Friday, November 25, 2011


I haven't posted a running recap in... 2 weeks?  This is mostly because I was embarrassed to admit that I've only run maybe 2x in those two weeks. I've been really stressed with school and friends and though I know I should have fit in some runs, I just... didn't. That said, yesterday, I was thankful that Jon and I woke up yesterday morning and went for our first run together in about a month.  Three easy miles around Jon's parent's neighborhood in Montgomery, AL. Not only did I keep a decent pace after my hiatus (11:17), but it's also warm enough here to run in a tank top.

Aside from that run, I'm thankful for:
1. Being able to run at all and continue to see improvement
2. My entire family
3. Jon, who's such a great partner
4. The welcome and love I feel from Jon's family too (thank heavens I won't have terrible in-law problems someday!)
5. My amazing friends all over the globe
6. All the support everyone has given me in the past year through all the tough times and the awesome ones
7. Having a "job" even if it means I'm going to want to crawl in a hole and hide for the next two weeks
8. The sale last week via CraigsList of the mobile home in Athens that we lived in before moving to Cbus and that we still owned
9. How much happier this holiday season will be for me versus last year
10. How optimistic I am for the next year. I'm a really lucky girl.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Check out our spread:

Not the healthiest meal, but at least a majority of it was veggies!!!

I even learned how to make pie!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Epic Dessert Creation: The Recap

Let's just start by saying that cake-baking don't come cheap.  I think I spent at least $45 on butter, cream cheese, eggs, etc etc etc.  Still cheaper than ordering one, but still.

Since we had company in town, I divvied up the extravaganza into two days: Friday or the baking of cakes and cupcakes and Saturday for the frosting and presentation.

And now, let the photo tour of my baking extravaganza begin!

Project One: Operation 4-layer Cake and Dexter-esque Cupcakes

Greasin' my $0.97 pans

Using Melania's tip to fold the parchment paper and make a circle via the "snowflake method"

Rookie Error #1: Misunderstood directions, so I put parchment paper ALL over the pan, not just the bottom

Batter.  Since I'm unmarried and do not own a stand mixer, note the epic splatter on my microwave.  This repeated with every new mixing session.

Chocolate Batter

Finished, unnecessarily curvy cake layers #1 and #2 (there were 4 total)

Irregularities that will make icing fun... and that could have been avoided.  #CakeRookie

The cocoa/food coloring paste looked like blood.  
And stained my fingers.  
And then reminded me of the opening credits on Dexter.

Replacing buttermilk with regular milk + 1 tbsp of lemon juice.  Who knew?

Finished cupcakes.

Operation Baking : Completed.  

Project Two (the Next Day): Let's Frost that!

First time I have used my Tupperware manual food processor. 
Tough at first with the whole cookies, but worked great.

Cookies and cream frosting... Would you like some cake with your frosting?

Amber helps prepare my new cake stand

And voilà!!!


Jon was impressed.

Overall, this bout with dessert making has taught me a few things:
1. The sheer amount of butter, sugar, and cream cheese that goes into baking
2. Don't bake the cake-y parts the day before (they'll dry out)
3. Put parchment paper down on your cake stand before icing
4. It's going to be awhile before I perfect desserts.  TOO much sugar.  My body isn't used to it and Jon and I could certainly feel our poor food choices the following day on our run!

Still, I'm proud of my pretty desserts and I'm really happy that Jon really appreciated them for his bday!  

Do you guys make any fun desserts?  When you bake, do you try to lighten the recipe, or do you indulge on the buttery/cream cheesey goodness from time to time?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekly Running Recap

Happy Monday, all!  It's been such a busy weekend, but we've had such an amazing time.  I'll post a recap of that (and my first foray into baking) later, but I really wanted to get this post up first!  Week Two post-half and I'm still going strong!

Weekly Mileage:
M- rest
T- 7 miles
W- 3.1 miles
Th- rest
F- 10 miles
S- rest
Su- 4 miles + 4.2 mile walk w/Amber
Total Miles: 24 (28 if I count the walk, which I don't really since we were leisurely walking)

Tuesday: These 7 miles were a constant mental battle since I had to keep bargaining the distance with myself, but finished all the miles I'd originally wanted to do strong and with a nice 11:30 pace.

Wednesday: In an effort to up my mileage this week, I added a fourth run, something I haven't done in awhile.  Great morning run before class (something I rarely do, but plan on repeating) with an 11:06 pace.  Woo!

Friday: Moved our long run to Friday so we didn't have to worry about abandoning our visitors over the weekend.  Jon and I ran the first 3.5 together with Sahara, dropped her off, and then went our separate ways.  Beautiful weather.  Stopped a few times (including at home and a potty break) and still got my 12:18 pace.  I felt great and like I definitely could have gone farther—That's the first time I've ever had THAT feeling at on a double digit run, so I'll take it.  Plus, the irritating blister on my right baby toe is back.  Joy.

Sunday: Wanted to get in an easy, shorter run to bring up my mileage into places it hasn't been before (or, if not, in a REALLY long time pre-Daily Mile).  It's so easy to tell when I've been eating poorly because my running suffers.  After the indulgences of this weekend, my legs felt like lead and Jon and I both had a hard time pushing ourselves.  Ran (literally) into a friend visiting from out of town who was on a walk with her brother, so we stopped and talked for at least 15 minutes.  Forgot to turn off my Garmin while talking, so our pace reads as a 16:00 mile average.  Guess the real pace will remain a mystery.  But hey, 24 miles for the week!  Boo.  Yah!

The goal this week is to get up to my goal base mileage of 25 miles per week for the winter.  Looks like a good break down might be 7/3/10/5 or something similar.  Feeling good and am excited that this nice weather looks like it's sticking around for most of this week.  Not gonna lie, I'm really nervous about my first Winter running in Ohio.

For those of you who live in colder places for the winter, do you have any good tips for Winter running (clothing, habits, fuel, anything)?

PS: Super congratulations to my friend Christina @ Just Running who completed her first ultra marathon at the Taterbug 30 this weekend!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nicky and an entry into baking...

I know I just posted about "baking" pizza crust.  IMHO, not the same thing as pastry baking.  For some reason, baking desserty things just kind of terrifies me.

That said, my handsome man is having a birthday on Saturday and we have some very good friends coming into town from Alabama to celebrate.  SO, I'm facing my fear and have planned two dessert recipes to feed the hordes (ie. 10ish people) that will be stopping by Saturday for dessert, singing, and hopefully watching LSU beat 'Bama.  (Fingers crossed!)

At the birthday boy's request, I'm endeavoring to make a cookies and cream cake AND red velvet cupcakes.

Photos from the below websites... 
Highly unlikely anything I make will be this pretty.

I found this recipe for the cake, and after interrogating my baking extraordinaire friend (seriously, she's made homemade croissants before), she suggested substituting this recipe for the icing.  Then, for the cupcakes, I plan to use this guy.   I know they aren't at all "healthy" or "light" recipes, but your handsome man only turns 30 once right?  Plus, I don't do this kind of thing all the time (clearly), so my waistline will survive.

I'm very nervous, but Melania assures me I can pre-bake things then ice the day of, so at least I'll have time to buy a cake mix if I totally burn everything.

So, there you have it.  Here's my next challenge.  I'll let you all know how it goes.

On that note, off to the store (and then hopefully off for a run)!

Pizza, Pizza

Ever since we met, Jon and I have been on a kick to make food/sauces ourselves rather than buy the canned/pre-made version.  First we conquered spaghetti and pizza sauce.  Then pancake mix.  Most recently, alfredo.  Then, this weekend we were walking around Kro-zjay (Kroger) and decided it'd been a long time since we'd made homemade pizza.  Well... mostly homemade.  Up until now, we've made our sauce, but then just bought the mixture to make the crust.  So, this time, we decided to make the pizza from the ground, er... dough up.  I have to say, it's just really nice knowing everything that goes in your food.  

After some googling, I decided on this recipe, but with some change and additions.  So, here is the Nicky-fied version.  It turned out great (and is vehemently hungry boyfriend-approved).

-2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (aka one 1/4oz packet... I had to google it to make sure)
-1/2 tsp brown sugar
-1 1/2c warm water
-1 tsp salt
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1c whole wheat flour*
-3 1/3c all-purpose flour*
-corn meal (and extra flour) as needed
-parchment paper

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water and let it sit for 10 minutes (I forgot to let it sit and just realized it... oops.  Oh well.)
2. Add in the salt and oil to the yeast mix and slowly mix in the 2 1/2c of the flour (I used 1c ww and 1 1/2 white)
3. To make less of a mess, cover a bit of open counter with some parchment paper.  Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on the paper and then turn out the dough onto the paper.  Knead the dough (and keep adding flour) until the dough is no longer sticky.  If you want to make two normal-sized pizzas (rather than one "giant" one), divide the dough into two balls and knead accordingly.

4. Place each dough ball into a well-oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.  Let rise for 1 hour.


After! Ta-Da!

5. Preheat the oven to 425º.  If you're using a pan, oil the surfaces, if not, just get out your stone.  Sprinkle corn meal as desired onto the pan/stone (I like to have a thin coating).

I ended up adding more than is in this photo, FYI.

6. Turn the dough ball out of the bowl onto the baking dish and spread it out to the desired size.  (If you're using a pan, it suggests that you let the dough sit in the pan for 20 minutes before adding toppings... I didn't and it turned out just fine).  Then, add sauce, toppings, and cheese.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese and crust are golden brown.
8. Enjoy!

Jon and I opted for both a stone version and a pan version to see which we like better.  Both turned out really well, but the pan version was harder to cut (and eat without a fork).  I'm lame and forgot to photograph our pan crust pizza, but here's our stone version with ham, pineapple, and olives.  Yum!  PS It even passed the cold pizza test.  Had it for lunch yesterday.  Mmm I love cold pizza...

What are your favorite pizza toppings?  
Are there any foods that you much prefer to make yourself rather than buy pre-made (or vice-versa)?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Grilled Cheese (and other weekend shenanigans)

As I've mentioned before, I have a slight problem obsession with Fall squash recipes.  So, of course, when I saw Hungry Girl's recipe for Pumpkin Grilled Cheese, I *had* to try it.  It didn't hurt that I'd made us Pumpkin Waffles for breakfast and had half a can of pumpkin left over that needed to be used either.  I won't post the waffle recipe because it wasn't stellar (needs some work), but the grilled cheese will definitely be repeated.  I sadly, didn't have all her ingredients so I improvised like this:

Ingredients (makes 2!):
-4 slices of bread
-buttery spread 
-2 slices mild cheddar cheese
-1/4c shredded cheddar cheese
-1/4 onion finely diced (my onion pieces weren't as small as I now wish they'd been)
-1/2c pumpkin
-cayenne pepper
-black pepper
-red pepper

1. Heat up that skillet to optimal grilled cheese temperature--add in a tsp of olive oil and your 1/4c onions and sauté them until the onions are nice and soft.  
2. In a bowl, mix the pumpkin, spices (to taste), onion, and 1/4c shredded cheese.  Keep the pan on the burner though so it keeps heating up to that optimal grilled cheese temp!

3. Butter your bread as normal.  
4. Now, it's grillin' time!  In addition to the slice of cheese, also scoop half the pumpkiny mixture onto the sandwich as well before placing the other piece of bread on it, and throwin' (i.e. gently placing) the grilled cheese in the skillet.  Be careful when you flip it because unlike with melted cheese who holds the slices together, the pumpkin just kinds of hangs out!

5.  Enjoy your cheesy, pumpkin-y goodness!  

Jon and I really liked this recipe.  It was hearty and more filling than a regular grilled cheese, that's for sure!  Plus, it's a great way to use up any leftover pumpkin you might have from another recipe.  If I ever get the Laughing Cow cheeses, I'll be really interested in trying the actual HG recipe to see how we like that!

Aside from eating pumpkin-inspired recipes this weekend, we also finally semi-finished our patio!  We've been storing things (tailgating chairs, AU tailgating tent, coolers, yard tools, etc) out there out in the open since we moved in (which is unsafe for your stuff when you live in a city) and have been trying to decide what to do to store it.  Thankfully, we found a storage closet on an end-of-season sale at Sears and got it all set up this weekend!  We also got rid of a rose bush that made our patio look tiny (and kept poking us when we moved things) and got some of the digging ready for our garden we hope to plant in the Spring.  Check it out!

A photo from a few weeks ago when a squirrel decided to use our piled stuff as a perch:

Pre-digging, post-moving everything inside:

Future home of the storage unit:

Jon 1-Rosebush 0!

 Voila!  We'll do some gardening where the rosebush was in addition to that little strip there under the window.  So excited!  Not only is it cleaner and more open, but our stuff is safe!

What did you get accomplished this past weekend?   Not going to lie, there's just something really satisfying about getting jobs done around the house!