Tuesday, April 22, 2014

St. Patrick's Day 2014

A chance to recap my fun weekend with Crystal.  It was a semi-last minute decision to take a cluster of days I had off and make the trip to Cape Cod.  We got to spend the St. Patrick's Day weekend together and it was such a great trip!    I arrived Friday evening and Saturday we had a race to run.  It was Plymouth's Pace to a Pint 5k.  Crystal had won a free entry and I ran under one of her friend's bibs (thanks again!!!)  We needed more miles than 3.1 that day, so we caught a few warm-up miles before the race.  The race itself was fun, but crowded!!!  I don't think I've ever run a 5k with so many other runners, nearly 1100!!!!  The entire first mile was so congested.  It felt like I couldn't really stretch my legs until that first mile was over.  Toward the end of the race I caught Crystal glancing at her Garmin.  We had planned to take it easy since we were planning on 16 miles the next day.  I asked her how we were doing.  She stated our current pace, which I think was an 8:0-something.  Then she said, "I definitely don't want to go below 8."  Looking at that now, I realize she meant she didn't want to go any faster.  However, at the moment I heard she doesn't want to go slower than 8-minute pace.  I kinda freaked!  I thought, "She's crazy!!!  It was her idea to take it easy and now she wants to keep a sub-8 for the rest of this race?!?!  Okay!"  So I/we tear off.  There was less than a mile to go at this point, thank goodness.  As we turn to run down the hill to the finish this woman gets between us.  We go to make a left hand turn into the chute and the woman cuts me off and I have to kinda side step the curb.  Irked, I pick up the pace to get by her.  Then she picks up her pace.  Then I'm all like, it is on!  Crystal and I had wanted to do a jump finish, but I just needed to cross the line before Miss Pushy Pants.  At the cost of nearly puking up my guts and missing my jump finish, I did cross before Ms. Pants.  Our times are weird, officially Crystal finished in 25:32..... and I finished in 26:25..... which is sooo peculiar since we were next to each other!!!  So I've decided I'm taking the better of the two, ha!  At the race I got to meet her friends Kyle and Ren, and afterwards we went to a pub to collect our pints and eat some delicious bar food!  
Jump shot after race, Running Selfie, Awesome Pub Food, Awesome Running Friends Ren & Kyle

Poor Crystal had to work that afternoon/evening, so I took full advantage and read some, blogged some, and napped some.  It was awesome!  I had the chance to meet several of her friends that I felt like I already knew.  So besides Ren and Kyle, there was Beth and Brian (Dr. B).  The four of us (meaning Joe, me, Beth, and Brian) had dinner at Wicked Pizza while Crystal worked.  We sat and enjoyed our dinners while Crystal slaved away!

On Sunday we got to run our first 16-miler of the schedule together.  Not only that, but it was a beautiful day and it was a gorgeous route!!!  I feel so blessed to have been able to spend those miles next to my best friend.
Two runs, two matching outfits
After our long run I got to meet her friend Dave, who is training for his first Ironman.  The four of us enjoyed a dinner out, then ice cream, then a hilarious board game and deliciously aged wine (hahaha).

Me, Dave, Crystal, and the Joe out for a treat!
After a five miler on Monday, we hit the outlets!  I did really well at not spending money, well, at least not a lot of it.  I did get myself some sleeves and a hat for running, plus some tights.  But I think that was it.  Then we went to Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill and had gigantic beers with dinner.  Sam Adams, yummmmm.

Tuesday the plan was to basically get up and head home.  We shared a few more miles together, naturally.  Then went to Marathon Sports where Dave manages the store and I got myself a new pair of shoes for Marathon #3.  After some lunch at Panera it was time to pack it up.  Good byes with Crystal over the years have gotten progressively harder.  It seems as if God has been trying to gently wean us apart.  First with their move from Southport to Elizabeth City.  Then we moved home and they moved to Cape Cod.  But we've always remained within driving distance.  At the end of May they will be moving on to a new great adventure.  And I'm so excited and happy for them.  I think it will be a great opportunity for them both.  All that being said, it breaks my heart in two that my best friend will be in Alaska where the possibility for an impromptu long weekend trip will be nonexistent.  I pray for their safety and happiness.  I pray they quickly make the place their new home and make good friends.  I pray for great visits (even if they will be few) that will help ease our time apart.  And I hope that maybe they come back to the east coast when their stay in Alaska is up.

The Best of Friends

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Homemade Crock Pot Yogurt

This is so easy!  I can't believe I never knew about this before!  You can easily make your own yogurt at home.  All you need is milk and starter cultures.  For the milk, I have only used skim and 1%.  Both of those have worked out just fine.  I assume if you used whole milk that you'd probably get something pretty rich and creamy.  For the cultures, I used plain Greek yogurt.  Any plain yogurt should work fine.  You can also purchase a packet of starter cultures, but I've never looked for those in the store.  So, here it goes.  Prepare to be amazed at the ease!

  1. Pour your gallon of milk into your crock pot.  
  2. Turn on crock pot.  I like to leave it on warm or low for an hour or so before I crank it up to high.
  3. Periodically check the temperature of your milk using a candy thermometer.  It needs to reach 180-190 degrees F.  This will take a few hours.  Its important to reach this temp to kill all unwanted bacteria.
  4. Once it reaches 180-190 degrees F, turn off the heat.  I take out my crock and set it on the stove top to begin cooling.
  5. Keep checking the temperature, because you need to inoculate your milk with the cultures when the temperature drops to 110 degrees F.  
  6. Once your milk is at 110 degrees, take out about one cup, gently stir in about 2 Tbsp plain yogurt, then pour mixture back into the crock.  Gently stir.
  7. Now this sounds odd, but trust me.  Wrap your crock in a big towel (beach towels work nice) then place in a cool oven overnight, no peaking!  I have left mine go for ten hours once, and I think I liked how that turned out better.  You have yogurt when your time is up!
  8. I like the thicker Greek style yogurt better, so I strain mine.  Take a large colander, use clothes pins to secure a clean dish towel to the inside, put colander on top of large pot to collect whey, then dump yogurt in colander.  The whey will pass through your dish towel leaving a thicker yogurt for you.  You'll want to stir the yogurt and scrape the thick stuff off the towel periodically.  You'll be surprised how much liquid comes out.  What's in the picture isn't even half of it!
  9. Store in refrigerator.  One gallon of milk turned yogurt normally lasts me 10-14 days.  You can flavor it with fresh or frozen fruit, jams, or honey.  Throw in granola if you'd like.  I've been meaning to try a little vanilla extract and coconut.  Really, whatever you'd like you can try.  I've also used sugar and artificial sweeteners, both taste fine.
  10. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

High Fiber High Protein Breakfast Bars

I eat a lot of protein bars and granola bars.  It can be really hard to find the right mix of natural ingredients with the right mix of high protein and low fat and sugar content.  I started searching on how to make some of my own at home, and as if she had read my mind, my sister gave me this recipe.

  •  1.5 cups quick oats
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter

Preheat oven to 375.  Line 8x8 baking dish with foil, leaving extra hang over sides for handles, spray with cooking spray.
Stir oats, wheat germ, flaxseed, protein powder, cinnamon, and salt together in bowl.  In a separate bowl, mash bananas and stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter, honey, and vanilla extract.  Stir in dry ingredients and spread into pan.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  Spread 1/4 cup natural peanut butter over top.

Continue baking until lightly browned on the edges and set, about 10 minutes.  Let cool in pan and lift bars onto a work surface.  Cut into bars, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in refrigerator.

Makes 12 bars.  (Unless you're a hungry girl like me, then you cut them into only eight!)
Cal- 169, Fiber- 3.6g, Sodium- 148mg, Carb- 21.3g, Fat- 7.6g, Protein- 6.2g
Nutrition above is for 1 of 12 bars, if you're a hungry girl like me and cut them bigger that obviously changes the nutrition info.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Skinnytaste.com is my go-to-website when I'm in need of dinner inspiration.  Often I plan weeks of meals off her recipes.  They are delicious, healthy, and relatively easy.  I thought I'd share one of my favorites with my modifications.  I left Gina's (skinnytaste.com creator) nutrition info and just put my modifications in italics.
Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna Rolls
Servings: 9 • Size: 1 lasagna roll • Old Points: 4 pts • Points+: 6 pts
Calories: 227 • Fat: 5 g • Carb: 29 g • Fiber: 3 g • Protein: 16 g • Sugar: 3 g
Sodium: 265 mg (without the salt) • Cholesterol: 30 g


For the Butternut Parmesan Sauce:

  • 1 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced ~ I use one package of frozen, 12oz, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shallots, minced ~ I cut this out completely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ~ I use from a jar sometimes, easier
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese ~ Fresh, hahaha!
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste ~kosher and freshly ground, hahaha

For the Lasagna:

  • 9  lasagna noodles, cooked (use gluten free noodles for gluten free)
  • 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, heated and squeezed well
  • 15 oz fat free ricotta cheese (I like Polly-o) ~ I use whatever I can find
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 9 tbsp (about 3 oz) part skim shredded Italian Blend Cheese ~ I use whatever cheese I have handy
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add butternut squash and cook until soft. Remove squash with a slotted spoon, reserve about 1 cup of the water and set aside, then blend until smooth with an immersion blender, adding 1/4 cup  of the reserved liquid to thin out. ~ This whole step I skip by using frozen.  
Meanwhile, in a large deep non-stick skillet, add the oil, sauté the shallots and garlic over medium-low heat until soft and golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add pureed butternut squash, season with with salt and fresh cracked pepper and add a little more of the reserved water to thin out to your liking. Stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese and set aside. ~ I saute the garlic in the oil, add my thawed squash, season with salt & pepper, then add water to my desired consistency.  Then I add whatever type of parmesan cheese I have on hand.  Take it off the heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Ladle about 1/2 cup butternut sauce sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish.

Combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles. Make sure noodles are dry (I definitely didn't worry about my noodles being dry). Take 1/3 cup (I just eyeballed the amount of mixture) of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over noodle. Roll carefully and place seam side down onto the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.

Ladle about 1 cup of sauce over the noodles in the baking dish and top each one with 1 tbsp Italian cheese blend. Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese melts and everything is hot and bubbly. Top with parsley and serve. Makes 9 rolls.

To serve, ladle a little extra sauce on the plate and top with lasagna roll.