Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beef Stew

Yesterday was an twelve hour day for me, and so I put together a beef stew in the crockpot to cook away all day long.  It was inspired by the chilly morning and desire to have something quick when I got home in the evening. The Mike's been busy at work and I knew he'd not want to do much of a prep time either for dinner.

Thankfully, when I opened the freezer I found inspiration in the form of stew meat from the local grocery.  I think in the future I should have a smaller package of stew meat frozen up, but for this I had a one pound package and I found a can of corn in the cupboard, that's about all the incentive I needed to make a quick dish.

We have the medium size crock pot. I found with the large size there was too much waste with left overs that turned out to be too plentiful, and then the small one is for dips!
Delicious beef stew. Fabulous as leftovers for lunch, too.
Crockpot (obviously!)
Crockpot liner (yes, I use these, my sense of preserving the environment and not adding to pollution is ruled out in favor of easy clean up after a long day at work).

1 can of corn, drained
1 can no salt diced petite tomatoes
Diced/sliced carrots. I diced up about fifteen of the thicker snack size ones.
1/2  to 1 diced onion
Schar Anellini pasta, about 1/4 cup
3/4 to 1 quart of beef broth. I used Kitchen Basics by McCormick's.
2 bay leaves
ground fresh pepper
1 Tablespoon or more of  Worcestershire. I use Lea and Perrins  as the USA version is gluten free
Small diced red potatoes. I used about five of these which were 'golf ball' size
Diced/sliced celery for your taste. I added about 1/3 cup.

By this time I was worried it was all going to fit in the crockpot!  I put the meat in first, then diced the celery and onions and added that directly around the meat, and two bay leaves. Next I sliced the carrots and potatoes and added those around as well, then cracked some pepper, added the drained corn and the undrained tomatoes and stirred that together a little bit to mix it up some. I added the dried pasta into a "well" I made in the veggies, I wanted it underneath the broth for sure. I then added the cracked pepper and the broth. I added just enough broth that it came to about 1 1/2 inches from the top of the pan. I didn't want to add too much, since the veggies would breakdown and more liquid would come from that too.  Then I added the Lea & Perrin's to the top, put the lid on , made sure the crock pot was on to low and I headed to work.

I'm "lucky" enough to own one of the crockpots that tends to run a little hot, so even on low everything was going to come together quite nicely.  When The Mike got home, he turned it to "warm" and it was still plenty hot by 8:30. A little bit of cracked pepper on top and a bit of kosher salt added and it was fabulous.

I used the Anellini knowing that any GF pasta was going to basically dissolve/melt over twelve hours in the crock pot and that it wouldn't matter what was really used. Since this is a smaller 'soup' pasta to me, I used it.--Plus, my sisters and I scored about a dozen boxes half price this spring in D.C. at Safeway. I think I brought a lot of food back from that trip. I only have managed to use up my first box! We tend not to have too much grain/pasta at our house, so a little bit can go a long way.
Photo source
I have been trying to get canned things at the store that are "salt free" since we tend to add kosher salt at the end of cooking and it also helps us control how much we're adding to the diet too.

Happy winter cooking!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Marathon #3

Wow, time sure can fly. It seems like just last month I signed up for the Omaha Marathon instead of waaaay back at the start of February.  It seemed like I had all the time in the world to train for my A race. The year started out so positively, but then things happen and it seems like you're saying, "another run" and sometimes you have to fight the mental monster that says, "go for a long run" when all you want to do is nothing and hang out on the couch watching movies. . . but, that's what DVD/tv is for set up in front of the treadmill on rainy and lightning filled days!  Here's my write-up from my second marathon this past March. That day was hot, hot, hot and so not in a good way that early in the year. Even for spectators, it was too hot.

This September race day promised to be beautiful.  The forecast was calling for near freezing temps, in the mid 30s with a high of 70 and the sunshine.  Even though I had PR'd in June for my hilly half, I haven't kept up with yoga this summer and my core was suffering. I wasn't sure about this run, even though I was trusting in my training. I know the last few long runs I've had have been a mix of good and bad.

Friday night we arrived at my parents' after they had retired.  Headed to bed and hoped for a good night's sleep--which was accomplished! Saturday, I made mom and dad an apple cobbler. I don't have a photo of it (sorry), but I peeled and cored apples, then sliced them and tossed them in a mixing bowl with 3/4 cup sugar, about a tablespoon of apple pie spice, plus another dash or so of nutmeg and cinnamon.  I poured these into a pyrex pie plate.  Next I mixed about a cup of tapioca flour with about 1/3 cup of quinoa flakes , tossed in some brown sugar (about 1/2 cup) and then butter (about a 3/4 a stick) and mixed together. I had a bit much of this mixture, so about 1/4 cup of it went into the freezer.  I poured this mixture over the top and then moved around some of the apple slices so the topping would fall into the apple mixture.

Mom and dad had some for Sunday "brunch" and they said it was really good. Dad mixed up the whip cream for it, since I had to dash out of their house for O-town and didn't have time to make that for them.

In addition to whipping up this fabulous dessert for them, I also killed a "cricket" for mom. . . Thanks to her stroke last year, she can't see out the left side of either eye and she's in one of those electric wheelchairs.  She had come into the house via the ramp and thought she'd seen a 'cricket' by the outside door and asked me to get it.  Cricket it was not. It was a gigantic spider reminiscent of a tarantula in Iowa. Okay, okay, I have some arachnophobia issues.  Mom always use to kill the spiders for me as a kid and now here I was doing it for her.  I got out the extra hold hairspray and opened the exterior door and, yeah, I killed that spider with a lot of heebee jeebee dancing afterwards.  Killed the dang thing dead as a driven nail.   (shudders).  Hubby said it was "character building". I think it also means he didn't want to be the one to smack the thing. ;-)

I headed to Omaha to get my race packet and to ride the bus on the race route.  They were providing three different times for this, and all free to the racer ($5 each for add'l family members, support). I haven't been on a school bus in a couple decades:  what a trip down memory lane!  I also took a front row seat so I'd have an excellent view of the "hill" which turned out to not be 'a' hill, but rather three separate jaunts.  Up one for about three or four blocks, then it leveled off a bit and rose another block and a half.
"The Hill"
Then we would turn the corner, go a block on even ground and turn the corner and increase in elevation some more. It actually didn't seem quite so bad as what I had envisioned, so I can only assume that meant my training was paying off and I'm not quite so petrified of hills any longer.  

Getting my race number in and of itself turned out to be difficult. Having worked and helped coordinate bicycle races and been at plenty of packet pickups, I can say that having a number misplaced is quite rare, but does occasionally happen. Thus, I wound up with a different number than I was suppose to have.
Gear is ready
All ready the night before.  Tights, ifitness fuel belt, tank, long sleeve throwaway shirt (which I've never managed to actually throw away), visor for sweat-line and keeping the sun out, GU and I'm ready to go!  . . . or so I think.
Race Course
Race Day: As I had said, race day was suppose to be ideal running weather, but one also had to prep for standing around at the start waiting to go.  The Start was in front of the fairly new TD Ameritrade baseball stadium, home to the college world series now that Rosenblatt stadium was demolished.
Photo from "Rosenblatt Stadium" page on facebook  

Thankful I was that I ran a 5K in this area back in June, so I had an idea of the first few small hills in the Old Market area of Omaha.  The Mike suggested we stay at a hotel the night before the race and for that I am thankful.  I don't think I'd have had an issue with getting up at 4:30am instead of 5:30 for a drive in, but figuring parking, etc with the road closures and all it was definitely easier to just spend the night.

But now I had to figure out how to account for my exposed calves.  I need to carry some Vaseline in the overnight bag for occasions like this, but decided to put the "Glide" on my calves and that worked well, it still protected the skin from the 37ยบ weather.  At the start there were military personnel, the anthem being sung, etc, but I couldn't hear any of it. It seemed there was only one speaker system set up and that was near the front; we heard it just fine as we walked on the sidewalk, but we couldn't hear anything in the way back. The Mike was going to ride the course on one of his Salsa bikes and meet me/cheer for me at random places on the course.  It is always fun for me to see someone cheering for just me, rather than "just another random stranger" cheering. You know what I mean, right?

The pace started off jackrabbit fast as always and I was making an effort to reel myself back in and not go out all turbo, as everyone seems to want to do.  I was feeling really good heading into mile 7  and 8 and knowing there was that power hill coming up.  I didn't run the whole thing, but surprisingly to me I managed to keep at it with a job more than I thought I might have and with that behind me, I felt free to let loose :-) though I still had nineteen miles to go.  Around mile 12 my lower right abdomen started hurting something awful. I started freaking out that my appendix was giving me fits.  I had no idea what was happening, but I pushed in on the spot as I do with side aches and then started walking and proceeded to do some walk/running and see what happens. About this time I saw The Mike and he said, "KEEP GOING". What a great cheerleader :-)   I saw him again up almost to mile 16 and I handed off my ifitness fuel belt/holder. It was aggravating my side, I had moved it up to my belly and the bottles were hitting my elbows and ruining my concentration.  I took out my GUs and put them in my pants pocket and continued with the run, in this residential area. Seemed to be going well, then as I moved towards the inner curb on a boulevard I had to do the heebee jeebee dance all over again, fairly recent dead (or was it?) racoon laying against the curb.  Geesh! ick.  heebee jeebees.  I was trying to be good with not taking in too much sugar and energy, but when I got to the park area (mile18) I realized I probably should have had some earlier and I stupidly didn't. [note: I probably should write on my hands the times I should take a GU]!   I took some here and then then headed on.  The hill back up to about 22.2 was longer, but I just kept chugging away at it, like a train going up a hill. . . grinding and grinding and grinding and getting there. I did pause/walk to collect myself and then started up again.  The Mike was up there at the top, enjoying the lively polka band that was playing here. They were playing some stuff that was great tempo for running! It was probably my favorite band of the whole race.

I really wish we could have our own little drill sergeant out here at this point of a race, miles 17 to 22 seem to be mentally the toughest. I could have used some of R. Lee Ermey out there yelling at me to keep MOVING and get GOING.  I wonder if Motoactv could put his voice in there for us. . . or if he has a clip of something I could download to the MP3 player to motivate me when needed.  Seriously, this needs to be investigated! When I was in DC, I walked with an ARMY soldier for part of it. He'd done a few back to back marathons and was getting ready to go back to the desert, and there I was feeling sorry for myself at mile 22 and this man was going to be in serious harms way in a week or two.

Back to the Omaha Marathon, I had to put some laughter in where I was able to.  Heading down to Carter Lake (oxbow lake of the Missouri River and officially part of Iowa within the city of Omaha) the aid station was handing out "fresh water".  Thankfully it wasn't 'fresh from the lake'.  .  I was running on the shoulder at this point, there was so very much concrete and not as much asphalt, my legs were definitely taking a beating.  As I was running along, another running started chatting. She was on her 219th marathon! WOW.   We ran for a mile or so together and then she slowly pulled away from me. (I know, sad right?). Mr. Runner caught up to me and did a run/walk too and then he stayed with Ms. 219.  It was his 89th marathon and he didn't seem much older than myself.

We had one more slight climb and then a straight away for over a mile. I was really hoping for more water in this stretch but none was to be had until just after mile 25. The Alzheimer's aid station was a wonderful sight for me.  Two cups of water and I was ready to knock out the remaining one mile.  As I got up to the last turn, I passed Ms. 219 and Mr. 89. WOOO!   Power was coming to me. . . I was feeling good, even though this last straight away and then the ever so slight turn into the parking lot for a finish was ALL on concrete I just kept plugging away.  . . Near about 25.99 mile spot Mr. intersection police officer literally turned his back on me and started moving traffic across the intersection. I slowed my gait thinking, "he's going to be looking over his shoulder at our progress".  No sireee bob.  Instead, I yelled "STOP" and he stopped the cars, the first one did the whole slam on its brakes and visibly move backwards from the force. [this is the part of the race where I love the half marathon finishers, when I see the 13 miles marker I know I have just a tenth of a mile left!]   I passed a guy walking at mile marker 26.15 or so who had on one of those Marathon Maniac shirts and I just kept going, thinking, I've got to turn into the parking lot and it's got to be HERE!. I turned the corner and put on a little extra and just wanted to get to the finish before another minute was turned on the clock.

Three of the Marine Corps finest were lined up in their full uniform handing out the beautiful recycled glass medals. The medals were much larger than all of us thought, about 3.5 " in diameter and so beautiful, but so fragile as well. Mike wore mine while I stretched and recovered for a bit afterwards.

This  shot is for Carla

How many calories were burned?  From midnight to 1:09pm on 9/23 I burned 4048 calories and took 52,865 steps.

What I learned: 
In looking through my mile times last night, Mike and I realized that I needed to be taking in energy/GU before I actually did in order to maintain the calories in my system that were ready for me to burn. While I had a PR in the first half marathon on this course, I still slowed down by first a minute and then two minutes per mile pace by the finish :-(   It is definitely one of those things of live and learn!  I'm happy with a seven minute PR, I'd be happier with a fifteen minute one ;-)

Am I happy with my time: I am happy that I finally improved my time, but I'm not happy in that I didn't take care of myself when running in terms of my energy source and that my second half time really seemed to suffer for it. However, I know I did improve with my running ability and all and I finished, so I am happy with myself.

the Medal, mine  was purple and blue swirls.

After the race and cleanup, we headed over to meet mom and dad at Sam & Louie's on Cumings street. . . only, it turned out to be closed, contrary to their website, so we then headed to Mama's Pizza on Saddlecreek, a place we discovered when mom was in the hospital, and they have gluten free pizza!!!!! Fabulous pizza, as always. I only managed to get three slices down, but the others never made it over three hours in the car. My stomach just kept digesting the food.

On the ride home, the Mike drove for good reason. . .  . my attention span was worse than a sugar addict in a Christmas candy store!  I decided to take a pic of my toenails. My left index toe nail keeps falling off. Almost a year since my first marathon and it finally looks normal again, but the way it felt at mile 18, I'm sure it will turn black here shortly.  
As the night comes to an end and the Quirky is home for bed, she's up to having burned 4697 calories (at a minimum) and taken at least 55,029 steps over the course of the day (actually a few more, since I didn't wear it all the time). 

Anything else I should add, or answer for you?   I know it's a long post and more photos will come later from the race. 

Hope ya'll had a great weekend. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Easy peasy chicken

A few weeks ago (okay 8/31) I posted how the Mike and I stopped at a road side stand and bought some squash, some I'd never seen before.  This was one of those squash.

Before it was cooked, it looked like a toy "top" that is spun and was about eight inches high (minus the top and bottom points).   After it cooked, the bottom sunk into it. I placed it on parchment paper before cutting open, so the sticky juices would be easy to clean.  The flesh was only about an inch to inch and half thick, and the seeds were quite large, like a pumpkin.   I sliced it open as in the photo, cleaned out the seeds and scooped out the yellow flesh. I thought it might end up tasting like a butternut squash; however even though it looked like a butternut squash, it tasted like a spaghetti squash to me--not much flavor at all; (real seal) butter and brown sugar to the rescue!

Friday I had some chicken breasts to use (Smart Chicken brand) and made this easy dish with some brown rice to serve with it.

Easy Chicken
Olive oil
1 canned diced tomatoes
2 chicken breasts
Italian seasoning (basil, garlic, oregano)

I like to use the Smart Chicken brand as the chicken is more tender and easier to flatten. I placed each chicken breast between in sheets of plastic wrap and parchment paper and then pounded them until they were more even in thickness, about one-fourth an inch. I peppered the side showing.  

I then heated my skillet, added a little bit of olive oil to it (just enough to gently cover the base layer), heated  some more.   Then  put in the skillet, peppered the up-side,  cooked through one side, flipped and added the can of diced tomatoes and tossed on some garlic, and the Italian seasoning I had on hand. I also added salt since I buy no-salt canned tomatoes.  Then I covered the skillet and ignored it for about eight more minutes or so.

Since the Mike wasn't quite home yet, I turned the burner off and left the dish covered. I tossed some cauliflower and broccoli together and microwaved on the fresh veggie setting and then served as above.

YUM and easy!  Sprinkle a little shredded Parmasean cheese and parsley on top or some breadcrumbs for a little something if you'd like.

(Sometimes I feel like I should have different colored plates for my food, but I really like these plates and I've only seen them in off white or black)

Friday, September 21, 2012

September, South Dakota and food, of course!

Sometimes life and adventure get in the way of writing, which is what has happened this month. This will be a longer post, as it is about when we ventured to South Dakota for Mike at the first of the month for the Dakota 5-0 race held Sunday. After traveling across the state a few times, we've decided leaving in early evening is the best and a way to avoid the iconic Wall Drug signs for part of the drive (we counted the signs one year. Surprisingly, there were fewer than we thought!, though still free coffee and donuts for veterans--so they need to do some road tripping with their family!)   We drove and drove and drove and then crossed the border into SD. Agh.  Slept for a few hours in the car at a rest stop (yes, lots of people do this, we were not the only car). Not sure I'd do this with young children, but people do, as well as those with campers.  Finally got to sleep only to be interrupted by someone who pulled in via a diesel truck. Time to get on the road. 

Rest stop after driving for a few hours, need to stretch.  View of sunrise seen through the bike frames.  [photo by The Mike]. 

We drove into Rapid City and had breakfast at Arnold's, a 50s themed diner off the interstate there.  MUCH better than Denny's we tried last year (where we sent back the frozen hashbrowns only to have frozen hashbrowns served again).  We weren't sure of what to do in town, but we had time to kill.  We picked up the magazines from the diner and decided on the Geology museum at the local University.  Sadly, it starts its "winter hours" the Saturday OF the holiday weekend, not on the holiday, as the AAA book said.  We decided to head to the next spot, the Stavkirke church, exact replica of a church in Norway. 

Quite an experience to visit and I highly recommend this visit, especially if you think you'll never get to Norway to experience one of these churches.  The original was built in 1150 and is still standing, this one was built in 1969.  There is also a Norwegian shed which is the gift shop, as well as a historic log cabin which serves as a museum.  After visiting, we looked in the city magazine to see what else was in town and headed over to Memorial Park to visit the Berlin Wall exhibit. WOW. I had no idea there would be part of this historic wall in the black hills!  This is truly something to be seen. The whole display and signs do great justice to the item which was such an injustice to the city, country and citizens. 

It is true that you never know what you'll find when you journey.  I had looked ahead of time for a race in the vicinity of Spearfish and an hour or so away and could not find anything.  Imagine my surprise when we had pulled into the parking lot for the park and found a race in progress!  Turns out it was a first ever Wounded Warrior run!  I picked up a brochure in case we are this way again.  They had a 5K and a 1 mile option, run at different times so runners could do both if they were interested.  Had I had more than three hours of sleep, I would have been quite tempted to put on my shoes; however, the military men running the race completely understood not wanting to run on so little sleep! Phew.  I hate the idea of looking weak when these guys put their lives on the line for us.[Ellsworth AFB is nearby]. If you are interested in this race for next year, the website is . 

We then headed to Spearfish for Mike to get checked in for the race.  We picnic'd in the park.. . always a treat to dine out in nature. This was no exception. We could hear the stream babbling and took a walk to it after we were done. . . we could also occasionally smell skunk. ICK.  They must have been living in a historic building in the park and every once in a while the wind would shift and we'd get a light scent. Interesting indeed!

In the evening we drove to a restaurant on the Spearfish Canyon road. We had seen this last year, it looked like a good place to visit though it was quite packed after six last year.  Thus, we decided to ventured to the Dry Creek Bar & Grill early (they're on facebook too).  We got there at the perfect time, had a table neighbor who was quite "happy" with herself and hugged everyone as she was leaving, and I mean everyone.  Our waitress was also part owner.  

They knew what gluten free was about  :-)  I ordered the Walleye and asparagus, served with a side salad.  and Mike got gluten in the form of a pasta dish served with chicken,  sun-dried tomatoes, bacon and a creamy white sauce.

Race day Dakota 5-0

Smokie the Bear always starts the race.  Sadly, while we were in South Dakota we heard of a new smokie. . . the forest fires left a cub with burned paws and limbs. His name is Boo Boo and he's being rehabbed and cared for so he can be released back into the wildness where he  belongs.

While the Mike was racing, I went for my long run, 18 miles!  I wasn't sure how I was going to do at 3,500elevation, but I was only at elevation for two days when I ran, and usually breathing is hardest on the third day.  I ran out from the park and headed towards the north end of town. I was feeling great, then I turned around and ran those two miles and realized there was a slight incline now, so of course I felt fabulous earlier when I was running downhill. ha ha ha .  I then headed west out of town, after getting a glare from a woman on her way to church, for I crossed against the red light (no traffic was in existence except for her car stopped at the light) and I still felt good, even when I headed out on some small rolling hills and a great decline.  

The road diverged and I took the road less traveled (it was the gravel road). So beautiful and even though there were woods on both sides of the road, the canopy was still far enough back that I felt comfortable running in an area that has extreme wild animals (bears, mountain lions, etc).  Instead, I spied a few deer and a lot of turkeys; in one yard alone there were at least a score!

I ran down the road until I heard some scrapping in the trees and blowing my whistle to make some noise and scare of whatever was there. It didn't work. I had no idea of the creature walked on two legs or four, was large or small, so I backed away and then after a while turned and ran the way I had come.  When I got back into town, my MOTOACTV was telling me I still had four miles to go, so I ran up to the cemetery. .Ran is not a good word. Steep hill, made me wonder how winter visits are, so I walked/jogged up and then took a few minutes to walk around.  The things you find when you go off the beaten path.  Apparently  the first guy who died was named Levi Blizzard. Maybe it was his real name or maybe it was because he was wearing Levis and died during a blizzard. The sign said even people of the time were unsure.

After the run and Mike's race we found some pizza place via the computer. Sam and Louie's New York Style Pizza, the online menu said they also have burgers, so I figured I'd have one of those.  That was, until we arrived at the place.  Imagine my surprise. They have a dedicated gluten free section in their kitchen and the GF pizza is so fabulous!  HIGHLY recommend Sam & Louie's. . .They seem to be along I-80 in Nebraska, and then Spearfish and Rapid City, SD.

Note: the pizza is baked and served on its own disposable tray.
Kim, the waitress and manager we had, was very helpful, very informative.  She said they clean their arms and change aprons before even doing anything near the GF section in the kitchen! Definitely safe for Celiacs!

The end of the 18 mile day, calories burned, steps taken.  Since we ate the pizza/dinner in the middle of the afternoon, we chose ice cream for dinner--the mini containers the groceries now sell. 

Monday I needed to do a small run, so I ran back towards the campus in Spearfish and ran up this fabulous staircase.  Found about 80¢ in change on the road leading to this place and some delightful student, sometime in the last decade or so stuck a quarter to the stairs [which is why it's always smart to try to shuffle the change with one's foot, before attempting to pick up said coin].  I wonder if there is a camera aimed to this spot? hmmmmm.

Belle Fourche, ND has a display in town of the center, though the real center [of the USA including AK and HI] is half a dozen miles north of town on a dirt road. Even this sign isn't the center. The real center is about a block in distance into the pasture  and marked by a large USA flag which was blowing so beautifully in the strong wind.

Sanford's. It's a western states chain, atmosphere is a bit like Applebee's, but with southern food and mechanic/car decor, mixed in with plenty early 20th century decor.  Our platters seemed larger than our school lunch plates.  Steak and potato for me. Mike was a bit hungrier, he had a larger steak, bread, sides and he had my side of black eyed peas. Not to forget mentioning, Dickinson, ND, where we stayed the night is a modern black oil boom town. Everything at the off-ramp was all brand new. Our hotel opened in April, other hotels, restaurants and stores were still being built, as well as apartment complexes too.  There are even fracking oil wells set up very closely to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we spent the next day.  He came here to recover after losing his mother (from typhoid fever) and his first wife (kidney failure) on the same day!
Our lunch spot. Most of our lunches were from the cooler we packed, UDI's bread, cheese, lunch meats, cottage cheese, Chobani yogurt, carrots, dip and more.  

Very amazing view. While seeing the Badlands of South Dakota is amazing and breathtaking and you can see where the erosion takes place, these badlands in North Dakota just seem to go on forever, there is a driving path and pull off areas and the scenery is there to enjoy and ponder. I can't fathom what the pioneers thought when they got to this part of the country, and how could they write anything home other than 'great time, hard terrain, persevered'. Anything other would have probably let their family 'back east' say "we told you so". ;-) 

I can only imagine that two hundred years ago the herd of bison would have been much larger at this point of the Little Missouri River Valley. 

I didn't get a run in the next day because of the location of the next hotel, it was in the city and while it seemed like a good area, I wasn't sure of going running where there were a lot of hotels and a freeway system not too far away.