Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

The other day at work, a co-worker walked in with a pumpkin muffin from Dunkin Donuts.  It looked so good, that I thought about stopping to get one myself.  Then I remembered what my daughter told me about muffins - "a muffin is just a cake in disguise" and I thought of all those calories and although it might taste good I could make some at home and have it just the way I want it - in a smart sized portion made with ingredients I could pronounce.

I did think about that muffin all day...about how I was going to make a better one when I got home.  I knew I wanted a streusel topping and lots of it because I like the tops best.  I decided to make them in the square muffin pan to give me more surface for the topping and not too deep of a bottom.

I have heard that there may be a pumpkin shortage this year and had bought a couple of cans a few weeks ago, just in case. Having a pumpkin craving without pumpkin would be a sad thing. 

 This muffin would be my pumpkin debut for the season and I enthusiastically anticipated this taste of fall.  I ate one as soon as they were cool enough to pick up.  These muffins were delicious, light and not too sweet.

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
Makes 18 muffins

1 can pumpkin (15 oz)  I used Libbys
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 Tablespoons cold butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare muffin pans with grease and flour or liners.

Combine flour and baking powder, set aside.  Stir together pumpkin, oil, eggs, sugar,  baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl.  Once mixed, stir in flour mixture until combined.

In a separate bowl combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.

Fill muffin cups with batter about 2/3 full. Sprinkle tops with streusel.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Place on rack to cool.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

MiracleMiles 15K Race Recap

MiracleMiles is held locally in downtown Orlando.  This is the first time I have participated in this race, but I liked it so much I will do it again!   It became a family event as my daughter Cate and husband signed up for the 5K race.  Due to traffic we made it to the race just in time.  The weather was iffy with rain threatening, but we there was only a slight drizzle during the run.  My sunglasses stayed on my head the entire way.

I signed up for this race to help me in my training so I planned to do it as a training run, not a racing run...that was harder than I thought it would be.  I wore my heart rate monitor and tried to keep my rate in check, I was close to my target  (75%) for the first 3 miles, getting farther away the second 3 miles and totally ignored it for the last third of the race (96%).  I couldn't go that slowly in race conditions.  I did end up running the entire race and finished with a time of 1:35:18  for an average pace of 10:13.  So not too fast overall. The course wove through the side streets of Orlando with plenty to see including accordion players who were playing It's a Small World.  (Talk about a song that gets stuck in your head.)

In addition to doing this race for the training opportunity, I was lured by the promise of Chick-fil-A food at the end.  Well they were there with cows a plenty, but many local restaurants were there too with free food for all!!  

My tasting started with mushroom ravioli.  This was excellent and my favorite of the day.

Next was a chinese salad.  I thought the presentation was so cute.  A mini take out box and chopsticks.  This was good-it was made with asian noodles and a ginger dressing.  

A booth with mini cheesecakes was next.  Not really ready for dessert, but I had to taste it.  The crust and whipped cream were the best.  Not good enough to waste the calories, so I only took a bite.

Asian lettuce wraps looked and smelled so good, but were not similar to the ones I am used to.

Hot crab dip with chips was tasty.

Prime rib slider with horseradish sauce was killer!  I great ending or at least I thought so until I saw....

the granola parfait from Chick-fil-A.  This was so good, I would have never thought I would like it, because I am not a big fan of yogurt.  I don't know how healthy it is, but I would get this again.

As you can image I was pretty stuffed at this point.  I don't usually have this much to eat after running.  It was a feast.  In addition to all these delectables, our race bib was a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich. (I am saving that for another time)  Needless to say I left feeling both tired and full!
We had a fantastic morning!  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Marathon Training Week 5

I am now in week 5 of a 20 week long marathon training plan.  I am excited about being five weeks into this routine of getting up @ 5 am to get my workout in before work.  My body is actually starting to adjust to it all.  Of course I don't stay up very late anymore either.

My weekday morning runs are getting longer every week and because its dark and I am alone I will only run in my neighborhood or on the treadmill at the gym.  I don't like running the same route every time, so I am trying to mix it up, but my neighborhood only has so many roads.  Yesterday I mixed it up by running all the alleys.

To add variety on my long weekend runs I have signed up for a few Saturday races.  I just signed up for a  15K this weekend - Miracle Miles,  I am scheduled to run 8 miles, so I will either just run longer or walk the last 1.3 miles. I am very competitive so I don't know if I can let myself walk...we'll see.

I also signed up for the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon the following weekend, Oct 2.  This half is a new event for them and starts at 10pm.  That ought to be interesting, that's about when I  go to bed.  I am scheduled to run 9 miles that day, so this will be a longer run, but I didn't want to miss this one.  In fact when I first went to sign up, the race was full.  Thanks to fellow blogger Deanna, I found out they had a waiting list and got in that way.  Disney races are fun with great photo ops, so I'm sure this one will be too.

On a side note:  the new season of Biggest Loser starts tonight.  I am treating myself to this brownie with peanut butter sauce and ice cream before it starts.  Of course I can't eat it during the show - that just wouldn't be right.

I love this show and  find it very motivating. But the only way I can watch it is on my DVR because I can fast forward through all the recapping, dramatic pauses and commercials.  If the contestants run a marathon at the end of the season it may just coincide with my marathon too.  In case you are new to my blog, this show is the reason I decided to run a marathon in the first place.

My ice cream is melting...

Kung Pao

What do you do when the craving for chinese food hits and going out to get some isn't a possibility? - You dig out the vegetables and meat you have in your fridge and start chopping.  Making chinese food at home is easier than you think especially when you use Williams-Sonoma's  Chinois Kung Pao Wok Sauce.   Kung Pao is a mildly spicy blend of ginger, garlic and chili.

I am sauce challenged and this has been the reason my previous attempts at home cooked chinese food never tasted as good as take out.  Needless to say, this was an exciting discovery! Although I could not find this product on-line at Williams-Sonoma to share with you, it is available in their retail stores ($12). 

We also use Hakubaku Organic UdonWheat Noodles in this recipe, a thicker spaghetti-like noodle, but regular spaghetti works just as well. 

Using your favorite meat (chicken, beef or shrimp) and vegetables this dish can be yours in about 30 minutes.   You do not need a wok to cook it, just a large fry pan.

This time we used zucchini, squash, carrot, mushroom and broccoli slaw.
We used the vegetables we had on hand, but you are only limited by your imagination.

Shrimp Kung Pao

To have everything done at the same time, you want to have your noodles cooking while you stir fry the chicken and vegetables.

This is a recipe that cooks of all levels can master.

Kung Pao Chicken and Vegetables
1 lb chicken, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 zucchini squash, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 yellow squash, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
8 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup carrots, julienned
1 cup snow peas
2 cups broccoli florets
1 package 9.5 oz Hakubaku Organic Udon Wheat Noodles
8 tablespoons Kung Pao sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Boil water for noodles, cook according to package directions.
In bowl toss together 4 tablespoons Kung Pao sauce, cornstarch and chicken.  In nonstick fry pan or wok, heat oil over high heat.  Add chicken mixture to pan and sear meat, about 1 min.  Add vegetables and remaining 4 tablespoons of Kung Pao sauce.  Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  
Add boiled noodles to chicken and vegetable stir-fry.
Serve with soy sauce.
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New workout gear

I spent the weekend on the run, but not on my feet running, that is after my early morning 7 mile run Saturday, but rather running around town in my car.  They weren't all housekeeping errands, some were quite fun.  I found out that there is a Lululemon Athletica outlet in Orlando and had to go check it out.  Wow, this place was awesome - more great things than I could buy in one trip.  So I am definitely going back. Their workout gear  is totally cute and unique.  I bought knee length crop running pants and compression socks.

The best part is the prices are about half of what they are in their regular stores and...

 all your purchases come in this adorable reusable tote! 

I also made a trip to the bike shop for a tune up on my bike.  Lucky me, they were having a sale!  I bought new pedals and shoes for my bike.  Up until now I have been riding with regular pedals and sneakers.   While there, I had a chance to try the new pedals and shoes to get the hang of clipping them in and out.  It was tricky at first, but I feel pretty good about it now.  I have been warned that  it is very easy to fall until you get used to them.  I will have to remember to take my foot out BEFORE I stop.   While waiting for the pedals to be installed I found a new bike shirt.  This is my first official bike shirt - pockets and all. It was too cute to pass up (and it was on sale).

  I wanted to take a test ride when I got home, but it has been raining  all afternoon.  I will have to wait until tomorrow.

Although I did not get a lot of down time this weekend, it was a good one.  I hope you had a good weekend too!

Tomorrow starts week 4 of marathon training, I am starting to get used to getting up @ 5 am, if that's possible.  The daily runs are now up to 45 minutes in length.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Caprese Flat Pie

I am always looking for something new to make for dinner, but I am pretty picky so not much makes it past all my criteria....but this did!  I love caprese (basil, mozzarella and tomato) and this is another version of those delightful flavors.  This recipe is adapted from Katie Lee Joel.  The pie is made with puff pastry, is very easy to assemble and the finished product looks like you are an accomplished chef.
Once you have the hang of the pastry you can be creative with the fillings. I filled this one with pesto, mozzarella and tomato.  I did make a second one with grilled chicken in it too, for my meat eating husband.  Both versions, were equally tasty.  This was my first time making and eating pesto sauce and I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor.  Fresh basil makes all the difference!

Caprese Flat Pie - Makes 2 pies
1- 17 oz package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/3 cup basil pesto* (recipe below)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into slices
3 medium tomatoes, cut into slices
1 egg, beaten

Thaw puff pastry according the  package directions. I used Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and each box contains two sheets of dough.  Taking one sheet at a time, unfold pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface roll into a rectangle measuring about 15 x 10 inches.  Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise and transfer one section of dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spoon 1/2 of the pesto onto the dough leaving a 1 inch margin on each side.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover with 1/2 of cheese slices and top with 1/2 of the tomato slices.  Brush edges of pastry sheet with beaten egg. Lay the remaining section of dough on top of filling and press edges to seal.  Repeat this process with the second sheet of pastry dough to create a second pie.

Brush entire top of pastry with beaten egg.  Cut four vent holes in the top. Bake in 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the pastry has puffed.  Carefully transfer the pies to a wire rack to cool before slicing.

Serves 4-6 people

*Homemade Pesto Sauce  adapted from Joy of Cooking
1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1/4 pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put ingredients in food processor to blend.  Once running, add 1/4 cup olive oil.
Blend until a  loose paste forms.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Can be stored in refrigerater for up to 1 week.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Getting Prepared for Marathon Training

I am scheduled to run in the Disney World Marathon on January 9, 2011.   Making this commitment was a big step and kind of scary.  "What if I can't do it?" kept running (pardon the pun) through my head as I struggled with making the commitment.  I am still scared of not being able to do it, but now I am more focused about the possibility of What if I can?

This will be quite an accomplishment for me.  I am venturing into unknown territory.  I have been reading all I can about marathon running to learn as much as I can.  The more I read, the more questions I have.

I finished the book Marathoning for Mortals just before I started training.    It is more than a book about running marathons, it is a guide to understanding how your body works when you run and how to care for it so it will perform for you. It includes information on nutrition, cross training, monitoring your heart rate, injury prevention and some questions for you to consider as you determine your personal goals as a runner, as well as sharing personal experiences of other runners. I thought it was fabulous!!
The other thing I did to prepare myself for this adventure was to watch the movie Spirit of the Marathon suggested by Deanna  @ Miles to Run.  It was very motivating and I might watch it again. (I was able to see it for free on 

I am following the training plan from the book which has me running 4 days a week and cross training two days.  The biggest struggle for me has been pacing myself according to their guidelines.  They suggest you determine your pace by your heart rate or by the I-rate (1-10).  I thought heart rate would be more accurate so I attempted to find my maximum heart rate by running a 5K.  The first mile is at a moderate pace, the second mile at a challenging pace and the last 1.1 miles should be a a pace you can't wait to stop.  I did get a higher max than I had calculated using the generic formula, but I don't know how accurate it is.

For example, on 3 of my running days including my long run I am not to exceed 75% of my max.  This number is so low that I find myself really having to slow down to the point that I feel awkward and my form is changing.  I have been going a little over that rate, a kind of compromise between my typical pace and what they suggest.  I hope I am not setting myself up for trouble down the road. I do not want to train too hard and make myself more vulnerable to injury. So far my longest run has been 6 miles.  Maybe all of this will make sense as I start to run more miles each week. Week 3 of training begins tomorrow. 

Do you have any advice about pacing as you train for longer distances?

***Congratulations to Molly @ I'm a Sleeper Baker
winner of the pedometer!***