Friday, October 1, 2010

Fall is a good time to bake and run!

The start of the Littleton 1 mile "Fun Run"
I was in a baking mood this week. I drooled over recipes on Tastespotting, Foodgawker, and my latest find,, dreaming of all the delicious recipes I wanted to make. Then I thought about my waistline and decided against it. But really, I could have baked something tasty everyday. My sweet tooth is killing me. I need to invite people over for dessert more often.

While perusing these sites, I did decide on what cake to make for my father's 75th(!) birthday on October 16. It's a chocolate oreo looks so yummy and I bet will taste yummy too. You can find a link to the cake recipe here. Though the more I think about it,  the more want to make the Preacher's Chocolate Cake I made for my brother, and just make the frosting from this recipe. That Preacher's cake was delicious.

This week, I baked some applesauce (yes, baked) and left it slightly on the tart side and chunky. It's time to start eating oatmeal for breakfast again, and I like it with homemade applesauce swirled in. In the end, I couldn't just let the sauce sit in my fridge and I decided to bake some muffins with it instead. They were moist, and it wasn't until I ate one, that I realized that I didn't put any butter or oil in the recipe. They're not very sweet, but make a nice breakfast muffin or afternoon snack with a cup of tea. These definitely fall into the "healthy" category.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins with Toasted Oat Bran
adapted from Taste and Tellmakes 14 muffins

1 cup Toasted OatBran (I used Trader Joe's)
1 cup Light Vanilla SoyMilk
1 1/4 cup homemade slightly sweetened applesauce
1 Farm Fresh egg (this one had a double yolk)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Turbinado sugar

The original recipe said to soak a cup of old fashioned oats in milk for an hour. Since I used oat bran, I did not do this step. I just combined the oat bran and soy milk together and then proceeded with the rest of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400F and line or spray a muffin tin.

Combine the oat mixture, applesauce and egg; mix until well combined. Add directly to this bowl... brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the flour last and whisk to combine.  DO NOT OVERMIX. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin or liners; about 2/3 full. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the muffins.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pan, and cool on a wire rack. I froze all but four for future snacking. It's best either refrigerate or leave the muffins in a ziploc bag overnight before taking wrappers off, otherwise the muffins will stick to the wrapper.

Whole Wheat/Oat Bran Chocolate Chunk Cookies - Take Two
I also made another batch of those wonderful cookies from my previous post. This time I made them for Isabella's snack day at school. Minor changes include: 

1. a single egg with a double yolk (I got two double yolk eggs in my dozen from one of the local farm stands!)
2. Increase the flour to a  1 1/2 cup
3. Increase oat bran to 1 1/4 cup 
4. Substituted turbinado sugar for the white sugar
5. Substituted about a 1/2 package of Nestle mini chocolate chips instead of the Hershey's milk chocolate bar chunks

Overall I was really happy with the results. The turbinado sugar made the texture a little crunchy, which I'm not quite sure I liked. Izzy's classmates sure enjoyed them. Here is the original post and recipe. 

I had two good runs this past week; a 10k and a 5 miler. I did the 10k as a progression run. I didn't originally set out to do it, but after seeing my time on the first mile, I picked up the pace and each subsequent mile showed improvement and I ended up with a pretty decent run. 

That afternoon, I set out to buy some new running sneakers. I really should have bought them before the half marathon. I knew about a month before the race it was time to buy a new pair, but I put it off, until it was too late to transition them into race. I knew if I bought them, I would want to wear them on race day, so I didn't. I'm on my 4th pair of Saucony's ProGrid Omni 9. They do the trick and even though it would be cool to try something a bit more flashy, I don't want to mess anything up. Next time I'm sure they'll be Omni 10 or something like that... 

Nashoba Hospital/Flanagan Pond (10k) by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details

5 Miles in Ayer by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details

I also got in a nice weights workout, something I've been neglecting since school started. I haven't really wanted to get out of bed at 5:15 in the morning and quite frankly, that's a problem. Fortunately this week, Isabella had a field trip/extra day of preschool and that's how I fit this workout in. Pretty soon I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get myself out of bed. Strength training has been an important part of my weight loss success. I need to make sure I don't slack off in this area.

Well I have a 5k tomorrow and I hope to do a nice long run on Sunday morning (10 miles?) before heading out to the last Red Sox Game of the season. They're playing the Yankees. Unfortunately the Red Sox did not make the playoffs this year, but Ben and I will enjoy the and a writeup to come.


Monday, September 27, 2010

A New 5K PR, Applefest Half Marathon and Ben's First "Race"

It's an exciting time for physical activity in the St. John household. First off, my running stats. I ran my first 5k of the fall racing season and garnered a new personal record (PR) of 25:23. I was hoping for just under 26 and was rewarded for my hard work. But before you give me the proverbial pat on the back I want to share the story of how I got to this new PR, and how my husband prepared and ran the same race.

I've never been a physically fit person. I'm from a family of couch potatoes...well okay, my brother did sports growing up and I remember my sister playing softball, but aside from a short stint running from '94-'95, and then again in the late 90's I never really did anything remotely physical. Sports and me just didn't mix. 

Flash forward to February 2009. I turned 39 the previous November and didn't like what I saw in the mirror or in photographs. I looked like my brother (no offense to my brother, of course!) and if I wasn't careful I could end up really overweight instead of mildly overweight. So for New Year's I came up with the resolution to be Fit by Forty. I joined a gym, got up at 5 AM to walk on a treadmill, and was determined to lose the baby weight/stressed out job weight I gained in the years before my son was born. The scale wasn't moving much so I knew I had to do something serious. I joined Weight Watchers right after St. Patrick's Day, started running shortly thereafter, and by the end of April, I ran my first 5k in 37:12. It wasn't pretty, but I did it. I stuck to my program, running six days a week. I ran my second 5k two weeks later in 35:29. Then I added weight training four days a week, and kept on running. I ran six more 5ks in 2009, each time I got better and by November, not only had I lost 40lbs, I ran my in town's Turkey Trot with a time of 27:13. A full 10 minutes faster than I had six months ago. I also ran a 5 mile road race, two 10ks and an 11k -- all in 2009.  This year I saw even more improvement in both distance and time. I ran two half marathons and am contemplating third. I've maintained my weight loss within two pounds +- and I am now a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I achieved my goals and am committed to a healthy lifestyle for me and my family.

So that's my for my husband. He's naturally thin (his nickname was "Skinny" growing up) and enjoys playing hockey once a week during the school year. He coaches our son's soccer team and runs around with the kids. He's not quite a couch potato, but he's not a runner.

Sometime in August, he decides he's going to run this race with me. He runs once or twice a week on a treadmill, late at night after supper. I really think its his way to get out of the house and see the Red Sox play, as we turned off our cable this summer. He also didn't want to be "gasping for breath" on the ice when hockey season starts tomorrow night. Mind you, the only way we can run this race together is for one of us to push the kids in the jogging stroller. And it wasn't going to be me. Both kids and the jogger weigh close to, if not more than, 100lbs. Yikes! I thought I would smoke him for sure.

Race Day
Run for Ryan's Cup 5k by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
The race starts and he's at the back of the pack with the stroller. I am off like a light, having an amazing first mile and with my friend and neighbor who runs faster than me in sight. First mile mark and I'm running 7:31 -- AMAZING!, the second mile is at a loop and as I turn the corner and start back to the last section before turning down the road towards the end, what do I hear...."Go Mommy, Go!" from my 5 1/2 year old. 'What?', I think, 'that can't be Ben', and low and behold, who do I see, but my "couch potato" husband pushing the kids only about 30 seconds behind me. 'What...WHAT, is HE doing here?', I think. 'He should be five minutes behind me,' I mumble under my breath. The last mile all I can think of is, 'don't pass me, don't pass me and pleeaaseee don't run with me....stay behind me!' He doesn't and I end up about 20 seconds ahead of him and about 20 seconds behind my friend. Perhaps he was just being nice, letting me finish before him, perhaps not. I would rather not know.  

Hollis Half Marathon -- Applefest
Hollis NH Applefest Half Marathon by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
I ran Applefest on Saturday. It was my second half marathon. I ran my first half in May, after a just a year of running. I trained hard (well, as hard as a first time half marathoner can without a real training plan in place) from January-April. Feeling prepared, our family traveled down to Virginia for the Marine Corps Half Marathon. I finished in 2:10:07. Wow...what a feeling! It was such an exhilarating experience that within a week I signed up for this half. However, when July rolled around and it was hazy, hot, and humid, I was beginning to rethink my decision to pick a race that required long-distance training in the middle of summer. I hobbled together a training plan, but kept my distance around 8 miles and my total miles under 20. I felt ill-prepared. The last six weeks I tried to up everything as the weather improved, but still felt like I wasn't as ready as the first time. I decided to run the course twice, which in retrospect, was truly helpful. I was mentally prepared for all those hills from miles 9-12.5. They weren't any easier, but at least I knew what to expect.

I walked through every water station, like I did for the Marine Corps half, and drank water and (believe it or not) ate two piece of maple sugar candy...yes, I chose that as my energy snack. I committed a runner's faux pas, by not trying it out before the big race, but fortunately the sugar helped and two of the six water stations had Powerade, which I also drank.  The very last hill at 12.25 miles was the same on as mile 2 and indeed it was tough, I walked a tiny bit because I was so tired. I did pick a spot on the horizon and when I got to it, started running again and did not stop until the finish line at 2:14:13. Nothing felt better than hearing the announcer say my name as I approached the finish line. It was so worth it.

Ben's first fun run -- Littleton Road Race by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Sunday was a day of firsts, for our son, Ben. Chris and I ran a one-mile fun run in Littleton with him. He participated in a local running club's track and field camp and we had been talking about running a mile all summer and on Sunday he did it. In 11+ minutes. After we got back home, Ben rode his bicycle for the first time around Sandy Pond (and some "extra" for a total of 3+ miles). He even did the hills. I am so proud of him.

The best part of this weekend though, had nothing to do with running. The whole family went to Davis Farmland's Mega Maze. What fun we had. Ben led us around the "Survivor"-themed maze and we did obstacles and puzzles, mini-golf, basketball, a zip line and a tunnel slide, finally finding our way out (with a little help from some maze masters) right before it closed. We ended our "marathon day of fun" with some supper and ice cream at Kimball's Farm.

What post wouldn't be complete without mentioning some of the recipes I made in the last week. First off, I made some really yummy cupcakes for our first football open house last weekend and on Sunday I made some chocolate chip cookies that just might be considered healthy. What I liked most about this cookie is that it tastes like an oatmeal cookie, without the large oat pieces. It passed the Izzy test, and the Chris test too...but Ben, who doesn't really care for my desserts, wasn't quite as sold. He'll take a Concord Teacakes cupcake any day.

Whole Wheat/Oat Bran Chocolate Chunk Cookies (adapted from Ultimate Whole Wheat Cookies)
(makes 36 small cookies)

1 1/8 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Toasted Oat Bran (I used Trader Joe's)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg (farm fresh!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup I can't believe its not butter/baking spread
1/2 tsp double strength Penzey's Vanilla
2 Hersheys chocolate bars (leftover from our vacation S'mores this summer), chopped in very small pieces

Pre-heat oven to 350
Mix flour, oat bran, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside
Using the paddle attachment on a stand-up mixer: cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Add egg and vanilla -- beat for a couple minutes until well incorporated
Add dry mixture on low and then mix on med-high until dough is formed
Remove from mixed and with a spoon, mix in chocolate
Form into teaspoon size  and bake for 12 minutes,
Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and transfer to cooling racks. Store in ziploc baggie. Or just gobble them up!

Friday, September 17, 2010

What's Cooking...and Running

So much has happened in the last couple weeks...Ben started Kindergarten, Isabella started preschool and I finally scheduled some long runs during the week. My half-marathon is next Saturday and I'm ready, but not as ready as I would have liked. I would have liked a few more long runs tossed in and maybe some real hill work instead of just adding hills to my long runs. All those dog days of summer made me lazy and I didn't up my mileage until August. And since I'm a firm believer of not adding too many miles on too fast, I didn't get as many long runs in as I thought I would last May when I signed up for the race. Next year, I will go for an October/November half and hopefully won't be in the same situation.

On another note, my 5k speed is pretty decent. The last two runs I've done were 26 even and 26:30. I'm pretty sure if all the stars are aligned and my stomach is empty, I should get a new PR. My current PR is 26:06 (Lowell Super 5k on Super Bowl Sunday).

I bought a new wrist band for my Garmin -- this time its velcro and I really like it. It fits better and I get to keep track of my runs more. Since I haven't posted anything since the end of August, I've got more than a few runs to post. 

Links to runs
Flanagan Pond 5k by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
13.1 Miles in Ayer/Groton by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Hollis Half Marathon Course (12.4 miles) by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Flanagan Pond 5k by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Hollis 1/2 Practice Run - 10 miles by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
A hike in the woods behind our house to the pond/meadow and bacl by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Ayer -- 5.5 miles by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Flanagan Pond (5k) by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Nashoba Valley Hospital and back by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Mostly Groton -- 10.75. by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Flanagan Pond Loop (2.8) by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Flanagan Pond Loop (2.8) by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details

I've made some pretty tasty things over the last few weeks. A delicious pasta sauce, a tomato tart,  banana wheat bran muffins with mini chocolate and butterscotch chips, a pork, kale and white bean soup and an apple cake. Let me know if you are interested in any of the recipes...I'll be happy to post them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fall Racing

This is my second fall racing season and for the most part I've selected the same races, with a couple new ones tossed in. One being a half-marathon at the end of September. It's the Hollis, NH Applefest Half. 

Whenever I mention I am going to run this race to other runners I get the same feedback...that "it's tough," "it's hilly" and my personal favorite "don't expect to improve your time." I've chosen this race despite this feedback. I know I can do it. I might be pretty tired and sore when its over, but in the end, I'll be able to say that I did it. I'll save the flat courses for next year.

I've chosen a mix of 5 and 10k's with a 5-miler and that hilly half. Here's a list of what I plan on running.

September 19:   Run for Ryan's Cup; Chelmsford, MA (5k)
September 25:  
Applefest 1/2 Marathon; Hollis, NH
September 26:   Littleton Road Race; Littleton, MA (this is a big maybe; it will depend on how I feel when I get up in the morning)
October 2:        Huff and Cuff; Devens, MA (5k)
October 10:      Tufts 10k for Women; Boston, MA
October 24:      Miles for Myles; Luneburg, MA (5k)
November 7:    Genesis Battlegreen Run 2010; Lexington, MA (10k)
November 21:  30th Annual Slattery's Turkey Trot; Fitchburg, MA (5-Miler)
November 25:  6th Annual Ayer Fire Dept Thanksgiving 5k: Ayer, MA

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Half Birthdays, Water Guns, and Science Geeks


This week we celebrated Ben's 5 1/2 birthday. I never thought I would celebrate half birthdays, but the idea came together kinda last minute. Ben was having a few friends over for one last time with our neighbor's giant waterslide and I decided to make a cake and have a mini-half birthday celebration. The cake was just so-so. I don't think I'd make it again. I made the basic vanilla cake recipe from the Pillsbury website, with the only substitution being about 3/4 of a cup of light cream (I needed to use it up before it went bad) and about 1/4 of skim milk. The cake was quite dense. I decided to make the cream cheese frosting again, but this time it came out too sweet. I liked it much better with Preacher's chocolate cake I made two weeks ago for my brother's birthday. Next time I will definitely use less powdered sugar. I used only one layer and cut it in half and made it literally a "half a cake". The other layer is in the freezer and I will frost for my parents the next time they are down for dinner.

I have two recipes to share this week...

Heirloom Tomato, Bean and Feta Salad
I bought some amazing heirloom, yellow, and red cherry tomatoes, basil, zucchini, and corn from one of the many roadside stands in Lancaster. I used about half of the tomatoes and basil to make a salad that unfortunately I don't have a picture of. It was a delicious salad. I perused Tastespotting and looked a bunch of different recipes and then looked in my refrigerator/cupboards and came up with this:

1 pint of mixed heirloom, red, and yellow tomatoes (quartered)
1 can of small white beans, thoroughly rinsed
1 cup of chopped fresh basil leaves, stems removed
1/2 to 3/4 cup of fat free feta cheese
salt, pepper, garlic to taste
balsamic vinegar (approx 1/4 cup)
olive oil (approx. 1/8 to 1/4 cup)
cubed french bread (preferably a day old)

Toss everything but the bread together and let rest for an hour; add bread before serving.


Zucchini Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes 24 muffins and 1 mini-loaf)
I want to call these muffins healthy and for the most part they are, I just don't have access to my Weight Watcher Recipe Builder anymore and so I don't have an exact idea of how healthy. I am planning to do a little web searching tonight to see if I can find another recipe builder to use in the future.

I bought some large zucchinis specifically to make some muffins. We were all out of our other muffins and I wanted to fill up the freezer with a fast and healthy treat for everyone. At first I was going to make a carrot, zucchini, pineapple muffin, but then realized I only had a little bit of carrots, so I decided to hold off on those for the next muffin recipe. Again, I used Tastespotting to help find a recipe and modified this one here. I  changed the recipe quite a bit, but I am VERY happy with the results. And was my taste-taster, Isabella.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cake flour (I had about a cup left that I wanted to get rid of, so I used it in this recipe)
1 cup unprocessed wheat bran ( I used Hodgson Mills)
1 cup almond meal (from Trader Joe's -- really just ground up almonds)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Penzy's Baking spice

3 Eggs
1 cup skim milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Cups shredded zucchini
1 Cup brown sugar
1/8 cup honey
1/4 safflower oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips (about 3/4 of a 12 oz bag)

Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl; set aside
In another bowl, beat eggs, add milk, vanilla, brown sugar, honey, oil and applesauce; mix thoroughly. Fold in zucchini and mini chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes (about 5 longer for the loaf).

It wasn't a stellar week for running or workouts. Chris left at 4 AM on Sunday for San Francisco and so I had to get a babysitter to do any workouts. I got two in; one 7.8 mile run and one 60-minute workout. I tried to get our babysitter back for one more morning, but it didn't work out. Chris returned on a red eye on Wednesday, but we had Cabot Safety Coloring contest party and Ben's Track and Field camp end of season BBQ, and then Chris had to be in Boston for 8 on Thursday, so I made up for it on Saturday with the 9.5 mile run. I also ran the pond this morning, bringing the week's total to 20 miles. Alls well that ends well.

Here's the only Garmin-linked run. Next week I should have more.
Flanagan Pond Loop (2.8) by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details

I'll end this post with some pictures from the Cabot Corporation Annual Safety Calendar Coloring Contest and the water gun fight at track and field.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preacher's Chocolate Cake

My nephew Zach stayed with us a few days last week. It was my brother's 44th birthday (on the 15th) and I made a delicious chocolate cake for him. He ate a ton of it and took home more, so I know it was good. I usually buy birthday cakes from Concord Teacakes in West Concord, MA (not to be confused with Concord, NH -- where I grew up), but while on vacation, I read the March/April issue of Yankee Magazine and there was an article about a cake lady from Madison, NH (she's 81). Her story was great and the article included a recipe to one of her favorite cakes, Preacher's Chocolate Cake. I had to make it; I will be making it again. I made a tasty cream cheese frosting to go with it.

One of our super-nice neighbors lent us their giant bouncy waterslide while they were away on vacation this summer. We used this twice this week. Water + bouncing = LOTS of fun. We also went to Davis Farmland -- one of my favorite places to take our kids too, they've got a bit of everything (endangered animals, play villages, playgrounds, bouncy hut, face painting, spray park, hayrides, and did I mention animals). Zach loves this place! We also went blueberry picking -- our 3rd time this summer, and of course, to Sandy Pond.

I only have one Garmin link to my run as the watchband to my GPS broke and I need to replace it. At first I was a bit sad, but now I'm feeling okay about it as I am less focused on the clock/my time and more focused on the run itself.

Ayer/Groton 7.8 by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
I ran this run twice. Saturday I didn't want to run as Chris and I went out to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary (it was in July) and I passed up on dessert to try my first-ever chocolate martini. The martini was delicious and combined with the wine and pre-dinner cocktail...let's just say there was no way I was going to do the Ayer/Groton loop again. 

I ended up running three days: Sunday (7.8), Thursday (7.8) and Saturday (2.8) and a weights workout on Monday. Chris left for San Francisco on Sunday. More on that in another blog update. For now, I'll leave you with more pictures from our fun week with Zachary.

Sturbridge Village -- what a riot!
Davis Farmland
Squannacook River Runners Track & Field Camp

Here are a few more from Sturbridge Village

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Post Vacation Roundup

This post is long overdue. No witty stories, but I will include a few pictures, my top 10 favorite (and silly) things about our trip, and links to my runs.

Highlights from the trip

  1. Isabella's giggle when picking up hermit crabs
  2. Ben learning to boogie board and wave board
  3. Watching Chris boogie board
  4. Delicious cupcakes and ice cream from Emack and Bolio's
  5. Palomas and Toasted Head
  6. Running 4 out of the 7 days to counteract all the calories from the food I ate!
  7. The outside shower
  8. Getting up at 6 to go to the laundromat 
  9. Catching crabs in Mill Pond with baloney
  10. Seeing a seal bobbing past us in the water on the first and last day of our trip

My Runs...
Nauset Heights/Beach and East Orleans 6.55 miles by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details
Nauset Heights/Beach and East Orleans 5 miles by mappy17 at Garmin Connect - Details