Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mixed Bag

My workout this morning was quite a mixed bag. Actually, they've been a bit of a mixed bag all week. I haven't been completely following my training schedule because I've been sore, so I've focused more on cross training then running.

-12 mile run

-2 hour walk/hike with Gina through Mines Falls

-30 minutes on stationary bike

-30 minutes on stationary bike in morning
-3 mile run (ranging from 6.0-7.0 speed) in evening
-Random strength training - mixture of biceps, triceps, shoulders and abs (I've missed a lot of strength training in the past couple weeks due to being sick, so last night I just did a mixture of exercises using higher weights and fewer sets then usual)

-Mixed bag treadmill workout

5.5-6.5 (warm up)
1.5 (side step)

This is how to side step:

Just kidding. I tried to take a picture while side-stepping, but as you can see, it didn't quite come out. Here's what it looks like (I took this after finishing the workout):

You need to keep the speed pretty slow (like my 1.5) because its a bit cumbersome to side step, but after a few minutes you really start to feel it in your glutes and your hip flexors. This is a good way to strengthen your hip flexors (which are really important for running, but hard to target). Weak hip flexors can lead to knee pain and IT band problems.

Tonight I'm trying a new work out! I'll let you know tomorrow how it goes :)

Happy Wednesday! Weekend is getting closer!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Light Lemon Cookies

I don't think I've ever had lemon cookies, or even lemon cake for that matter. Then a few days ago I saw these lemon cookies on Foodbuzz and instantly wanted some. So I made myself a batch, healthified them in the process, and they were perfect: light, chewy and airy lemon cookies that tasted like Spring (if the weather doesn't want to cooperate quite yet, at least I can start eating warm weather foods). 

These cookies are so quick and easy to make, and with my ingredient adjustments there's less than 1/4 gram of fat in each (I didn't calculate the calories, but those are quite a bit reduced as well). Please make these!

These are the simple ingredients you'll need:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour cake mix into a large mixing bowl. Zest your lemon into the bowl.

Add egg whites and egg, applesauce and lemon juice - stir until well blended.

I tested a couple batches of these cookies, some chilled and some not, and it doesn't make too much of a difference what you do. The dough was slightly easier to handle after being chilled for 15 minutes, but perhaps not enough of a difference to make it worth it. So I'll leave to chill or not to chill up to you! Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of powdered sugar and roll around until they are covered. Put dough balls on a cookie sheet (again I tested a couple batches of these cookies, some on an ungreased cookie sheet and some on parchment paper - doesn't make much of a difference for the actual cookies, but I think the parchment paper makes clean up a lot easier).

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are set. The bottoms will be light brown and the insides of the cookies will be light and chewy. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool completely before serving.

Light Lemon Cookies
Makes 30 cookies.
Adapted from AllRecipes and Eaternal Bliss

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix
  • 1 egg and 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • shredded coconut (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in egg and egg whites, applesauce, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioner's sugar and roll around until covered. Place dough balls on cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are set and bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Anyone who knows me won't be surprised that I also tried to incorporate coconut into this recipe.  I think I try to incorporate coconut into every recipe. So on the last 5 cookies, rather than rolling the dough in confectioner's sugar, I rolled it in shredded coconut.

Well actually, I rolled 4 cookies in just coconut, and the 5th cookie I rolled first in coconut and then in confectioner's sugar.

And then baked them...

You can see that the coconut got burned. If I were to use just coconut again, I'd make smaller cookies so they didn't have to bake as long. But check out the coconut and confectioner's sugar cookie (on the right):

This one didn't burn at all, and came out so well! The coconut flavor really complemented the light lemon flavor (might have been my favorite cookie!). Next batch I make will be half lemon and half lemon coconut.

I did see a note on Eaternal Bliss' blog that these cookies are better the day after they're baked. I can't comment on that because there was nothing left the next day. I'm not going to tell you how many I ate. Because I lost count. And after I stuffed my face with these lemon cookies, I brought the rest to have with some girlfriends, and then they were gone. So perhaps they are better the next day, but all I can tell you is they're pretty damn good straight out of the oven.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Favorite Sandwich: Pesto, Tomato, Mozzarella

This is my favorite sandwich - a fresh baguette slathered with pesto and topped with basil leaves and thick slices of mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. The first time I had a variation of this sandwich was with Katie when we took the train into Harvard Square and got the sandwiches at Au Bon Pain. It became a ritual of sorts, and every time we went to Harvard Square we'd get the sandwiches. Now every time I eat one of these I think of her. 

Even better is making the sandwiches at home, when you can use homemade pesto and pick the freshest ingredients to fill the sandwich. This is exactly what I was in the mood for this weekend - a big sandwich to fill the bottomless pit of my belly (no matter what I eat, it always seems like I'm hungry all day long after I've finished a big run. Saturday was no exception after my 12 mile run).

To make these sandwiches you'll need the following:
  • baguette
  • pesto
  • mozzarella cheese
  • tomatoes
  • fresh basil (optional but strongly recommended)

Once you have all of your ingredients, the assembly is quite simple.

Cut sections of your bread and slice down the middle.

Slather both sides of bread with pesto.

Add slices of mozzarella.

Add slices of tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.

Add fresh basil leaves.

Close your sandwich and enjoy!

This sandwich really hit the spot! Sometimes I'll make an open-faced sandwich, but I was hungry enough to eat a full one - and a little more pesto is never a bad thing. This is also the first "meal" I ever made for Pat on my own. It was probably five years ago at this point - one day I bought all of the ingredients and surprised him. He'd never had it before and loved it - and I was so excited to have made something for him that he liked (since he's always been the food expert). I made him one on Saturday, too.

Speaking of the bottomless pit of my belly...I pack a snack to have on the ride home from work (since its over an hour drive). Usually I pack some baby carrots and/or an apple, but I still find that when I walk in the door I'm starving and ready to devour everything in sight (which is especially inconvenient if I'm going to the gym). I realized that these snacks weren't really enough to tide me over from lunch until dinner, so I've been making baggies of assorted snacks that combine a little fat, fiber and protein. The snack I made today was my favorite so far:

Peanut Butter Puffins cereal (if you haven't tried this yet, you must), raw almonds, and unsweetened dried apple rings.

This keeps me full a lot longer and prevents me from tearing apart the kitchen when I get home (or at least delays it for a while!).

What's your favorite snack? What do you eat before working out?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tea and Crumpets (and a 12 miler)

Once again Trader Joe's has outdone itself. I stopped there on the way home last night to pick up some essentials, and came across these babies:

Cinnamon crumpets! I'm not sure if these are a new item or not, but I'd never seen them before and snatched them up. This morning I threw a crumpet in the stove for a few minutes and topped it with crunchy almond butter and banana slices. Yum! Great way to fuel for my run. I had a big mug of Irish Breakfast tea on the side to wake myself up a bit.

I set out for my 12 miler, expecting it to be in the mid-30s but it was only 24 degrees! The first few miles were a little chilly! I picked a new route to run - I've found that if I run the same route too many times I get bored and don't push myself as much.  

I usually wait to refuel until I feel like I need a boost, and at that point its too late and I start to lose momentum, so today I began a little earlier than usual - after 4 miles I started eating a Power Bar chew every 3 miles. I made an effort to kick it up to a faster past for the last 2 miles, and in the last 1/3 mile I ran as fast as I could. It hurt but it feels good afterward, and I believe that you won't improve unless you push yourself. 

I finished the 12 miles in 1:43:22 for an average pace of 8:35 minute miles. I'm happy with that!

When I got home I made myself a protein smoothie to drink while I stretched and foam rolled. Foam rolling really hurt this morning - everything was pretty tight. 

Smoothie included: 1 cup skim milk, 1/2 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup frozen berries and 1/2 cup frozen organic cherries. Cherries are said to boost recovery and reduce inflammation after a tough workout.

A little while later I had my first snack (of I'm sure many) today. More crumpets! I had a crumpet with butter and strawberry jam and some scrambled eggs (3 egg whites and 1 egg yolk) for protein.

Love these crumpets! Feel great after my run - just one more "long" run until the C-Ville Half Marathon (and that one will be shorter for tapering). 

Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 25, 2011

This Week's Recap

So last week I was a sloth, and this week wasn't much better. I felt the worst on Monday and stayed home sick. I spent the day napping and finishing season 5 of Big Love. Does anyone else still watch that show? I can't believe the way it ended! I was on the couch from 8am until 9pm (when I moved to my bed) and only got up to replenish my water/tea and snacks. Complete laziness, but it helped because I was feeling a lot better by Tuesday. 

I'm really bummed about being sick because its ruining my big plans for the Charlottesville Half Marathon! The race is two weeks from tomorrow and I haven't gotten in the training I'd hoped to. This is all I managed this week:

Monday: nothing
Tuesday: 35 minute walk/jog on treadmill
Wednesday: very abbreviated speed interval workout
On treadmill at 1% incline

0 – 1.0
5.5-6.5 (warm up)
1.00 – 1.25
1.25 – 1.50
1.50 – 1.75
1.75 – 2.00
2.00 – 2.25
2.25 – 2.50
2.50 - 2.75
2.75 – 3.00
3.00 – 3.25
3.25 – 3.50
3.50 – 4.00
6.0-5.5 (cool down)

Thursday: 3.65 mile run (I didn't wear my Garmin watch but it felt reasonably fast) and Jillian Michael's 6 Week to 6 Pack video
Friday: today is a rest day on the schedule, and I think I'll take it so I'm refreshed for my 12-miler tomorrow.

Its not terribly appealing to hit the road for a run when your head is pounding and all you want to do is sleep. I've been trying to go to bed early all week, and hopefully this weekend I'll shake my viral infection for good.

I barely cooked this week, or did much of anything else. In addition to finishing the 5th and final season of Big Love, Pat and I finished season 2 of Mad Men. Love that show! I also enjoyed my Spicy Stir Fry and Coconut Rice for lunch every day this week - I didn't get sick of it at all. In fact, I wish I had more. I think I'll be making it again soon! The rest of the week Pat and I ate other leftovers or got take out. One night we got Subway, which I haven't ever been a very big fan of. The times I've gone in the past my veggies weren't fresh and I never liked my meal enough to finish it. This time was different. I don't know if Subway is getting better or perhaps I went to a bad one before, but my 6-inch sub didn't stand a chance!

Veggie Delite on 9 Grain Wheat Bread (I added avocado at home!)

On Wednesday I was starving before dinner, and didn't have too many options. I saw a bag of potatoes on the counter and decided to make some french "fries". They were delicious!

Its very simple and requires only a couple ingredients. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, then wash 4 or 5 potatoes. Slice them into wedges (leaving skin on) and put in a bowl. Pour in 1 tablespoon olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.

Spray a large oven pan (the bigger the better because potatoes get crispier when they're more spread out) with cooking spray and transfer potatoes into pan. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15.


Remove from oven when they have reached desired crispiness. Allow to cool for a couple minutes, then serve!

Mmm. I might have to make some more of those tonight, they were quite tasty!

And last, I made an exciting purchase on my lunch break today (again, bear with me on my definition of "exciting"). New running shoes! It was getting to be that time to replace my sneakers (you should every 400 miles or so) - I got my last pair in the beginning of November. I've been wearing Asics Gel Keyanos since my senior year of college (I don't remember what I wore before then, but that's really when I started running). My mom bought me my first pair for my birthday, and I've never worn anything else! 

Even though I love these shoes, I've never tried another type, so I thought that it'd be a good idea to find out what shoes I should be wearing. I went to the Marathon Sports in Brookline (one of my favorite stores for running goods) to have them take a look. They watch you walk and run (gait analysis) and tell you which shoes provide the best fit.

On Beacon Street - Mile 23 of the Boston Marathon!

Saucony, and the newest version of Asics) guess what I was told? I've been wearing the right shoes all along! I have to admit, I was happy to buy another pair of my precious keyanos!

Now I'm set and ready to go for my 12-miler tomorrow morning! All I need is some more french "fries" to carbo load...

Do you always buy the same sneakers, or switch it up? What are your favorites?

Happy Friday!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spicy Stir Fry and Coconut Rice

I love stir fry. Its quick and easy to prepare and is a good way to use up a variety of vegetables and sauces in your refrigerator. I made this stir fry last night and loved the finished product.

*Note to non-vegetarian/tofu-loving readers: this spicy stir fry would also be delicious if made with beef or chicken!

I first drained my tofu, then cut it up. I put all of the pieces on four layers of paper towels, covered with another four layers of paper towels, and put a cutting board and heavy object on top (I used a tea kettle full of water). Let sit for 10-45 minutes (however much time you have) - this removes the excess moisture from the tofu so that it can absorb the flavors of the marinade.

Then make your marinade - I whisked together 2 tablespoons of Sriracha hot sauce, 2 tablespoons of reduced sodium soy sauce, and about 1/2 tablespoon of honey.

Put the tofu pieces in a bowl and add the marinade, tossing tofu to coat.

Cover and put in refrigerator for up to eight hours. That's a lie. Eight hours was my original plan, but then I was sick and in no mood for anything other than smoothies and cream of wheat, so this actually sat in the refrigerator for close to 36 hours!

When ready to make, start with your rice. Normally I have brown rice, but I was all out, so I made jasmine rice instead. For my 2:1 (liquids:rice) ratio I subbed 1 cup of coconut milk for water, so I ended up using 1 cup water, 1 cup coconut milk, and 1 cup rice. Put liquid and rice in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat and allow to simmer until liquid is absorbed. This took about twice as long as it usually takes when using water only, so make sure to allot for that when making dinner.

Wash and prepare the vegetables you're going to use. I used 1 head of broccoli, 3 medium carrots, and 1 yellow bell pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Put the tofu into the skillet - stir every couple minutes.

Next we'll blanch the veggies. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the vegetables, cooking for 2 minutes. Immediately remove the vegetables from the boiling water and place in a large bowl of ice water. This preserves the beautiful colors of the vegetables and cooks them a little bit (they'll still be crunchy).

Drain the ice water and add the blanched vegetables to the skillet with tofu and cook for a few minutes, until they reach their desired "doneness" (I like mine to be a little bit crispy).

In the last couple minutes, add some almond slivers. This adds a great crunch to the stir fry.

Serve stir fry on a bed of coconut rice.

This came out really well! The rice had a subtle coconut flavor (not overpowering at all) which complimented the spice of the tofu very well. The vegetables were spicy, but not as extreme as the tofu, since the tofu had been marinating in the sauce for much longer. The almonds were a great addition - I love nuts in Asian-inspired dishes. This is great for dinner and leftovers heat up well for lunches or dinners later in the week.

Spicy Stir Fry and Coconut Rice
Serves 4


  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used Silk Pure Coconut)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into bite sized-pieces
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • handful chopped almonds (optional)
  • cooking spray


Coconut Rice
  1. Measure coconut milk, water and rice into a small pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat and allow to simmer until liquid is absorbed. This took about twice as long as it usually takes to make rice with water, about 40 minutes.

Stir Fry
  1. Drain tofu, then cut it up. Put all of the pieces on four layers of paper towels, cover with another four layers of paper towels, and put a cutting board and heavy object on top. Let sit for at least 10 minutes  - this removes the excess moisture from the tofu so that it can absorb the flavors of the marinade.
  2. Whisk together hot sauce, soy sauce and honey in a small bowl. Transfer tofu (or meat if using) to a bowl and toss with marinade. Cover with saran wrap and let marinate in refrigerator for several hours.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Put the tofu into the skillet and stir every couple minutes.
  4. Blanch the veggies: bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the vegetables, cooking for 2 minutes. Immediately remove vegetables from the boiling water and place in a large bowl of ice water. 
  5. Drain the ice water and add the blanched vegetables to the skillet with tofu and cook for a few minutes, until they reach their desired "doneness."
  6. In the last couple minutes, add some almond slivers. Serve stir fry over a bed of coconut rice.