Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Running with Nike + iPod Sports Kit

I started running again about 18 months ago. Starting again is hard work, harder than maintaining.  I kept wishing I had never stopped as I huffed and puffed myself back into shape.
To get me motivated I began using the Nike+ iPod Sports Kit.   

Nike and Apple teamed up to connect your running shoe to your iPod and created a simple system to keep you motivated and informed during your workouts.  Via a sensor in your shoe and a receiver on your iPod, information about your pace, time, miles and calories is sent to your iPod.  Of course they want you to buy the Nike shoes designed with a space in the cushion of the shoe for the sensor, but that is not necessary.  You can buy a small pouch for your sensor which attaches to your laces. 
Here's mine.  (My shoes are in great shape because they are new)

It has made it so easy to just go run - I select my workout on my iPod by choosing to run a certain amount of time, distance or calories. Next I select my play list and I am done.  Throughout my run, the system tells me how far I have gone and after the halfway point how much longer I have left.  Some days I listen to music, other days I listen to books.  I have gotten to "read" so many more books this way, plus it makes the miles fly by.  I have the freedom to change my route at any time, but still know how many miles I ran.   

At the end of the workout, you hear get an audible update of your workout totals (time, distance and speed) and when you reach certain milestones (longest run, fastest run, mile markers, etc...) you get to hear words of encouragement from people like Lance Armstrong or Joan Benoit Samuelson. Plus you can see your totals on your display screen.

I also like that I can save all my running data on the Nike+ Dashboard for free. It synchronizes automatically every time I connect my iPod to my computer.   It has great charts for viewing your running history.

I wouldn't say I'm addicted to my iPod but it has been a reliable running partner  and has helped me get me through some tough runs.  If you're looking for a boost to help you get running or to stay on track, it may be just what you need. 

Do you have gear that you use during your workouts to help you stay motivated?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Coconut Cupcake

This may be the best cupcake ever!!!  If you like chocolate, caramel and coconut all combined into a delightful taste of baked goodness this is the one for you.  The flavor combination comes from one of my favorite Girl Scout cookies - The Samoa or Caramel deLight. The cupcake has a chocolate cake bottom filled with creamy caramel.  It is frosted with a coconut buttercream and then topped with toasted coconut and a caramel drizzle. I make cupcakes quite often, but this one stands out - It is currently in the lead for favorite among my tasters.

While making these I  developed a love for toasted coconut.  Who new it tasted that good?
Toasting it makes it all crispy and crunchy and gives it a soft brown color.  This crunchy texture helps balance out the creamy frosting.   I like it so much, I am currently thinking of all the other things I can add toasted coconut to.

To make toasted coconut:  
     Preheat oven to 325ºF. Spread coconut shavings on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. If toasting sweetened coconut, check and stir more frequently because the sugar can cause irregular browning.

Don't be scared by the addition of coffee in the chocolate cupcake recipe.  The coffee enhances the chocolate flavor, but does not leave a taste of coffee in the cupcakes.  It is the secret ingredient in this recipe.   I grew up on these cupcakes and was shocked when I made them myself for the first time, because my mother had tricked me all those years by putting coffee to this recipe and I never knew it. 

I tasted so many of these cupcakes (for research purposes of course) that I couldn't even take one more bite for the inside view photo (below).  My husband Andy did this job for me. This is proof that he loves me, because he had eaten his fill of cupcakes too!

Girl Scout cookies are only available once a year, but now you can enjoy these flavors any time you want with one of these treats!
Chocolate Cupcakes  -Makes 24 
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup brewed coffee

In one bowl, sift dry ingredients together.  In separate mixing bowl, add oil, eggs, milk, vanilla and coffee.  Stir to combine.
Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and beat until well mixed.  Batter will be thin.  Scoop into cupcake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes.  Do not over-bake.  Cupcakes are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Caramel Filling Makes enough to fill  and drizzle 24 cupcakes 
52 caramels
1 cup half & half

Unwrap caramels and place in microwave safe bowl with half & half.  Cook on high for 2-3 minutes or until caramels melt.  

Fill cupcakes by using a small pairing knife to cut a cone of cake (1-inch across by 1-inch deep) out of the top. Trim off the pointy end of the cone, leaving a flat circle of cake. Set aside and repeat this process for all the cupcakes.
Fill each cupcake with about 1 tablespoon of caramel mixture.  Top off with a flat circle of cake to plug the hole and keep the filling in place.

Coconut Buttercream Frosting -Makes 2 1/2 cups 
8 Tbs (1 stick) butter at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3-4 Tbs milk
1 tsp coconut flavor

Beat butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 30 seconds).  Add confectioners' sugar and 3 Tbs of milk and vanilla.  Mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.  Add another tablespoon of milk if frosting is too stiff. 

After frosting cupcakes, sprinkle with toasted coconut and drizzle with caramel.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

I was fortunate enough to receive the Versatile Blogger Award from fellow blogger Deanna@Miles to Run.  Thanks for recognizing me!

Along with the recognition comes the responsibility to share 7 things about me, let's see...

1.  I long for a place where I can grow a vegetable garden.  I want to grow squash, zucchini, carrots, spinach, more tomatoes, etc...  you get the idea.  After watching the documentary Food Inc I have decided I want more control over where my food comes from, plus homegrown tastes better!

2.  I try to live by Michael Pollan's advice:  Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.  

3.  I like to listen to books on my iPod when I exercise.  I get so involved in the book that I often go longer than I planned, plus I get to read twice as many books.  I get all my books from Audible.

4.  I am 1 of 5 children and growing up I always thought we should have formed our own family singing group like the Partridge Family or the Brady Bunch.

5.  My favorite podcast is the Nutrition Diva available for free on iTunes.

6.  I drive a hot chocolate colored Mini Cooper.

7.  I love the time I have spent in Colorado and would like to live there one day.

And now I want to pass this award along to 7 of the blogs I enjoy:

Keep on Bloggin'

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fruit Pizza

I can't seem to get enough of the summer's fruits and veggies.  I really do eat them in their natural state, but I seem to buy more than I can finish because I can't resist them when I go to the store.  So I have to come up with other ways to consume all the fruit in the house.

Enter Fruit Pizza.

It can be made with whatever fruits you have around. We only used red and blue fruit for our July 4th version.   This is a hit with everyone and is fun to make with kids.  The crust is a sugar cookie and the sauce is a cream cheese base.  We eat this mostly in the summer because of the abundance of fresh fruit, but have made it in the winter too with canned and frozen fruit, when we were desperate. It's not as good, but satisfied our craving.

Fruit Pizza

1 package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, kiwi or fruit of your choice

1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 Tbs water

Cut dough in 1/8 inch slices and line 14 inch pizza pan with slices just touching each other. 
Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.  Cool.

Blend softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla.  Spread over cookie crust.  Arrange fruit on top.  Choice of fruit is only limited by your imagination.  Just be careful that the fruit is not the kind that will darken once cut.

 Mix preserves and water. glaze pie * (optional)


Monday, July 12, 2010

My New Bike

Ever since I rode my mountain bike (the kind with the comfy seat and fat tires) in a triathlon, I have wanted to upgrade to a bike that would be better suited for speed as well has sturdy enough to cruise the neighborhood and run errands.  Well my wish came true...I found the perfect bike!

A big thank you to the wonderful staff at The Cycling Hub in Clermont.  They asked me questions about what kind of riding I would be doing, measured me for the right size frame and took my body size into account to fit me with the perfect bike, because one size does not fit all when it come to bikes. Going to a bike shop was a smart decision and I highly recommend it.  Buying a bike is an investment and you want to make an informed decision. The bike shop I chose also offers great follow up service and repair.  In fact I need to have them teach me how to fix a flat before I have one!

I am now hitting the road on a blue Trek 7.2 FX!!!  It is awesome.  I live in a great area for biking and have been out many times trying to build my stamina.  I have found a route with a hill that covers about 15 miles. It has been  great to have another option for my cardio workout.  Each time I ride, I like it more - I might be getting hooked.  Some friends have given me "biker" tips to improve my form and performance...I am learning a lot and loving every minute!

If you have any advice for me as I venture into the world of biking, I'd love to hear it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Peachtree Road Race

I spent my July 4th holiday in Atlanta, Georgia with family as I have in years past, but instead of running in the Peachtree race, I was a spectator. What a sight!  This race is a fun one and I was disappointed that I did not get a number.  Although 55,000 people run, all the spots were taken by the time I went online to sign up.  They were scooped up in 7 hours. This Fourth of July event is an Atlanta tradition. The Peachtree Road Race, runs right through the city, ending in Piedmont Park. It is the country's largest 10K. 

I have run it 4 times and it has become a favorite.  The sidelines are packed with cheering spectators, rooting you on. Along the way you encounter bands, patriotic music,  dancers on a party bus, offerings of doughnuts as you pass Publix and Holy Water being sprayed as you pass by a church. There is so much going on, that it is over before you know it. Plus unlike other races, you don't get your T-shirt until you finish.

As a spectator this year, I got a completely different view point.  First of all, I actually got to see the front runners. (They are usually finished before I ever start - this race is divided into 20 waves!)  They run an all out sprint the whole way, but I guess you have to to earn a time of 27:56.  That's a 4+ minute mile. 
A little faster than my pace :) 

I am a people watcher so I loved checking everybody out. I've never seen so many different running outfits. There were people of all ages and fitness levels running/walking.  The sea of runners just kept coming for over 2 hours. We cheered so much, we had sore throats by the end.  It was great fun and made me want to run.

Many participants were dressed up for the race- here are just a few.

This is Uncle Sam running with Marge Simpson - You probably didn't know they were friends.

Stars and Stripes

Hawaiian Cowboys??

By the end of the race, runners and spectators alike were ready to relax.

If you are looking for a fun 10K race this is it!  

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Malt Milkshake

To kick off National Ice Cream Month and the first day of my vacation, I celebrated with a milkshake.  Nothing cools off a hot summer day better than ice cream.  This shake has all the flavors I love: peanut butter, chocolate, malt and pretzels, all wrapped into one creamy, refreshing drink. It is a great combination of sweet and salty. The dipped rim shouldn't be skipped as this is where all the salty flavors are. I used Snyder Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwiches when making mine. Malted Milk Powder brings back the flavors of my childhood.  It can be found in the grocery store near the chocolate milk powder mix ins. This may look like a bit of work, but only takes about 10 minutes to put it all together.  

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Malt Milkshake
Serves 4

1/4 cup of peanut butter
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons malted milk powder
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
4-5 scoops vanilla ice cream
Whipped cream for topping
1/4  cup peanut butter pretzel sandwiches, crushed

Rim four glasses with peanut butter and dip the rims in the crushed peanut butter pretzel sandwiches.
Set aside.   Add peanut butter, milk, vanilla, malted milk powder and chocolate syrup into the blender first, ending with the ice cream.  Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Pour into rimmed glasses and top with whipped cream.  
Extra crushed peanut butter sandwiches can be stirred in right before serving (optional)