurance or performance. Given that this vegetarian experiment was easier than I thought, my new plan of action is to be mostly vegetarian. I'm don't plan to completely abstain from meat for life (true story, Taco Bell texted me. They miss me). I hope to eat meat no more than once a month. While the true vegetarians/vegans out there I'm sure are giving me the side eye, studies show that less meat is better, and we all have to start somewhere.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Training Tuesday: How to Beat the Heat

Edit: I accidentally deleted the photos linked to this post. Sorry!

I'm in week two of my marathon training (week three of Hal Higdon's novice 2 program), and it's getting seriously toasty in the Chicagoland area. We had a heat wave and temps reached close to 100, and it's not even technically summer yet. While it will get cooler this week, summer is here to stay. I had to tackle my first long run on Sunday, and it was 89 degrees by the time I finished ... at 9:20 a.m. In fact, my phone's weather app had a cactus in the icon for that day's weather. It was a novelty.

Because I'm prepping for a fall marathon, my training will be done during the summer. Them the breaks. But there are plenty of ways to manage hot-weather running. Here are my top tips:
  • Get up early. It might be steamy even in the early a.m., but at least the sun isn't beating down on you.
  • Pick your route carefully. Find a forest preserve with some tree cover for shade, or at least run on the side of the street with the most shade (running in the morning makes this easier).
  • Hydrate well before running. You need fluids to be able to sweat and regulate your body temp.
  • Carefully consider your clothing. Less is more, but add a visor and sunglasses to deflect some rays. Also, light colors are better than dark colors.
  • Carry water. It doesn't matter if you're planning a practice half marathon or a quick 5K, take a water bottle when it gets hotter. You don't want to find out when you're a mile away from home that you're thirsty. Plus, it's nice to douse yourself with something when it gets really steamy.
  • Re-hydrate after running. Replace everything you've lost and use a cold water or sports drink to cool yourself off.
  • While this isn't related to keeping cool, wear sunscreen, please. You should be wearing at least an SPF 15 every day, but bump that up to at least SPF 30 during the summer. Look for waterproof or sports-specific blends to prevent yourself from sweating it off. Apply before donning your running apparel and at least 30 minutes before your workout.
Of course, if all else fails, there's always the treadmill, but then you have to worry about passing out from boredom instead of dehydration.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Puppy Love

See the bed face?
There's the ever-popular tall tale that the Eskimos had scads of words for snow, which is false, but another culture does have a multitude of words to describe snow and ice). I think the sentiment rings true, however. The more important something is to you, the more words and nicknames you have to describe it.

Since we brought Napoleon home three years ago this weekend, we changed his name from Snickers, but he goes by many monikers.

His nicknames, in part, include: baby sir, sir Leon, the boss, little boss, puppy face, puppy baby, fur face, wafflebot, Mr. Man, baby dictator, bed face, pretty kitty (he has many cat mannerism), pumpkin eater, scavenger and the ridiculous one.

Napoleon is the first dog I've ever had. When we first brought him home, I was not the ideal dog mom. Within the first week, I accidentally let him escape out the back and didn't realize for at least 15 minutes. In a panic, I threw on my clothes and ran down the front staircase, already imagining our new family member a million miles away playing with new doggy siblings in Maine or Alaska. I threw open the door, ready to run the neighborhood like a mad woman looking for a small and fast brown dog.

Napoleon was sitting on the front porch, waiting to be let back into his home. He barely knew us, but he loved us.
A dramatic re-enactment
Thanks, my dog of many names, for not running away for the past three years. You'll always be my favorite yorkie.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stand Mixer Sunday: Best of Both Worlds Chocolate Butterscotch Bars Recipe

Pro: ALDI started carrying butterscotch chips year round. Con: my healthy lifestyle is in peril as a result.

Butterscotch chips are one of my many food vices. I don't buy them often because a 16-ounce bag disappears in no time around here.  It's just the buttery combination or sugar and cream that I can't resist.

I recently made these butterscotch for my mom. I knew I wanted to make something with butterscotch, but my mom (and I) both enjoy chocolate, too. Choosing between the flavors is like trying to choose the cutest puppy, so I did what any logical person would: combined it for a mega dessert.

These turned out chewy with a nice, crisp exterior. It was the perfect combination of chocolate and butterscotch. I had a hard time passing these over to my mom.

Best of Both Worlds Chocolate Butterscotch Bars Recipe
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 Tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low, cream together the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Once the mixture is smooth, add the butter and mix until combined.

Add the flour, salt and baking powder, mixing until just combined. Fold in the chips.

Pour the batter into a greased 9x9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and add ganache or chocolate icing, if you're feeling really decadent.

Slice with a very sharp knife.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pictures From The Day: A Morning Downtown

Today, Tim and I got up extremely early to show up at Soldier Field by 5 a.m. for the Soldier Field 10 Mile. We volunteered on behalf of Salute Inc., the charitable partner of the Fort2Base Race.
Here's all I'm going to say about this race:
Dear rude runners,
Volunteers get up at 3 a.m. on a weekend to spend their free time shivering in the cold to make sure you have the best race possible. There's no need to yell and cuss at us. We are here to help you. Sneaking into corrals, arguing about corrals or literally jumping over barriers to get into a corral does not make you a do-what-you-have-to, rough-and-tumble type. It just makes a runner with poor etiquette who is screwing over other runners and making volunteers doubt their own sanity and the value of humanity. The race only starts when you start, and it's not the race's fault that you didn't make it to your corral on time.
Heart, a very sad volunteer.

To cheer me up, I stopped by the Fort2Base Race booth and saw Caylei, the race director. She's in the styling pink pull over with our favorite Naked people.

We played with the most adorable puppy ever, who loves the Fort2Base Race.

Then, we took a 24-mile bike ride up and down the Lakefront Path. It took me roughly 1:40 to finish, which doesn't bode well for my upcoming 60-mile race. The path was crowded, because it was perfect outdoors active weather, so that's the excuse I'm going with.

Finally, we went to an awesome party for the lovely Jackie. It's her birthday and I ate back the 1,400 calories I burned cycling and then some. My stomach hurts from a flat out food binge, so I'm going to bed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

They See Me Rollin'

I road my bike to work today for the first time. This gave me a chance to wear my new cycling gear. I got a sweet cycling jersey from my favorite thrift store for $.33, then bought some shorts off of Amazon. I also have some cycling gloves that are pink and black from Amazon. I'm stylin'.

Not only was this a green way to burn some calories, but it gave me a chance to up my weekly mileage. I'm signed up for the Venus de Miles ride on July 29. Another woman from my running club found a deal for it and we signed up for the 60-mile ride. I'm so excited because it looks like a great time, but I need to get my ass in gear and train for this thing.

It took me about 36 minutes (moving time) to get there this morning, so I picked up the gym bag I packed the day before from my desk, then got ready at the gym across the street. I was still at my desk an hour before my normal start time. The ride home took me slightly longer at closer to 40 minutes.

As for my short post last night, I had to post and run because I was headed to Mandy's boyfriend's softball game in Naperville. I took Napoleon and you would think he was the mayor that place. I thought he'd be a jerk and bark and bite, because that's his typical behavior. Instead, he greeted everyone, happily accepting scratching and cuddling. Napoleon might be the team's new mascot, except I'm sure he prefers cricket. He is British, after all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The mi-bra Winner is ...

ErikaS! E-mail me to claim your mi-bra.

I've loved reading all your comments on my Sports Bra Challenge post about how running makes you feel. Running is such an interesting experience - at first, I felt like I was going to die. I couldn't wait for it to be over. And when I first started running, it took me longer to talk myself into running than the actual act of running. When Tim and I ran our first 5K, I had never run 3.1 miles, and I asked him on the way there if anyone has ever died running a 5K. He assured me no one has.

But then, I realized how I felt when it was done: accomplished. I realized that despite what's going on in other places in my life, I could always run. The road was always there. There was always time to squeeze in a quick run and there was always room for improvement.

It took a long time before I considered myself a runner, but it happened. Eventually, it felt strange to not run. I looked forward to quality time with me and the road. I didn't mind getting up early and I discovered the beauty of a misty morning at a forest preserve or an afternoon spent pounding the pavement.

Thank you, everyone, for entering this contest, participating in the Sports Bra Challenge and sharing your thoughts with me. I'm so lucky to have so many awesome readers who are willing to share.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: Dark Chocolate Ooey Gooey Brownie Recipe

Another work birthday, another amazing dessert. There weren't any leftovers of these bad boys by the end of the day and I was told that they were the perfect brownies. And what's not to love? There's butter, eggs, dark chocolate and sea salt. All my favorite flavors.

Dark Chocolate Ooey Gooey Brownie Recipe
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1½ cups sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
Sea salt

Whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder and set aside. In a saucepan, combine the butter, coffee powder and chocolate over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Combine the sugars, then whisk into the melted chocolate/butter combo. Add three of the eggs and whisk in gently before adding the remaining two eggs and the vanilla.

Switch over to a rubber spatula and sprinkle the dry ingredients over the chocolate and eggs. Fold gently until just combined, then pour into a 9x13 pan that's oiled and lined with parchment. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the batter, then dust with the sea salt.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. A toothpick should come out mostly clean. Allow to cool in the pan before removing using the parchment paper, then slice into squares.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Training Tuesday: It Begins Again

I'm still basking in the afterglow of my first triathlon on Sunday. The photos were posted today and I'm looking pretty bad ass at the finish line.

While I had a good race, I'm hearing that not every participant left happy. I read online that there were participant medals for all finishers, but they were nowhere to be found onsite. Plus, some of the later waves didn't get an accurate swim time because the timing mat lost power. The race organizers are making medals available for pick up this week, but I feel bad for people who might have made this their only triathlon and trained for a long time for this. It's a huge accomplishment, and I hope everyone gets their medals! It's the 27th year of the tri, but I think they have a few things to work out before next year.

In the meantime, I'm ready for the next challenge. Rachael and I are training for the Fox Valley Marathon, which will take us all summer. I picked up on the second week of Hal Higdon's Novice 2 marathon plan and will follow that to the bitter end. Yesterday, I rested, today, I ran.

In three months, I will conquer the marathon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: Balsamic Marinated Grilled Vegetables

Ready to eat!
It's grilling season! I usually leave the grilling to Tim, but because of the Meatless May Challenge, I wanted to try my hand at grilling vegetable skewers. I served these over some cilantro lime quinoa, which rounded out my dinner. It was a filling and healthy vegetarian meal that Tim enjoyed as well.  I even had some of the leftovers as the fixings for a mid-week salad and it was fantastic.

Balsamic Marinated Grilled Vegetables
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 of a large onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for garnishing
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 package button mushrooms, halved
1/4 onion cut into bite-sized pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small zucchinis, cut into thick slices
1 package of cherry tomatoes

Open a large freezer bag and dump everything except the vegetables into the bag, then seal and gently shake to combine.  Add the vegetables to the bag, then seal again and turn to coat. Place in a large dish and marinate for at least three hours, turning over the bag halfway through the cooking process.

Preheat the grill to high and skewer the vegetables onto metal skewers. Place the skewers over the flame and then reduce the heat to medium. Turn every two minutes until browned evenly and cooked.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Niles Leaning Tower Tri Race Report

Spoiler alert: I won my age group at my first triathlon with a time of 1:09. I feel like a beast.

Today I started my triathlon career with a Tower Tri in Niles. It's a sprint tri with a 450-yard pool swim, an 18K bike ride (11 miles and some change) and a 5K run (3.1 miles). The packet included some sweet swag, like a tech shirt that was way too big, an REI water bottle, gels and lots of samples.

I've been training for eight weeks using a Hal Higdon plan and I felt ready to kick some ass on the race.
Except not this morning. Tim and I got to Niles around 5:40 a.m. and I got super nervous. One of my tri-related nightmares was that I couldn't find my bike, so I bought a helium balloon to tie to my station. I set up my transitions, got my body markings, picked up my timing chip and checked in at the pool. My estimated swim time qualified me for the first wave and I warmed up briefly. I split the lane with a woman who said this was her second triathlon, but first with an indoor swim. She was surprised we had to split the lane.

By the time 7 a.m. rolled around, I was very anxious. I was most concerned that I underestimated my time and would be the last out of the pool with the next wave waiting around staring. They had someone from the next wave counting the laps, and off we went.

The first lap felt really hard and my goggles kept flooding, but it was over before we knew it. I was the second- or third-to-last woman out of the pool, I couldn't tell.

The bike course was mostly empty, which was fine by me. Each athlete did five loops and it was a flat course. The first loop was confusing and I lost some time when I couldn't tell which way to go and the police officer at that turn didn't even get out of his car to point in the right direction. The pavement was a little jacked up and I lost a water bottle on a bump, but it was a fast course. In the last lap, I really pushed it, making it my mission to run down and cyclist I could. You had to cross the timing mat single file, so I picked it up in the yards leading up to the mat, knowing it was my last chance.

Oh dear lord, is it over yet?

When I hit the second transition, I was spent. The first mile off of the bike was tough. Thank sweet baby Jesus that MacKenna was there to run it with me, or I would have crashed right there. After my breathing went back to normal, she encouraged me to run people down and tried to distract me from the actual motion of the running. It was the best thing a girl could ask for in a race.

When I crossed the finish line, I was so incredibly happy ... until the woman I split a lane with stopped me. I thought she was going to reprimand me for my poor form or getting in her space, but instead, she told me that we both swam one extra lap because our lap counter was wrong. WTF.  I was livid. The woman I split the lane was the first overall female, so I guess it didn't hurt her that much. I learned the same lesson that group projects teach you: trust no one.

I hit the snack tent hard. They had electrolyte stuff, water, bananas, watermelon and bagels. It was like heaven.  I knew pretty quickly that I had at least place in my age group, and wanted to wait around. How often will I win a triathlon?

I am so happy to have my medal! I really feel like I accomplished something.

Here are my times:

Swim: 9:50 minutes (even with the extra lap, not so great)

Transition 1: 1:11 minutes

Bike: 31:39:70 minutes (21.2 miles per hour)

Transition 2: 32.8 seconds

Run: 25:51.7 minutes (8:20 overall pace)

My reluctant medal model
Other than minor snafus that was out of the hands of the race, like my freaking extra lap, I think things went OK. It would be nice to have a course with fewer turns and there wasn't a single port-o-potty anywhere. I never had to go, thankfully.

Cost: $75, plus $10 USAT daily fee

Time: 1:09:05, first female 25-29

Pros: Completely flat bike and run course, indoor pool swim, plenty of food at the finish, very nice swag bag

Cons: The shirt is waaaay too big. I was certainly not the smallest on this course, and an extra-small is still too big. The bike course had some crappy pavement and the run course was a boring out and back.

Would I race it again: Maybe, but now there are so many other tris I'd like to dominate, too.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

'Twas the Night Before the Triathlon

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse(like dog).

The training plan was followed with care, In hopes that a podium place will soon be mine.

The gear was nestled all snug in the triathlon wagon, While visions of glory stirred in my head.

I'm all packed up and ready to go tomorrow morning. I'm quite nervous because if you follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, you already know that I've qualified for the first wave. There are only five women with faster swim times than mine. In theory, I have a chance to place for my age group. But I'm worried that I somehow timed my swim wrong (twice) and I'm going to be seriously outgunned.

If you'll be in Nile tomorrow, stop by the Tower Tri at 7 a.m. to find out if I sink or swim.

And if you haven't entered the mi-bra giveaway, I'd highly recommend you cross it off your to-do list now.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cooking with Kelly: Better Burrito Bowl Recipe

By the way, have you entered the mi-bra giveaway yet? You should go do that now.

I love Chipotle so much - the guacamole and chips there are just amazing. But the food there is deceptive. You think you're eating pretty well with your bowl of greens and lean protein. However, add it all up and your burrito bowl can become as butt-expanding as a burger.

During my Meatless May Challenge, I've been looking for healthy sources of protein. Quinoa certainly fits the bill, so my better burrito bowl featured cilantro lime quinoa, along with black beans and all the greens you could want.

Better Burrito Bowl Recipe
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/8 cup chopped cilantro
Pinch of salt and sugar
1/2 cup black beans
1 teaspoon taco seasoning
1 small head romaine lettuce
1 roma tomato
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon light sour cream
1/4 avocado, cubed

Mix the lime juice, cilantro, sugar and salt. Pour over the quinoa and mix to combine.

Next, combine the beans and taco seasoning, slightly mashing the beans in the process.

Chop the romaine lettuce, the top with the tomato. Heat the quinoa and beans, then top the romaine with the mixture before adding the cheese and sour cream. Top with the avocado and dig in.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Sports Bra Challenge

This morning, I completed my last workout prior to my triathlon Sunday. I also rocked my first shirtless workout.

I was looking forward to the Sports Bra Challenge, but I was also anxious. I got up at my regularly early time and hit the road for an easy 30-minute loop before work. I run along a busy road and wondered what would happen.

People might have stared.

I didn't care.

Because I don't run for them. I run for me. My body isn't perfect, but it can run.

After the first mile, I forgot that I was running in just the mi-bra sans shirt. The mi-bra has a pocket for your cell phone, so I just zoned out to my music hands-free without all the cords wrapping around my arms. As I rocked out to Kelly Clarkson, I stopped wondering if the drivers were staring at me because I'm shirtless or because they were impressed that I'm so fast. A girl can dream, right?

It was a liberating experience. I felt like an athlete, regardless of what jiggled or who stared.

Carolina, the creator of mi-bra, wants everyone out there to feel as free as I did this morning. She's super excited to partner with me on this challenge and even interviewed me for Web site. She will donate $5 from each mi-bra sold to the S.E.A.K foundation, which has the goal of empowering people to feel strong and beautiful in their own skin. Please enter the coupon code “SBC” at checkout, so we can keep track of the sales attributed to this amazing cause. But, if you want to win a mi-bra, here's your chance!

To win, leave a comment about how running makes you feel. I'll pick a winner at random at 6 p.m. central time next Thursday. Want bonus entries? Sure!
  • E-mail me a photo of you participating in the Sports Bra Challenge. Leave a separate comment.
  • Subscribe to the blog. Leave me a separate comment
  • Follow Kelly the Culinarian on Twitter. Leave a separate comment.
  • Like Kelly the Culinarian on Facebook. Leave a separate comment.
  • Share this contest via Twitter, Facebook or your blog. Leave a separate comment for each.
Good luck!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mid-Month Meatless May Challenge Check-In

It's halfway through my Meatless May Challenge, and I have to say that's it's going pretty well. I'm not missing meat at all. I've found a ton of tasty alternatives and have enjoyed all the foods I've eaten. I might actually be enjoying it too much, as my weight has fluctuate quite a bit this month.

I've eaten in restaurants twice this month, once at a chain restaurant and once at an independent place. Both times, the wait staff was more than happy to help me out. At Chili's, I got vegetarian fajitas that were excellent, and at a Cuban place nearby, the manager told me she could make anything on the menu that I wanted vegetarian. At work items, meals that are catered usually include a vegetarian option, but I pack my own snacks anyways, so I've never gone hungry.

And at home, I'm golden. I do the grocery shopping here, so it's been easy to pick up the foods I need. Athletic-wise, I don't think giving up meat has made any difference in my performance. I still have plenty of energy and my times are about the same.

The only aspect of not eating meat that's been difficult is the social angle. People get uncomfortable when they hear I'm not eating meat, which certainly isn't my intention. I don't want to make a stand, I just want to fill my stomach. I also feel difficult asking anyone to make accommodations for me. For example, I'm going to a conference tomorrow, and I'm not positive they'll have meatless options. Sure, I could have asked for an option to be ordered, but I feel guilty asking anyone to go out of their way for me. I'm eat this way because I choose to, not because I need to. It's awkward for me, to say the least.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Training Tuesday: Countdown to Triathlon Day

My moment of truth isn't that far away with the triathlon coming up on Sunday. I've trained my ass off, completing all but one workout. There were only a few occasions where I didn't do the workouts exactly as prescribed, so I feel ready. I actually feel more than ready, I'm prepared to kick ass. Luckily, thinking about the Sports Bra Challenge has prevented me from getting anxious about the race.

I've been checking out the race Web site, studying the course and reviewing previous race times. Nothing I do this week will improve my overall fitness, so I'm taking it easy workout wise. I'm focusing on visualizing all the legs of the race and how I will feel: strong, fierce and fast.

I've also put a lot of time into thinking about my goals for this race. It's my first triathlon and a sprint distance, so I know I can complete the race. I always go with the idea of dreaming big, so here's what I'm thinking:

A Goal: Place in my age group. Given previous times and my training times, it's within the realm of possibilities, but a stretch goal.
B Goal: Complete the entire race in one hour. This is still a bit of a stretch.
C Goal: Finish the race in 1:15, with tight transition times and a respectable 5K time.

Here's my game plan on race day.

Swim: Focus on being a skinny little boat in the water, reaching and pulling through every stroke with strong flip turns.
Bike: Keep in the high teens/low 20s in terms of miles per hour, staying smart about selecting gears.
Run: Run like I stole a baby bear from it's mom and I happen to be coated in honey. MacKenna will be running a portion of the 5K with me to encourage me to get a move on. My goal is to keep my miles in the low 8s.

Mantra: Don't stop until you're proud.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Introducing the Sports Bra Challenge

I've been pretty open with my struggles with self-image and self-confidence. I grew up a little "fluffy" for my height, and was teased mercilessly for a long time. It hurt to be the biggest cheerleader, and wearing clothes that weren't nearly as stylish as my classmates.

My parents were always supportive, instilling that I am beautiful, powerful and smart, a legacy that my husband continues. With their support, I've found a healthier lifestyle that's allowed me to shed some weight, get active, find new sports that I love and meet friends who share my passion.

But old habits are hard to break. I wonder sometimes if people are staring at me when I run, in the same way my classmates used to stare and laugh at me in gym class. As a woman, it's so easy to nitpick at my appearance and base my happiness around how I feel about how I look.

It's time for a change.

It's time to be proud of the body I've earned.

It's time to decide I don't give a damn about what stranger's think.

It's time to embrace me.

On Thursday, I'll be participating in the Sports Bra Challenge, a movement based in New York that encourages women to enjoy their workout in a sports bra. This has long been a goal of mine, and I'm excited to participate in an event that empowers women to love the way they look. There's a lot of marketing out there that tells us, subtly and blatantly, that we should look a certain way. Ignore it, shed your negative self talk and your shirt and join me.

I've partnered with mi-bra, which I'll be wearing on my last pre-triathlon run Thursday. Plan to join me, wherever you are, then come back here Thursday for a great give away.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

My family had lunch at the Waukegan Yacht Club. I'm so happy I was able to spend the day with my mom, who is the best mom ever. I'm not biased or anything, of course.
This photo was the best part of being at the yacht club. We were supposed to have brunch, but we waited for almost an hour past our noon reservation time. The company was amazing, but the food and service wasn't.

Stand Mixer Sunday: The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You Will Ever Need

For years now, I've been on the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I wanted it to be chewy with a slightly crisp exterior, decently thick and about palm sized. I imagined the perfect chocolate chip cookie with be moist with a velvety mouth feel and rich, stick to your teeth chocolate flavor.

Friends, I have found it. This recipe could be my legacy to the baking world and I would die happy. If you know me in real life, these cookies will now be a staple to any get together when I'm asked to bring something. No need to mess with perfection, search the Internet or scour Pinterest. This gourmet chocolate chip cookie recipe is where it's at. 

The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You Will Ever Need
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, melted until liquid and cooled until room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 room-temperature eggs
1 package sugar-free vanilla pudding
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup grated milk chocolate (I used a chocolate bunny, but a milk chocolate bar works the same)
Kosher salt

Sift together the flour and baking soda, then set aside.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar on medium, then add the vanilla pudding and mix until incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. 

Slowly, add the flour mixture until it's all mixed together. Fold in the chocolates, then cover and chill in the freezer for one hour.

Start preheating an empty oven to 350 degrees. When your oven reaches 350 degrees, let it sit for 20 minutes to ensure a stable temp.

Spray a cookie sheet with oil. Using a 3 Tablespoon scoop, portion out six cookies. Dust with a pinch of kosher salt. This brings out the sweetness of the cookie and shouldn't be omitted.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet about 2/3 of the way through the baking process. The cookies are done when the cookies are set and the edges are slightly brown. My oven took 14 minutes to make these bad boys.

Serving with milk or coffee, or sandwiching some satiny ice cream.

Edit: Here are my super-secret baking tips for delicious, chewy cookie success.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Another Goal Off the List: Volunteering at a Race

Good morning, it's 5 a.m.
First, let me start with saying I'm sorry. I was a volunteer and was happy to provide my time to a race, but apparently, I left my brain power behind.  Forgive me, races gods, for I have sinned.

I woke up today at 4 a.m. to head out to Batavia for the Bridge to Bridge 5K and 10K to knock out one of my 12 Goals for 2012. It's the second year of this race, which benefits a Montessori school and the Batavia Lions Club. As a Lion, I was happy to pitch in my time to another club.
The top male made this look effortless
I spent my time handing out numbers for the 10K, then handing out medals at the finish line of the 10K.  It was great meeting all the runners in the morning and wishing them the best in their race.

The female winner of the 10K was amazing. She was 13. I knew she was destined to finish fast when she showed up with her own race belt and the best gear, then asked me about the age breakdowns. When I gave her the finisher's medal, I told her that I thought she was the top woman. She told me she knew she was. If by some miracle you're reading this, just know that you are an inspiration. I wish at 13 someone had told me to get my ass off the couch and start running.

My biggest sin of the day was realized when I discovered I gave the top female 5K finisher the wrong bib and they announced the wrong name. I felt very guilty, and told her that I was sorry. She was cool with it. A winner is a winner, and they can fix my botched timing job.

This whole experience was inspiring and positive. I enjoyed feeling everyone's nervous energy, as well as helping out another Lions club. One 10K finisher cried when she completed the race and hugged one of my fellow volunteers. It's cool to reconnect with that exhilaration, which is what I feel when I finish each successive distance or set a new PR. This race was a great family event with a 1-mile kids race where the little ones get a medal. I have a whole new appreciation for the volunteers who make races possible. And at 220 runners, it's the perfect sized race that I hope to run it again next year.