New Domain Name

Don’t forget to update your google readers and bookmarks!!

The Runner’s Kitchen can now be found at www.runnerskitchen.com

 

The blog has moved!!

Hello Runner’s Kitchen readers,

Today is a BIG day – I took the plunge and the blog is now self-hosted with a new (easier to remember) domain name – www.runnerskitchen.com!

Please come visit the blog at its new home: www.runnerskitchen.com

Oh! And since I won’t be posting on this site anymore, remember to update your bookmarks and google readers – there’s a subscribe button in the top right corner of the new site that will help you sign up. If you use google reader – remember that www.runnerskitchen.com is the new URL to subscribe to. You wouldn’t want to miss any important updates, would you?

See you soon!

Megan

Indian Summer

The recent weather in NYC has been unbelievably sunny and warm (remind me of this in a few months…). After the usual 1/2 decaf coffee yesterday morning, I set off to Central Park for a sunny, Autumnal 4 mile run. Considering Sunday’s 12 miler, my legs felt surprisingly OK. Yay! I made sure to stretch and foam roll afterwards – I want to keep them feelin’ good.

Breakfast was plain Oikos greek yogurt with PB2 and a chopped apple mixed in. And then I crumbled an Honest Foods granola plank on top. The maple nut flavor was really good! It had a consistency similar to Kashi Go Lean Crunch – very crunchy. The granola plank was rather caloric, but packed with nutrition – (380 cals, 12 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 600 mg omega 3’s). It kept me full until after 2pm!

Oikos and granola plank

Honest Foods Granola Plank

Lunch was from the salad bar. It was Monday – I needed something exciting!

  • arugula, shredded carrots, red onion, mushrooms
  • roasted acorn squash
  • wild rice stuffing
  • bit of potato salad
  • pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, feta cheese
  • Tbs balsamic vinaigrette

Salad

And then the afternoon snackeroos – decaf cappuccino and chocolate vita muffin

Cappuccino

vita top

Around 4pm, the work really started to pile up and I knew it was going to be a late night in the office. Luckily, I had prepared and brought along a whole arsenal of healthy snacks for the week. When I’ve been sitting at my desk for hours on end and my stress levels are high, it’s so tempting to reach for candy (we have M&M dispensors in the pantry!), so that’s why I plan ahead. I know I’ll feel much better if I have a piece of fruit or something with a little protein & fiber.

Around 8pm, I broke into the almonds and they helped me power through the rest of my work.

Healthy Snacks

I took a car home from the office (that’s one benefit of overtime!), but since I never drive anymore (subway and walking only for this lady) I actually got a little car sick. It was kind of funny in retrospect…

I had a coke zero to settle my stomach and some leftover pumpkin risotto with spinach and a dollop of greek yogurt for a late din-din.

pumpkin risotto

Dessert was a white chocolate pumpkin cookie while I worked on some exciting blog updates – to be announced SOON! And then I attempted to get some zzzzz’s….

Pictures 005

Unfortunately I was too wired (coke zero, damn you) to fall asleep easily and I tossed and turned for quite a bit.  At some point I realized I was hungry and in need of a snack. I stumbled to the kitchen and munched on a clif bar. That seemed to do the trick – I was finally able to get to sleep! Lessons learned: don’t drink caffeine after 9pm and always have a snack at the ready!

clif bar

If you’re tense or angry, you’re more likely to get injured. Read this Runner’s World article on how to run safely under stress.

Check out this NY Times article about a woman who walks up to 43 miles per day!

What healthy snacks do you keep at your desk? Fruit, nuts, and vita muffins are my go-to choices!

My New Favorite Day

In college, I used to dread Sundays. I would wake up around noon (still feeling the effects of Saturday night partying) and have a ton of things to do before the day ended: papers to write, chapters to read, lab reports to finish, a long run with the cross-country/track team, and maybe some laundry.  But over the past few years, Sunday has become my favorite day of the week. I’m a total Grandma and don’t really stay out late anymore, so waking up at a decent hour is no problem. I’ve also learned to love long runs because they’ve become something I want to do rather than something I have to do. Oh, and I don’t have homework anymore. That’s pretty sweet! So I’ve decided,  Sunday is my new favorite day!

Favorite day started off with a walk to Dunkin’ Donuts for a latte lite. Love.

morning latte

And then it was time for oats in a jar. I had about 1-2 Tbs of almond butter left at the bottom of the jar, so I made stovetop oats and then added the oats to the almond butter container. The hot oats melted the almond butter and everything mixed up quite nicely!

  • 1/2 cup oats made with 1 cup water, splash of milk
  • sea salt and cinnamon
  • sliced banana
  • 1-2 Tbs almond butter
  • a few chocolate chips

Oats in a jar

My oats were perfect fuel for a long run! The weather was so amazing in NYC yesterday – sunny and 68 degrees when I set off for my run. I stopped around mile 6 to stretch out my ache-y IT band, but other than that I felt strong throughout my 12.5 mile run. I finished in 1 hour, 49 minutes which is about 8:45 per mile pace. If it weren’t for time constraints, I would have run longer! Love this weather. Can we just skip January, February, and March?

Central Park[source]

I foam rolled and stretched and then re-fueled!

  • 1 cup plain Oikos greek yogurt
  • chopped apple
  • 1 Tbs peanut butter
  • 1/2 Kashi crunchy granola bar

Yogurt Mess

And a clif bar on the way out the door!

Clif bar 

I met Katie for 5pm yoga and the same instructor from last week was teaching class. I love, love, love this teacher. Her core sequence is killer, but the deep stretches and the instructor’s mind-body philosophy more than make up for my sore abs. I don’t think it would be cool to take a camera into the studio, but I wanted you all to see what Yoga to the People looks like, so I pulled an image off of their site (thanks http://yogatothepeople.com). If you’re in the NYC, San Fran, or Berkeley areas, you have to check out this studio. I think the instructors are great and I love that the classes are donation based. Sometimes I have more money in the bank account, sometimes I have less, but I can always manage a donation for a yoga class. And that’s a very good thing.

Yoga to the People[source]

*Note for those unfamilar with yoga: this photo makes it look like the class is worshipping an altar or something, but they’re really just in child’s pose (a gentle, resting pose).

After a quick stop at Trader Joe’s (madness on a Sunday evening!), I dashed home to start laundry and dinner. Before I got down to business, I had a small snack: 1/2 whole wheat sandwich thin with Greek olive hummus.

Hummus

And then for the next 2 hours I cooked risotto. Yikes. This recipe was A LOT more labor intensive than I expected. The results were pretty good and I have a ton of leftovers, but I’m not sure I would do this again! But just in case you have a lot of time on your hands, I’ll post the recipe. Note: I improvised and used ingredients that I had on hand, so feel free to use different kinds of cheese, wine instead of beer, or arborio rice instead of brown.

Megan’s Pumpkin and Cheese Risotto (adapted from a Millenium Knickerbocker Hotel recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 Tbs olive oil
  • puree of one small pumpkin
  • 1/2 can of pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice (use arborio if you have it)
  • 4 oz cottage cheese (or you could use goat cheese)
  • 2 laughing cow lite cheese wedges (or you could use Parmesan cheese)
  • 5 cups hot water (or chicken stock)
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 Tbs butter

Pictures 004

Directions:

  • Steep bay leaf in 5 cups of very hot water.
  • Heat olive oil in large pot and saute rice, onions, and pumpkin until onions are translucent and rice has nutty aroma.
  • Add garlic and saute briefly.
  • Add beer and deglaze the pan.
  • Remove bay leaf from hot water and discard.
  • While stirring rice mixture with a wooden spoon (vigorously!), add one cup of hot water at a time until rice absorbs all water.
  • This is where I started to freak out – my risotto was taking a very long time to cook. I was stirring and stirring and going to the laundry mat to pick up my laundry stirring non-stop for nearly 50 minutes before everything started to come together. I realized this was because I used brown rice and the original recipe uses white arborio rice which has a much shorter cooking time. This is what I get for trying to be healthy…
  • Anyway, after your rice has finally absorbed the water and is al dente (soft, but chewy), add the canned pumpkin, salt, pepper, and cheese.
  • Before serving, add Tbs butter and stir until melted.
  • Allow the risotto to sit for a minute or so before serving and then enjoy over spinach or mixed greens.

pumpkin risotto

pumpkin risotto

After dishes and laundry folding, I was ready to pack it in. Phew, what a night of domesticity!

I finished up my Sunday with an episode of Mad Men, a glass of milk, and 2 white chocolate pumpkin cookies. Perfect.

cookies and milk

Don’t love running? Neither did Matt until he discovered the beauty of the trails. Check out the new Running Shorts article on True/Slant for the whole story!

Cursing the alarm clock every morning? Read these tips for getting the restorative sleep you need.

Question: What’s the most labor intensive thing you’ve ever cooked or baked?

White Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies

I’m sure by now it’s no surprise that I LOVE all things pumpkin, so prepare yourself for a few more recipes :-)

When my friend Hannah visited last week she brought me a tupperware full of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that I promptly devoured. Once they were gone, I knew I had to re-create them.

Even though I love to bake, I’m not the biggest fan of measuring/following directions (um, yes – I realize this is usually essential for baking). I went with my instincts last night and the result was healthy and delicious (tooting my own horn, just a bit)!! I based the recipe loosely on these pumpkin cookies, but my final version was modified quite a bit.

white chocolate pumpkin cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of ginger and nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1.5 cups light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs (preferably organic)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3.5 oz Lindt white chocolate bar, chopped into small pieces
  • small handful of dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees and grease a large baking sheet
  • Whisk together flour, spices, and baking soda in a medium bowl
  • Beat together the sugar and butter until creamy
  • Mix in applesauce, eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla
  • Slowly incorporate flour mixture just until combined
  • Stir in the pecans and white chocolate and dark chocolate chips
  • Drop heaping Tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top

These cookies have a very light, fluffy textures (almost like little pumpkin breads!) and the white chocolate is a surprisingly good compliment to the pumpkin. To assist in her post-marathon recovery, Alma sampled 6 cookies and declared them “delicious!”.

And now….for my next trick, homemade pumpkin puree! Inspired by Christine, I set out to make good use of a small pumpkin that had been serving as a living room decoration. I bought this lil’ guy over a month ago and it was still perfectly edible. Yay, winter gourds!

Instructions:

1) Wash the pumpkin, cut a hole in the top, and scoop out the seeds/innards. Then cut the pumpkin in half and then into medium sized chunks (leave the skin on).

Sugar pumpkin

2) Put the pumpkin chunks in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the bowl from the microwave (be careful! bowl will be hot), stir, cover with new plastic wrap, and microwave for 10 more minutes.

Cooked Pumpkin

3) After pumpkin is finished cooking, allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the pumpkin rind – I used a spoon to scoop the flesh into a separate bowl. I was doing this around 11:45pm on a Saturday night…real cool, I know.

4) Mash the pumpkin and store in a tupperware or small bowl until ready to use! I have plans to make some pumpkin risotto with my homemade puree.

Pumpkin Puree

This pumpkin was probably one of the best dollars that I ever spent. The gourd served as a decoration for over a month, yielded nearly 2 cups of pumpkin puree, and I plan to season and roast the seeds.

Hooray for pumpkin!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin? In a pie? In a latte from Starbucks? As a jack o’ lantern?

Spin Out Your Stress

My week went by fast, but I am so ready for the weekend!

After Thursday night’s 10 mile run, I decided it would be best to sleep in a little on Friday and plan for a p.m. gym visit. My day started off simply: coffee, Nature’s Path instant oatmeal (made with skim), and a banana.

oatmeal with banana

Lunch was a leftovers re-mix: lentils, 1/2 sweet potato, melted mozzarella cheese, and hot sauce. I heated up everything for 2 minutes and then mixed in a big handful of arugula. All of the flavors melded together quite nicely :-)

arugula, sweet potato, lentils

I managed to fit in a brisk 15 minute walk at lunchtime….I sat at my desk for 10+ hours yesterday and I could NOT do that again today. I needed some sunshine!

Afternoon snackeroos were decaf cappuccino and another honest foods baked granola bar. I love the ingredient list on these bars: oats, almond butter, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, etc. So good! I can’t wait to try all of the flavors. The variety I had yesterday was pretty good – it had a decidedly almond flavor.


honest foods

I was feeling kind of brain-fried when I finally left work, so I wasn’t in the best of spirits when I arrived at the gym. I thought about packing it in and going home, but I know that I always feel better after a sweaty workout so I stuck it out. I warmed up on the elliptical for 10 minutes and then took a 45 minute cycling class. This instructor was nowhere near as fun as the guy who teaches my Tuesday a.m. class., but all-in-all it was a good workout and I felt better afterward.

I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home and decided that I needed a little snack from the salad bar – a small container of spinach salad with lemon pepper tofu.

whole foods salad

And then when I got home, I heated up some lentils with hot sauce (that’s the last of the lentils, I promise!) and a veggie burger with hummus on a whole wheat sandwich thin. And there wasn’t a simple carbohydrate in sight ;-)

lentils and veggie burger

I experienced some internet problems that caused me to freak out put a damper on my to-do list, so I decided to unwind with a book + early bedtime. But before I hit the sheets, I needed a snack: Oikos plain greek yogurt with a Tbs almond butter and 1/2 crushed Kashi granola bar.

yogurt

Things are looking up today – the internet issues are solved, I’m about to head out the door for a run, and I have a fun afternoon + evening planned with one of my best friends from high school. Happy Weekend!

What if you’re a runner, but can’t tolerate pasta? No worries, there are other options.

Question: Are you a pasta lover? Or do you prefer to get your carbs in other ways? I don’t really like pasta, but thankfully I DO love potatoes, bread, and oatmeal. Yay, carbs!

8 Miles, 10 Miles

First and most importantly, Happy Friday!

Secondly, thank you for all the kind and supportive comments yesterday. Hearing from readers and knowing that my running and cooking adventures provide inspiration is why I write this blog! It should be noted that the author of yesterday’s email did apologize, however I received another not-so-nice email when they realized I discussed the issue on my blog. All I can say to that is…Oh well! I use this blog as way to discuss issues that affect my quest for a healthy lifestyle and I think yesterday’s blog post was beneficial for me in that respect.

My daily eats and running mileage have been MIA lately, so prepare for a monster recap! I’ve tried to keep it balanced :-)

I woke up feeling wayyyy tired on Wednesday morning and kind of headache-y, so instead of running right away, I hydrated (decaf coffee and water!) and ate breakfast first.

I made a delightful bowl of oats:

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water
  • chopped apple
  • sea salt and cinnamon
  • tsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs (or a lil more!) almond butter
  • sprinkling of chocolate chips

oatmeal

After waiting awhile for digestion (and downloading the new Jay-Z/Alicia Keys song..) I was ready for my run! The weather was brisk (50 degrees), but sunny so I wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt. 90% of me was comfortable, but my hands get cold no matter what!

I was feeling quite sluggish for most of this run, but my legs finally perked up around the 5 mile mark. I finished the 8 miles in about 1 hour and 12 minutes (9:00 per mile pace). After a quick shower and change, it was off to work!

My tum was feelin’ a little off (I think I might be getting a cold), so lunch was a little lighter than usual:

  • 1 cup oikos plain greek yogurt
  • sliced banana (it’s hiding in there somewhere!)
  • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

pumpkin seeds

And a vita muffin + cappuccino for a snackeroo (do you like that word? I think I made it up!):

vita top

Cappuccino

Worked, worked, worked throughout the afternoon and then came home for an easy dinner: apple cider, Campbell’s Selects onion soup with lentils, and a whole wheat sandwich thin with arugula and mozzarella cheese.

french onion soup and sandwich

Andddddd I was still hungry. I got a new container of hummus (Sabra’s greek olive – LOVE) and was going to have it with some pita chips, but then I decided that another sandwich thin would be a better option. More whole grains and fiber!

arnold sandwich thins and sabra's hummus

I finished up some work on the computer, chatted on the phone, and finished the night off with half of this lil’ guy: a Trader Joe’s PB&J bar! This brilliant creation featured milk and dark chocolates, raspberry jam, peanut butter, and crushed potato chips (!!). And while this is definitely a treat, 1/2 the bar only had 150 cals, 4 grams of fiber (not shabby!), and 3 grams of protein. Plus a lil calcium and iron. Sweet :-)

pb & j bar

I woke up feeling a little under the weather yesterday, so an early a.m. gym visit was just NOT going to happen. Instead I spent some time in bed reading emails and catching up on google reader.

And then off to work for me! I’m running low on fruits and veggies in the kitchen, so breakfast was two bananas and a packet of Nature’s Path Flax Plus instant oatmeal made with 1/2 water, 1/2 skim milk. This oatmeal presentation wasn’t nearly as beautiful as yesterday, but you get the idea…

Flax Oatmeal

Lunch was another sweet potato with lentils, mozzarella cheese, and hot sauce. I know this is boring, but it’s so quick and delicious! I heated everything up in the microwave for about 90 seconds to get the cheese melty :-)

Lentils & Sweet Potato

Afternoon energy: decaf cappuccino and a vita muffin top.

Cappuccino

vita top

Things got pretty crazy in the office around 4:30pm and the next few hours were go-go-go. I had a plain whole wheat Arnold sandwich thin sometime around 5:30pm. Too busy to snap a picture, so this stock photo will have to do:

sandwichthin

I really like these sandwich thins. They’re perfect for all sorts of sammies – pb & j, hummus & veggies, deli meat, etc. Or you could top with tomato sauce and mozzarella and make a mini pizza!

I left the office a little before 8pm and was feeling hungrryyy, I debated going straight home, but instead I had a snack in the elevator, and headed directly to my gym. I’ve found that if I don’t allow myself any internal debate (and just GO to the gym or a run), I’m much more likely to get it done. So I snacked on an Honest Foods cranberry lemon zest bar (oh my goodness, so delicious!) and was on the treadmill 15 minutes later.

Honest Foods

Must have been the energizing carbs, protein, fat, and fiber in my snack – I ran 10 miles in about 1 hour and 28 minutes (yes, all on the treadmill). I originally planned on going to a road workout with my track club, but due to the late night in the office, that didn’t pan out. By the time I was free to go running, it was dark and I would be by myself, so I made the decision that the ‘mill would be safer (although more boring).

  • Miles 1 – 9:20 pace
  • Miles 2 – 9:20 pace
  • Mile 3 – 8:55 pace
  • Mile 4 – 8:55 pace
  • Mile 5 – 8:34 pace
  • Mile 6 – 8:34 pace
  • Mile 7 – 8:00 pace (faster effort #1)
  • Mile 8 – 9:13 pace
  • Mile 9 – 7:20 pace (faster effort #2)
  • Mile 10 – 9:13 pace

“Dinner” was rather late, but yum. I had about a cup of plain, non-fat Oikos greek yogurt left in the big tub, so I mixed in about 1.5 Tbs of almond butter, a chopped apple, a dollop of pumpkin butter, and some pecans for a garnish.  I think that mixing the nut butter thoroughly through out the yogurt really put this flavor combo over the top.

Yogurt Mess

Clickety-clack went my keyboard into the night – a little bit before 1am I toasted up 1/2 a whole wheat sandwich thin and slathered it with Sabra’s greek olive hummus.

Hummus

Finally, finally, I finished up all I needed to do and hit the sheets. Phew, what a day. Thank goodness it’s almost the weekend!

Don’t have time for a gym visit – Check out these 5 Fun Ways to Workout at Home.

We all get in grumpy moods sometimes, but according to a recent study it can actually be GOOD for us. Interesting…

And the best part of Friday – a new Running Shorts article from me and Matt!! Are you excited?

Question: What’s your strategy for fitting in exercise to a busy work/school/social life schedule? Do you wake up at 5am to run? Take a walk during your lunch break?

A Nutritional Slam

food_scale[photo source]

Well, I hope your Thursday is off to a better start than mine! I normally try to stay pretty positive on the blog, but I received a very upsetting email today. I had contacted someone regarding a volunteer opportunity and in response, I received this email:

Hey Megan,

It’s [Name Withheld], on the committee of [Name Withheld] NYC. I clicked on your blog and read all the things you ate on Tues.  I’m sorry to say from a nutritionist’s point of view, you consumed way too many simple carbs. In fact that kind of eating sets you up for high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and brings you closer to type 2 diabetes. I am a holistic and clinical nutritionist and work with over 200 patients now of which 92% eat that way and I’m sorry to say are all in the category of type 2 DM or pre-DM simply due to the overload of simple carbs.

If you’d like more in-depth info on better nutrition, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Wishing you wellness always,
[Name Withheld] Holistic & Clinical Nutritionist

I understand that this person was just trying to be helpful (I think?), but there are a few reasons why I think the email was out of line:

  • My dietary choices were torn apart when I simply wanted to volunteer my time for a good cause!
  • The email author made blanket assumptions about my eating habits and warned me that I was at risk for diabetes and high triglycerides without knowing anything about my health or background.
  • The author of the email is a nutritionist and wellness counselor, not a Registered Dietician. Although a nutritionist can certainly be well-informed, any one can call themselves a “nutritionist”. On the other hand, to become a Registered Dietician you have to go through many years of school, complete an internship, and pass a national exam. I have no way of knowing what credentials this person has simply because they put “nutritionist” after their name.

I was pretty riled up after I read this email and perhaps I should have brushed it off and forgotten about it. But I write a food and running blog and I felt like this email was a personal attack on me and everything I stand for. What kind of “healthy living blogger” would I be if I was demonstrating behaviors that were leading directly to diabetes and bad cholesterol levels? After some time to cool down and think things through, I decided I needed to address the email and the issue on the blog.

I know that I don’t have the perfect diet (does anyone??), I probably eat too many cookies and maybe not enough protein. But I’m a busy 25-year-old trying to juggle a full-time office job, part-time writing gigs, a blog, a passion for running, cycling, and yoga, and a social life.  The purpose of my blog is to show people what a healthy balance can look like (and to provide running inspiration!). To me, this means that while I did have dried fruit, a few pieces of candy, and a pb& j cookie on Tuesday (simple sugars!), I also consumed greek yogurt, whole grain cereal, whole wheat bread, hummus, part skim mozzarella, lentils, arugula, apples, sweet potatoes, and peanut butter.  Additionally, I exercise quite a bit (40+ miles of running last week plus spin and yoga classes), so I need those simple carbs for quick burning energy.

The amount of calories, carbs, protein, fat, sugar, and exercise in my life might not work for you.  It would be impossible for me to say: “If you eat exactly what I do, you’ll have lots of energy, be in great health, want to run 40 miles a week, etc. etc.” I’ve said it before – I am not a registered dietician or an expert of any sort. I’m just a girl who likes to run and eat good food!

What I’ve been doing for the past 25 years seems to have been working for me – I recently had blood work done and everything came out A-OK (with the exception of some borderline low iron levels). I don’t have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or bad cholesterol. I’m at a healthy weight for my height and frame and I have enough energy to do the things I love to do. And if I eat a little too much sugar, so what? I’m only human.

I’m not going to dwell on this incident, I’m pretty sure it was a misunderstanding. However, I thought it was a good opportunity to discuss the criticism that often comes along with how we eat. Whether it’s a well-meaning family member pushing another piece of pie because you’re “too skinny” or a friend who suggests you cut back on the nachos at happy hour, people are always going to comment on what you’re eating. Eating is something we all do 3+ times per day and it’s obviously a topic we like to think about, write about, talk about – how else can you explain the enormous popularity of foodie and fitness blogs?

 But when does this interest become too personal? And who is qualified to make dietary suggestions?

Has anyone ever criticized your diet?  How did you respond?

Spinning and Strength

Good morning! Check out my latest contribution to the Running Shorts column on True/Slant – Alternative Sports Medicine. If you’re struggling with aches and pains, make sure you know all of your options.

Yesterday was an early one, but getting up with the sun was worth it – I love my Tuesday morning spin class! I started off with 1/2 decaf coffee and a few pieces of dried fruit.

Prunes

After a fun 45 minute cycling session, I did some strength training (not my fav, but necessary):

  • 3 x 10 bicep curls
  • 3 x 10 tricep dips
  • 3 x 10 tricep extensions
  • 3 x 10 lunges

And then 20 minutes on the elliptical to read Marie Claire magazine cooldown.

Breakfast was vanilla greek yogurt with PB2 mixed in, a lazy girl’s baked apple, and a vita muffin.

My “lazy girl’s baked apple” was just a sliced Macoun apple, drizzled with maple syrup and cinnamon, and microwaved for 2 minutes. So easy to make, but it feels so much more special than a regular ol’ apple.

vitatop and chobani

Mid-morning snack: Heritage grain flakes and 2% milk.

Heritage flakes

Lunch was a cup of Campbell’s Select french onion soup and a hummus, arugula, and mozzarella sandwich on a whole wheat flat bread. I was pleasantly surprised by this soup – very rich and flavorful and no “canned soup” taste.

soup and sandwich

And then some leftover Halloween candy to power me through the rest of the afternoon…

Halloween candy

After I left the office I headed to my local polling place to vote. Yay, civic duty! And then returned to my apartment for dinner and a few hours of writing, emailing, and blog work. I think I stared at a computer screen for 14+ hours yesterday – yikes!

Dinner was a repeat of Monday – 1/2 baked sweet potato, lentils, lots of mozzarella cheese, and hot sauce. Oh, and some leftover apple cider!

lentils

I resisted the new Mad Men DVD sitting on my desk (must.respond.to.emails), but I could not resist the call of Katie’s homemade pb & j bars sitting in my fridge. I warmed one up in the microwave and added a big dollop of greek yogurt (tastes like whipped cream!)

pb & j bar

I may have eaten another pb & j bar around 1am. It was a long night…

10 Free Ways to Get Healthy in November!

Hungry for a sandwich? How about generous scoops of quinoa and hummus rolled in a blistered naan along with pickled vegetables, sauerkraut and tangy yogurt? Yes, please! Read more about these drool-worthy sandwiches on the NY Times.

Get the 411 on dried fruit – FYI yogurt covered raisins are NOT your best option.

Is there a connection between processed foods and depression? The BBC reports on a study that says yes.

A new study suggests that yoga is very beneficial for women being treated for eating disorders. Yay, yoga!

Question: What’s your “power snack” to get you through a late night of homework/work?

Homemade Apple Butter

Most people would think I’m crazy. I returned home from work around 7:30pm last night and ended up spending nearly 4 hours in the kitchen. And I really enjoyed it! Ever since I received my shipment of fun cookbooks last week (thanks again Matt!), I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to make first. I love making jams and jellies, but somehow never got around to it this summer. While flipping through The Joy of Jam, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves I saw a chapter dedicated to fall’s most abundant fruit – the apple! I really enjoyed browsing through the cookbook. There were many helpful hints and tips for beginner canners and best of all – the recipes do not require commercial pectin! I’m not a big fan of store-bought pectin because it can be expensive and I think you can make better jam without it.

I already had most of the ingredients for apple butter on hand and I own canning utensils, so I was ready to roll.  Some 25-year-olds collect designer handbags and shoes. I prefer mason jars.

Before I embarked on my adventure in preserving, I prepared a quick dinner. I cooked a pot of lentils, baked up a garnet yam, and mixed the two together with mozzarella cheese and hot sauce. A little random, but filling and delicious!

sweet potato and lentils

And then the apple butter project began!

The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and other Sweet Preserves[photo source]

I selected the low-sugar apple butter recipe which uses apple cider to replace much of the refined sugar. I also made a few alternations to the original recipe based on the ingredients/equipment that I had on hand. If you’re new to canning, you should probably follow the recipe instructions exactly, otherwise all sorts of problems could arise. Preserving and canning can be tricky. If your mixture doesn’t contain the correct amount of pectin, the jelly or jam could fail to gel. If your vegetables or fruits aren’t acidic enough, the jar contents could spoil too soon. And if you’d don’t properly process the mason jars, a seal won’t form (no seal = short shelf life). Luckily for me apples have a lot of natural pectin, so I wasn’t too worried about the apple butter coming together.

Megan’s version of Low Sugar Apple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs of apples (I used 2 Granny Smith, 2 Macoun, and 1 Gala)
  • 1.5 quarts (48 oz) apple cider
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • Tbs cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger

I washed all of the jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water and prepared the apples by washing and slicing them (don’t peel the apples!).

Apple Butter Prep

Apples simmering

Canning tools

Boiling water bath

Homemade apple butter

Directions:

  • Boil the cider in a large cooking pot for about 20 minutes, until it has reduced by 1/4.
  • Add the apples, cover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Remove apple and cider mixture from heat and carefully puree it in a blender (the original recipe calls for pureeing the fruit in a food mill or sieve, but I didn’t have either of those).
  • Pour the apple mixture back in the pot, add brown sugar and spices, and allow to simmer over low heat for about an hour.
  • While your apple mixture is cooking, fill a very large stock pot 1/2 way with water, and bring to a boil. You should probably have a rack so that the mason jars won’t sit on the bottom of the pot. I DON’T have a rack, so I use an inverted metal cupcake pans. Ehhh…I improvise!
  • Place your canning lids in a bowl of VERY hot water so that the gummy underside gets soft and pliable.
  • Stir the apple butter occassionally – when it’s dark brown and glossy, it’s time to process!
  • Carefully pour the apple butter into 1/2 pint or pint mason jars, leaving about 1/4″ head space.
  • Wipe off any sticky residue and run a chopstick (or butter knife) along the inside of the jar to remove air bubbles.
  • Screw on the lids and rings (but not TOO tight!)
  • Carefully lower the filled jars into the stockpot (water should be boiling by now) and keep them submerged in the water for at least 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and using a jar grabber lift the jars straight up and out of the pot. Place the jars at least one inch apart from each other and allow to cool completely. You may hear a “popping” sound – that means that the metal lid just sealed. Yay!
  • Once your jars are cool, check the lid to make sure it is completely flat and sealed. If it pops up, you can still eat the apple butter, but just store it in the fridge.
  • Sealed jars of apple butter (and jam and jelly) can keep for about a year in the pantry.
  • Enjoy! Now it’s time to wash all of your sticky dishes :-)

Question: What’s your favorite type of jam or jelly? Have you ever made your own?

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