Friday, October 29, 2010

The Cookbook Club - Leek and Potato Soup

Let me start this with two things:  1) Leek and potato is one of my all time favorite soups and 2) it's still 90 degrees in Florida. 

This month's Cookbook Club was for a Paula Deen recipe and the alternate was Leek and Potato soup, taken from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a recipe for this soup that was moderately healthy.  I almost never make it since it tends to involve lots of cream and butter which, while delicious, is not something I try to get used to.  The recipe was pretty straight forward:

4 medium-size leeks (white part only), washed well and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
4 medium-size to large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 to 6 cups of water or vegetable or chicken broth
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
French bread for serving

1.    Put leeks and potatoes in the slow cooker. Add enough water or broth to just cover them. Cover and cook on low until the potatoes are tender, 5 to 7 hours.

2.    Puree the soup with a handheld immersion blender or transfer to a food processor or blender and puree in batches. Add the salt and the butter, swirling until it is melted. Ladle the hot soup into bowls and serve immediately with French bread.

I did add a couple cloves of garlic  (because nothing is ever complete without garlic), a tablespoon more of butter, and I diced up scallions to sprinkle on top for serving. 

I cut up the potatoes and leeks the night before, so yesterday before work I just had to throw everything in the slow cooker.  I figured it was a good sign when I heard from E in the afternoon and he said he had been hungry all day because the house smelled so good.

I got home from work and began transferring the soup to the food processor in batches.  My food processor is pretty tiny (circa 1980), so it took many batches.  I processed it, put it in a large tupperware container, and then when it was all done, back in the slow cooker set to "warm" until we were ready to eat.  At this point I will 'fess up that once I did the after-work portion, I completely spaced on taking pictures.

The end result of the soup was pretty good.  I'm not inclined to soups when it's so warm out, but it went well with my week of pretending that it's fall.   It was a little bland, but I think that could be counteracted with some creative seasoning at the beginning of the day - "creative"  does not really describe me at 6 a.m.   I look forward to trying this one again!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ironman Access? Really?

I haven't gotten to the point where I am thinking about doing a long distance triathlon yet.  Maybe (probably) one day I will be struck by the urge, but I haven't yet felt the need.  My boyfriend has done a 70.3 distance, the Orlando Ironman 70.3, and plans to go on to do a full next year.  His registration for Orlando 70.3 was my introduction to the cost of Ironman - I had no idea, I was appalled.  I know that triathlon often seems like a sport for the affluent, but this just blew me away.  As did Ironman's publication, Lava, which we got a subscription to from aforementioned Ironman competition.  The cover boasts that it is for the serious triathlete - the cream of the crop I guess, because the rest of us who don't feel ready - or hell, can't afford the Ironman sanctioned events - are not serious about their sport.  It kind of irks me. 

Then today we see the news about Ironman Access.  In the words of Chris McCormack:  "$1000 and you get...f**k all."

Before this, I did have respect for the institution.  I was a little envious of those who wore the mdot, and hoped I would one day join their ranks.  But now....not so much.

On the plus side of all this backlash against Ironman, I did discover Revolution3, whose aim is to make triathlon available for everyone, and who understands that it's not just the athlete - it's the spouse, the family, the spectator, the takes everyone to make up the whole of this wonderful triathlon lifestyle.  I also signed a petition at Supporters of Rev3 urging them to expand and maybe even start doing some full 140.6's.  Who knows, maybe there will be another company that can stand up to the WTC. 

**Update:  Mad props to Ironman for listening to their customers.  Here's a statement from Ironman CEO Ben Fertic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You gotta run, Ricky! I don't care how bad it hurts!

When I was younger, I was an insomniac.  It was not uncommon for me to be wandering the halls at 1 a.m., catching up on my reading in the wee hours of the morning, or wrapping Christmas presents while the sun came up.  In the  last few years, I've managed to tame my insomnia and night owl tendencies, though I'm still sometimes visited by sleepless nights.  Last night was one of those nights.  I say all this as a really long introduction to the fact that I am running on four hours of sleep today, so that by the time I hit 6:30 p.m. running time, I was pretty beat.  I had 4.5 miles on the agenda, but it was all I could do to lace up my sneakers and get outside.  I ended up only doing three miles, and not a stellar three miles at that.

However, those three miles got me thinking.   I was glad I got out there.  I was proud of myself for actually getting outside and doing some mileage, rather than giving into fatigue and the siren call of the couch.  I wasn't so tired that I didn't want to get my heart pumping and my blood flowing, and I think I am better for having gotten the workout in.  This past weekend, I was reading through the latest issue of USAT, which is focusing this issue on speed - in the swim, the bike and the run.  One thing that it warns about in the run is the tendency for those mid-week miles to become "junk miles."  We get out there, we bang out our 3, 5, 8 mile runs, whatever mileage, just to do it.  And maybe we're tired, our form isn't so great, but we just want to be able to fill in our Daily Mile report.  The article, which had some wonderful points,  was written by Matt Russ, and argues that it's useless to do those miles, that grinding out those distances is really hurting us because we are letting our hard work with our form and our stride go to seed, plus out of all the triathlon disciplines, running breaks down your muscles the most; better to take rest where you need it.  That's not to say that mid-week mileage is a waste, but it was interesting to think about.

Mostly I found it interesting because I am still contemplating a marathon and realized that it makes me think of my current training from two different perspectives.  If I am training for one half, with a fair gap in between, then I think about the fact that I maybe have a break to decrease my mileage and perhaps get in some speed work, some more strength training, etc.  If I do go on to do a marathon, than I am now a quarter of the way through my marathon training, which is kind of crazy.  Mentally, it's one thing to think "I can get through 13.1 miles, and if this first one is terrible, I can make up for it with the second."  The other train of thought is more along the lines of a great running (no pun intended) joke amongst our athlete friends, from an exchange we witnessed at a race between two brothers, one older, one younger.  It was just a 5k, but the older one looked at the younger one and said "C'mon, Ricky!  You gotta run, Ricky!  I don't care how bad it hurts, you gotta run, Ricky!"

Friday, October 22, 2010

To Marathon or Not to Marathon

Having only been consistently active for about 2 years, I'm really big on setting event goals (keep in mind, prior to "consistently active" was "pack-a-day smoker with a bad caffeine habit").  This year I discovered triathlon, and did a few sprint distances, culminating in my Very Proud Achievement, my first Olympic distance.  I muddled through the swimming, was decent on the bike, but my run remains a weakness for me.  And I'm SLOW.    Like I read articles and when they talk about "beginner runners" they reference their pace being around 10-11 minutes a mile, and I go "hey, I should be way faster by now."  So I decided I wanted to strengthen my run. 

I embarked on this endeavor by deciding to undertake two half-marathons:  the Outback Distance Classic on Thanksgiving Day and the Donna Half-Marathon on February 12, 2011.  Next year, I decided, would be the year I ran a marathon, but I would do these two half distances first.  However, now I'm thinking, maybe I'll do the Donna FULL Marathon rather than the half.  It's supposed to be a great race, fan support is huge, it's volunteered at and undertaken by an enormous about of people in my city and beyond, family and friends could come cheer me on. 

So I guess I'm just debating if I'm ready.  I think about it and the idea of the challenge is wonderful and I read all these blogs from a lot of you and your experiences with running your first (or 15th) marathon, and love the idea of it, the challenge of it.  Then I think about the distance and sort of feel a little pale.  So I guess I'm just on the fence.  If I'm going to run a marathon locally (and after the amount of money I realized an out-of-town event takes after my last one) this is without a doubt the one to do.  And if I hit half-marathon distance by late November, that should more than put me on track for a February 12 marathon.  I may have spent some of my lunch break yesterday looking at Runnersworld and for articles on training for a marathon and how to know if you're ready.

To run or not to run.  I'm just not sure.        

Monday, October 18, 2010

Running Again After Injury

I grumbled, bitched and moaned my way through my week and half off running due to injury, and finally went out for a spin this past Thursday.  I did a short (but fast!) three miles on Thursday that left me feeling spent, but happy to be back.  Saturday I decided to do a longer run and did a slow five miles.  Slow because my body felt really out of whack.  Mentally, I was totally in the game.  In fact, I even sprung, pop-tart like, from bed that morning in anticipation of enjoying the beautiful weather.  But my legs just weren't having it.  I felt like I had the wrong legs and mine were running swiftly somewhere on someone else's body.  It was bizarre.  E ran with me and felt out of alignment as well, so it was quite a run.

I went on another run yesterday, just three miles (instead of my planned 4), and felt the same.  Running home, and paying attention, really focusing on how I was feeling made me realize that my issues were most likely my hip flexors.  They were so tight!  I got home and hit the floor for some pigeon and bound angle, and it seemed to help.  I will find out tonight when I try for four miles!  My 10-mile Halloween Pumpkin Run is coming up in two weeks, so being able to get some good mileage in before that is really important to me.  Regardless though, it felt so good to get back out and moving this weekend.  I've really started to crave cardio!

On another note, I made Spaghetti Squash for the first time!  I also made applesauce, which was also a fun experience.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Itching to Run or How I'm Kind of a Pain When I Can't Work Out

Yesterday, I was feeling aggressive.  Irritable.  Moody.  Sort of down.  In trying to ponder what was wrong with me, I forgot that running and cardio in general is my personal brand of therapy.  Getting my heart pounding, becoming drenched in sweat, running, cycling, power yoga, whatever; anything that makes my muscles warm and requires me to focus and sweat and live in my head is helpful.  Running and riding mean I have time to mull over whatever is in my head, if anything is bothering me, if I have any thing on my mind I need to work through.  Power yoga is great because I can't think of anything else; all of me is focused on my body and how it feels and how it is aligned and maintaining my form and my balance.  In short, exercise really helps to balance me out. 
My leg injury is much better.  I can walk again as of this past Saturday, though it still feels fatigued.  E, in his role as my faux personal trainer (and he's usually dead on about my training) thinks I should wait until Thursday before trying an easy run, which is probably the best call.  Last night we did some basic strength training at home.  Push-ups, tricep dips, pull ups and leg lifts.  It was tough, and a great reminder that building up my upper body and overall muscle strength will really do wonders for my training.  I woke up very aware of my shoulders, but am enjoying that fatigued-muscle feeling of a job well done.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Just Wanted to Learn How to Work the Machines

So as I mentioned last week, I recently joined a gym.  One of the perks that came with membership was a free one hour session with a personal trainer.  Great!  I thought.  I haven't done any kind of resistance or strength training since I started the running/cycling/tri lifestyle...this will be an awesome way to re-learn how all the machines work and get an idea of how my weight training should work with my other training.  Silly, silly me.
I scheduled my free session for lunchtime yesterday, figuring it would help get me into the habit of lunchtime gym work before my evening runs.  When I arrived at the gym, the trainer, let's call him "Jim," took me over to the scale and then sat down with me at his cafĂ© table/office space.  He took me through what sounded like his standard speech on weight loss, diet, nutrition, cardio, etc.  I tried to interject that really I was doing ok on nutrition, and great on cardio - I needed to learn how to work all those machines; I needed to figure out how to better work my core and upper body.  I think at about this point is where it all went wrong.  I mentioned that it would be nice to have some lower body work, just to sort of up my game in the hamstring and calf department.
Now Trainer Jim didn't seem like the sharpest tool in the shed, but I figured he took the requisite training classes to be a personal trainer (I have a cousin who did the same thing, and in hindsight also would not trust my fitness to my cousin, so I probably should have thought this through more).
Trainer Jim said we would start out with some leg work.  Ok, I thought.  I did my long run the previous evening, so I was kind of hurting, but surely a little leg work will be good for it.  It's at about this point that I realized I forgot my watch and pretty much had no concept of time.  "Starting with leg work" turned out to mean using a machine like this (the lady in this picture kind of looks like the gym's owner) or in the alternative, "we're going to work the sh*t out of your legs."  40 pounds, 4 sets of 15 reps.  After the first set, I could feel it.  That's when we did lunges from one end of the gym to the other.  Then another set, then more get the picture.  All of this was followed by 8 different kinds of squats, then toe lifts, 75 of them.  By this point I was sweating more than  All the while I kept waiting.  Where is the upper body I asked for?  Why are we doing the same exercises that I cut out of my Women's Health and Fitness magazines?  I could do all these things at home.  Surely, this torture on my already tired legs will end any second, and we'll get to that core work and those mysterious machines in the main area of the gym.  But was over, and Trainer Jim was showing me my "Trainer Plan Options," starting at the low, low price of $160 a month to the reasonable $460 a month.  On one hand, I got a really hard lower body workout, which I guess is good. 
Total outcome of 1 hour session with personal trainer: I missed last night's run and probably today's.  But my coworkers' joy in seeing me hobble around the office and move like a geriatric?  Priceless.

Monday, October 4, 2010


By request:

Pumpkin-Honey Beer Quick Bread

Guinness Beer Cheese Spread

Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies (that don't taste low fat)

5ks, Cooking and Other Random Things

Saturday morning I ran my first 5k since December.  This was the inaugural DSAJ All Star Beach Run, to benefit the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville.  I really wanted to come in below 30 minutes, as my times and overall fitness have really been better lately.  It was an out-and-back course on the beach.  The way out was pretty good- I was running about 9:30, which I was happy with.  I forgot, however, that the way back would mean running into a really, really strong wind.  Needless to say, the second half of the race was a lot slower than the first half.  I finished at 31:15, which was a little frustrating.  I'm getting to the point where I want to try increasing my time while I work on increasing my distance.  When I look at that 5k time, I was at the same pace last year, and I feel like I should have progressed more.  In addition to imminent strength training, I am going to perhaps do some tempo work or some other kind of speed training.

Additionally, last year and the year before, when I was running more 5ks, but hadn't upped my distance yet, I didn't care about my times.  Every 5k was a small victory, and I think I need to get back to that place.  I think when I quit smoking, I started to care about it more, because that excuse wasn't there.  Then again, if I look at my cessation as the real beginning of my training, then I've only truly been athletic and been training for a year and half, so I have to remember to cut myself some slack.      

On another note, lots of cooking and baking this weekend.  We had people over Saturday evening for some company and seasonal beer tasting, so we decided to make some great food to go with it.
Homemade Pesto

Some of the spread - Carb Feast

Pumpkin Beer Bread...mmmm...

Chocolate Chip Cookies