Saturday, February 20, 2010

Running Hard in Rancho San Antonio (and an Unfortunate Interaction with Nature)

This has been such an interesting week - a full 9 days of vacation (including weekends) in the middle of winter. I had enjoyed it immensely, doing little but resting, reading, and wedding planning. I got some important parts finished (made the invitations, got the envelopes mostly addressed and stamped, and got rooms at the inn sorted out) which is wonderful. I spend next to no time doing wedding things while I'm working, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get caught up!

Of course, I've been doing some running, too. After the 12 miler last week, I really wasn't in the mood for anything too long. However, having done 12, my perspective of long has finally changed. So, this week, I chose to do 2 "not so long anymore" 7 milers. I wanted to take advantage of being able to run in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, since it'll be a few months before I can do that again. They were both nice, though I did feel it in my legs afterwards.

So, in the spirit of being lazy, Ed and I decided on not going super long this weekend. It was supposed to rain and my legs were tired, all good excuses :).

We decided to go around 8, and chose to do our mileage in a nearby and apparently very popular park, "Rancho San Antonio." This was my first visit to the park, and I was impressed! Apparently, I wasn't the only one, as the place was packed. Every lot (and there were at least 5) was full, with multiple cars circling, looking for an opportunity to move in. It reminded me of holiday shopping at the mall (or, funnily enough, a sunday afternoon at my local library, where it is often filled past capacity). After joining the ranks of circlers for about 15 minutes with no success (and seeing Ed's stress level rising exponentially) I suggested that we abort, and retreat to the neighborhood outside the park.

This was a great decision (if I do say so myself), and we happily found street parking in a nice little neighborhood, maybe 30 ft from a bike path that took us into the park.

It was probably less than half a mile until we reached blessed dirt, and then we were really on our way.

(Ed turning back, as he often does, communicating to me, "Are you really taking a picture? Again?")

Now, Ed promised that, while this park didn't have really steep uphills, it certainly had mild ones. And, right of the bat, we were going up one. 

I impressed Ed and myself by actually running!! I was definitely huffing and puffing, but we were making progress and I was feeling pretty good. The hill kept heading consistently up, and I kept considering slowing down, but I was enjoying pushing myself. 

Finally, I told Ed that at the next tree, we would walk, but, when we got there, I changed my mind. It seemed to level off up ahead! In a wonderful surprise, "up ahead"was actually the end of that hill :). I had run up the whole thing! Even better, our pace for that mile of uphill was 11:46. Slow for many, but seriously awesome for me going uphill!

From there, we enjoyed a wonderful stretch of rolling downhill that paralleled a creek. Ed warned me that this would be short lived, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. We passed a number of hikers out enjoying this day, and I was having a blast.

Just like Ed promised, the uphill did eventually catch up to us and, while I tried to hold on as long as I could, this time I did decide to do some walking. Whew....I was really being pushed today.

We continued climbing, eventually going up a nice switchback, until we reached an open area that had a path up to the top of a hill. Looking like a viewpoint, we headed up, and were greeted with a spectacular view of the Silicon Valley.

The clouds were certainly coming in, 

so we took an obligatory - self portrait...

...and then we were off. Ed showed me our route, telling me about the lovely downhill coming up and then the flat section after that. 

However, when we headed out, he started going uphill! "Didn't you hear what I said about the first part?" he asked in response to my complaining. Apparently my selective hearing had totally ignored his explanation that the first stretch would be climbing further upward. 

We continued hiking (and Ed sadly revealed that this mile was at 17:30 pace..."I didn't realize we were going so slow!" he lamented). At another fork I yelled, "Come on downhill!" cheering for the pathway to the right that looked just lovely. Unfortunately Ed directed us to the uphill to the left. Luckily, he realized that that was a mistake, and we did get to go down that beautiful downhill.

This next stretch was a blast, as it was perfectly sloped downhill fire road for the foreseeable future. 

(Ed circling back as he waited for me to take a picture. He likes to do this...)

As we thundered down the hill (clocking a 9:30 mile!!) I looked out to my left and was treated with a view of the valley below, and of the trail that we would eventually be on. It's lovely to see your future laid out so clearly for you. 

All good things must end, and soon we had reached to bottom of our decent. While the downhill had ended, the rest of the run was relatively mild - almost completely flat for the last 3 or so miles. 

However, I have to admit that at this point, my legs were certainly feeling the effort of those uphill pushes. And, running with Ed, we weren't going to slow down to a slog on such runnable trail. He kept pushing me as we continued to wind next to a different section of the creek, eventually reaching the "Dear Hollow Farm," a cute little place full of sweet looking toddlers. 

I continued slowing down, ever so slightly, as Ed continued to push us forward. We had now found where all those people who filled up the parking had been hiding. The last few miles to the cars were simply full of people - many of them young families enjoying some time outside before the storm came in. 

The last mile was on the verge of being tortuous. I was very much desiring to walk, or at least slow down considerably, but Ed would have none of that (not that I really asked - just running with Ed makes me feel obligated to push farther, and run, not walk, whenever possible). 

As we neared the parking lots, Ed headed up to the right, which didn't seem right. I questioned it, and we decided to go back and try the other trail, which was the correct distance. Thank goodness, because at this point, we were not going to tack on an extra mile, "just because." As we got closer to our car, we reached a small uphill, which looked huge to my tired eyes. I gritted my teeth and up we went. 

Finally, our car was in front of us, and we were done. 

My legs were burning, after only 7.7 miles, but, I have to say, it was a hard, full effort, 7.7. 

Back in the car, I was happy to be done. I justified my sheer exhaustion by telling Ed that I wasn't planning on doing a long run this week, just a bunch of 7s. He responded by saying, "You mean, you didn't plan to do any short runs."

Hey, I guess he's right! 7 is on the longer side. 

How special that it's now feeling "shorter" :). 


It a separate, but running related note, I made a huge runner faux pas over the last few weeks. Somewhere along the trails, I came into contact with the dreaded poison oak. It's been so long since I've had it, I thought it was a particularly troublesome bug bite at first. Ed and I thought perhaps a spider or something along that line had infiltrated our bed, and as more of my leg became itchy, it got a little worrisome.

However, when the full "pattern" from the poison emerged, after a week or so after the first itch, the root of my pain became all too apparent. 

(My first "outbreak," which is slowly getting better. The poison seemed to have sort of wrapped around my ankle!)

(What convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was poison oak. This part is the most itchy lately. It's driving me crazy!!!)

Two weeks later, I am still very itchy, and now much more cautious as I travel on the trails. 

Darn Poison Oak!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pizza and a Night in the City

After our wonderful run on Valentine's Day, we decided on a romantic dinner of pizza.

With such great results the last time we used Trader Joe's pizza dough, we were excited to try again with a new kind of pizza. This time, we went with white dough to go with a BBQ chicken pizza, inspired by my favorite "California Pizza Kitchen" dish.

This was such an easy pizza to make - we topped it with Trader Joe's BBQ sauce, mozzerella cheese, and chicken that had been sauteed and then covered in more BBQ sauce. We also sauteed some red onion to top the pizza and then, after it cooked, we liberally sprinkled it with cilantro. 

Cilantro has to be my favorite herb, which is funny because I hated it as a child. I always ordered the BBQ chicken pizza without the cilantro, and even got a free pizza once when they accidently put cilantro on it. Now I can't get enough of it :). 

We both loved this pizza! It wasn't the healthiest (5 WW points, or about 250 calories a slice, with the pizza cut into 8 slices) but it was divine.

Next time we'll have to try the whole wheat dough!


To keep our celebration of love going, we embarked on part 2 of our Valentine's Day, by traveling up to San Francisco for a mini vacation in the city to see "Wicked".

We left for the city around 3pm, but unfortunately hit some traffic once we got close. Our trusty GPS directed us on a detour that got us safely to our hotel. We were staying at "The Phoenix," which would have looked more in place in Palm Springs than in the middle of San Francisco. It had a tiki/60s vibe, with a beautifully tiled pool and bamboo lounge deckware. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was a fun place to stay.

After settling into the room, we began searching for a place to eat dinner. We had tried to do this before we arrived, but we couldn't make a decision, so now we were in more of a time crunch. We made a couple calls without success, but then stumbled upon "Indigo," a small, intimate restaurant blocks from the theater.

They had a 6 o'clock reservation open and a wonderful "Prix Fixe" deal: $34.95 for an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Ed and I entered the restaurant, excited about its appearance and already looking forward to the meal.

(photo courtesy of google search :) )
It was a softly lit restaurant, full of happy diners. Ed and I both went for the mixed greens with blue cheese and toasted walnuts, which was delicious, and a fabulous pork tenderloin, in a red wine sauce, served over creamy polenta, with green beans. It was amazing! I am now inspired to make polenta :). We paired it with lovely glasses of Shiraz. For desert, I had panne cotta, and Ed had a trio of sorbet. 

Sufficiently (or perhaps more than sufficiently) full, we headed for the theater. We took a round-about route past city hall that eventually got us to Market Street (apparently we aren't the best at following directions), but got to the theater at the perfect time - about 15 minutes before the play. 
(Photo courtesy of

The sign outside was brightly lit and the front was teeming (to use on of my students' vocabulary words) with people. 

We pushed our way inside and headed to our seats. They were way up high, in the 2nd balcony, but we were in the center, with a nice (albeit far away) view of the stage. 

The Orpheum Theater (where Wicked is playing) is gorgeous - with an intricately decorated ceiling and a huge light centerpiece. I enjoyed looking at it as I waited for the show to start. 

The stage itself was surrounded with a scaffolding of gears, and a huge dragon towered over the stage. 

I was very excited to see this play, as I had been really into the music for a while in college. I know all the songs by heart, but didn't know the story line that tied the musical together. Ed was fairly unfamiliar with the musical, so for him ti was all new. 

Overall, it was a great production! The performers were excellent and the set was well made and enjoyable to watch. I was happily surprised by the ending (which I won't give away). It was so much fun to have an evening out!

We had a lot of fun living the city life for a night, but it does feel nice to be back to our quiet reality :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Infinitely Better Than a Box of Chocolates...

I've never been a big proponent of celebrating Valentine's Day like most traditionalists out there. Primarily because all the traditional activities are either unhealthy (chocolates) or crowded (going out to dinner) and it just isn't particularly pleasant. This year we decided no official gifts. Instead, we'd celebrate our love on Thursday (since I have this week off from teaching) by going up to SF and seeing Wicked, and then spending the night in the city. We'll be able to have a romantic getaway and avoid the crowds of this weekend :).

However, that still left us with what to do on the day itself. Ed suggested that we head up to the city and run across the Golden Gate and up into the Marin Headlands. Ed's done this a bunch of times, but I had  never had the confidence to go on those trails alone, even though I ran on the bridge all the time. Ed had found the perfect place to park, a lot just half a mile or so from the bridge - free and uncrowded at 8:30 on a Sunday!

We planned to run 10 miles, since I felt like I could handle it. However, my legs were tired! Not just from the race last week, but also because Ed and I ran together on Friday, and I decided to practice going fast(er) than normal. Ed kept wanting to speed ahead, but I kept us at a nice slow pace, which was a bit cold going over the incredibly foggy bridge.

Running over the Golden Gate is always a unique experience, as San Francisco never gives the same day twice. Today, the fog was as thick a pea soup, with the bridge practically invisible all around us. The sound of a blaring foghorn repeatedly bellowed below us, and we could imagine the giant ships traversing the bay. We were hoping that by the time we returned, some of this fog would burned off.

Once we reached the other side, we made a quick stop at the vista point. to use of the facilities and then made the journey to the other side of the bridge. What I hadn't realized was that Ed didn't know about the pedestrian bridge under the street. Instead of the lovely easy under pass, Ed led me on a somewhat dangerous path on the road through a tunnel. We went quickly, and afterwards I told him that I knew there was a better way, which we would definitely search for on the way back.

After going up the road a bit, we finally made it to the trail, a thin singletrack cut into the hills above the bridge that I had often eyed and always wanted to try. It was a bit steep, and we (or, well, I) was slowed to a hike, but I thought with happiness of running down this on our return.

After, perhaps, a half mile more of uphill, the trail finally leveled off and I got to start running again. Ed and I were both impressed with the lushness of the trail, made even more beautiful by the blue skies that began to appear. 

At the trail junction, we stopped for a photo opportunity, and then headed north.

I kept exclaiming my amazedness at the beauty of the day and the trails and the views, thanking Ed for bringing me to such a wonderful place. The trail had opened up, with views of a beautiful valley below.

I could see the road that we had driven on before to get to Rodeo Lagoon, and it was fun to see from so high above. He told me a little about running on this trail during the race - even though I had been on these trails before, it was a long time ago, and very foggy then. We could even see the ocean! 
We went through a few groves of eucalyptus, and came upon a bench. Ed's words of wisdom? "If there's a bench, there must be a good view." Up we headed, and  were greeted with a valley blanketed in a thick layer of fog, with a few peaks poking through the white. 
We climbed a bit higher, to take in even more of the view, and were treated with a beautiful view of our favorite mountain, Mt. Tam. We're getting married there in just over 4 months!!!

We were at about 4.8 miles, but neither of us wanted to turn around in two tenths of a mile. "I could probably do 11 today," I told Ed. Just an extra half mile isn't that far, right? We both gulped down a cliff shot (My first in over 2 years! They taste just the same).

We continued our journey, which was taking a downward trend (in altitude, not in fun). "Are you sure about this?" Ed asked. "This is fun, and it's worth it" I replied. "But, remind me I said that when we're hiking back up."

We ended up on the Bobcat trail and continued our slow decent as I watched the mileage slip by. At 5.5 miles, I still wasn't ready to head back. "Could we do 12 today?" I asked him. He told me it was my choice, so on we went. At six on the dot, we reversed our path and headed back. I amazed myself (and Ed) by running up a substantial amount of the uphill, which really wasn't that steep. 

Before I knew it, we were back to the amazing singletrack, which I've decided is much more fun to run, even uphill. 

The fog was still present, much to our chagrin, but the tops of the bridge were poking out, trying to escape the clouds. 

As we continued down the singletrack, we were back within the clouds. However, we were plenty distracted by the fun we were having as we pounded downhill. It really felt like we were flying, and all too soon we were back to the road.

This time, however, we were not going through the car tunnel. "You're leading the way," Ed told me, as I led him across a parking lot. Voila - a pedestrian underpass. Ed looked with a bit of dismay as we ran underneath the bridge. No more unsafe tunnels - Ed has been educated. 

We decided to stop back by the visitor's center, as we were both out of water, and I was feeling very thirsty. After refilling, it was a mere 2.5 miles between us and our goal. Our trip across the bay was still very foggy, but now also very crowded. There were lots of people, including many couples enjoying a crossing of this famous bridge. 

However, after about halfway across, we were greeted with a pleasant surprise - the sun! 

It was amazing to watch the bridge transform, from muted tones into a fiery orange, contrasted with a blue sky. 

I kept wanting to turn around while I was running to stare at the bridge, but I was, I'll admit, getting tired. Ed was also getting a bit tired of waiting for me to take pictures, so I put on my game face and pushed onward. 

Once we crossed over the bridge, I realized we were going to be a little shot on mileage and, once I set my mind on doing 12, I wasn't going to be happy with anything less. I thought that it would be fun to take a loop along some trail that I used to run on back in my Berkeley days so I told Ed to follow my lead. 

We headed down a pathway, not the one I planned (it had been a while since I'd done this), but this worked just as well. We entered into a small tunnel (which I was a bit nervous about) 

and then onto a more familiar path. I was looking forward to going onto "my trail," a short quarter mile stretch hidden within a Eucalyptus grove above Crissy Field. This was always a special stretch for me, my first experience on a "trail," where I felt like I had escaped the city. 

However, the sight that greeted me was not at all what I expected. 

The right side of the trail had been razed. The trail was destroyed, with putrid piles of muddy water covering the ground. I don't know what happened, or why this trail stretch was destroyed. I continued to cross this pathway with a bit of sadness in my heart, lamenting the loss of such a special place. I knew that this would be my last time running across this ground. 

I breathed a sigh of relief as I finally reached the other side of this disappointing, muddy pathway, and Ed and I headed up towards the car. A quick glance to my watch showed that it would be close, but we just might make the mileage. We needed 0.22 of a mile. I ran tiredly up the bike path with my eyes on the watch. I was getting closer and closer to my goal, and, with a large loop around the car completed, I heard the tell - tale beep that signaled the end of a mile - my twelfth! 

What an amazing day - 2 extra miles, spectacular scenery, and the most romantic date a girl could ask for. 

What a perfect Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

3 Years Later....

I woke up in the middle of the night to hear the rain pouring down outside. California has been battered with storms lately and a new one had moved in overnight, promising to last through the next day and soak the bay area. While Ed and I kept hoping that the storm would hold off, it made it clear that it was here to stay.

I fell back asleep and before I knew it, it was seven o'clock and time to get up. The rain had stopped and the weather report claimed only a 10% chance of rain during the race time.  I chose to wear my running skirt, short sleeved shirt, and jacket. I figured if the rain held off, I wouldn't need to dress that warmly and, with all the hill climbing, I didn't want to overheat.

After a breakfast of oatmeal with half a banana, we jumped in the car and headed to Woodside.

PCTR's Woodside race holds a special place in my heart (which I talked about a few weeks ago), and I was looking forward to traversing those trails once again. It was even more special because this would be the first race that Ed and I would get to do "together". Yes, he was doing the 35k and would be going much faster than me, but our races started at the same time and would be traveling a lot of the same trails.

We picked up our numbers and then took shelter in the car until 15 minutes before the race start, as the rain continued to sprinkle down on us. I did a last minute switch into a long sleeved shirt underneath my jacket (great decision) and then we headed out to line up. I got to see my friend Sarah, who I hadn't seen in ages. She was running the 35k, just like Ed. Being faster, both Ed and Sarah moved their way up in the pack, while I edged backwards, content to seek out slower running folk. Wendell gave the traditional directions and then we were off!

From the first steps, mud made itself known as a constant companion on this race. From the muddy hillside to the sticky trails, it would be with us the whole time, sometimes sticky, sometimes slippery and always wet.

We all rushed down the hill, only to be brought to a standstill as we entered the singletrack. This beginning was, I think, the most memorable part of the race the first time around, and I still got a little bit of that feeling that I was embarking on an amusement ride of sorts, about to be launched down a fast and fun track.

As we got going again, I began to chat with the two women behind me, who were talking about running AR50. I forget how I entered into the conversation, but ended up telling them about Dick Collins (giving it a hearty recommendation) and talking a little bit in general about how elevation isn't all that scary if you just practice (the 7,000 + ft in DC had them a bit unsure about contemplating that race). We shifted into the more general small talk (where you from? what do you do? etc?) and just generally enjoyed a nice pace along this relatively flat section of the course. I also got something I didn't expect along this section - a compliment on my skirt! I ended up getting a few along the way, which surprised me. I didn't realize that I was making a fashion statement with my skirt :).

As the fireroad shifted from flat to uphill, we slowed to a brisk hike. It was here that I ended up meeting my running partner for the next several miles, Cally. She and I were going about the same pace (though she was doing the 35k) and it was great having the company on the steady uphill. We shared stories and histories, and she even gave me some advice about ways to try to deal with my leg.

However, as we got nearer to the summit, I felt ready to pick up the pace, surprisingly enough, and so we exchanged contact information and I went ahead. It felt good to be going a bit faster until I reached what felt like a wall - the singletrack had opened up to an incredibly steep fireroad, and it took all I had to hike up. I commiserated with a few other racers as we hoped for the trail to flatten.

Once we reached a more manageable steepness, we all picked up the pace again, and in not too long, we were finally at the aid station - the halfway point for me!

I looked with longing at the spread set before me, but that little voice in the back of my head reminded me that 10 miles wasn't really that long, and I didn't really need junk food calories. So, I chose 4 slices of orange, which was nice and refreshing, and then headed back, retracing my steps the quarter mile back to the fork, where I would get to go straight down an incredibly fun and thrilling downhill singletrack.

The next few miles flew by and I rocketed down the winding trail. The misty fog was hanging in the redwoods and I was drinking in the heady air with glee. I did have brief (well, maybe not so brief) moments of worry as I looked around for the potential mountain lion. However, I reasoned that no self respecting mountain lion would be out in such dreary weather when it could be curled up in a cozy cave somewhere. It helped that I passed a fellow racer at one point, so I didn't feel quite as alone.

I also had an embarrassingly selfish thought about that runner (which only serves to emphasize my psychosis when it comes to mountain lions) - the runner I passed was dressed head to toe in a beige tracksuit and my fearful mind told me that, if anything, his clothes made him look much more like a deer than me so, if the mountain lion had a choice, he would look much  more tempting. I know, I'm a somewhat horrible person - please don't judge me too harshly! I promise I didn't really want him to be eaten :(.

As I continued my fast descent, I had a small moment of panic when I realized that I was enjoying myself so much, I had forgotten to keep my eye out for the bright pink ribbons that marked the race route. When was the last time I had seen one? I couldn't remember, and didn't see any in the near future. As I kept up my pace, I told myself that this downhill was so fun, even if it wasn't part of the course, I would just figure it out later. I had a map after all.

Thankfully, after a few more minutes, a bright spot of pink appeared in the distance, and I knew I was still on course. However, while I was happy to be going the right way, I wasn't happy when the downhill suddenly stopped. I didn't remember this from my 1st race here, but the ribbons affirmed that this was correct. Well, darn...I wasn't counting on doing any more uphill! Much to my relief, it didn't last that long and I eventually got back to the downhill once again.

With all this pounding, my legs were beginning to feel it. I hoped that it wasn't much further, but my Garmin claimed I still had over 2 miles ahead. I tried to keep up the pace, and eventually saw another racer on the trail ahead. She was going a good pace herself, but I soon caught up. I stayed with her for a few minutes as we chatted. She told me she thought we had less than a mile left, and I didn't want to break the bad news to her that it was much further, according to my GPS. I said goodbye and, just when I was just about to slow down, I saw something amazing.

Cars. A whole row of them! Wait, was I really seeing the parking above the finish? Indeed I was. I started smiling as I realized that my Garmin had lied and I was about to finish my longest run in years. As I speeded towards the finish, I gave a smile to the camera and said hi to Hao, yelling hello as I passed and then, that was it, I was done.

After I crossed the finish (in 2 hours, 23 minutes, and 2 seconds), I slowed to a stop and milled around the finish, picking up my shirt and taking in the scene. It was still drizzly and I started getting cold. I knew it would probably be a while until Ed finished, so I headed back to the car, where I changed into a dry shirt and sweatshirt, and curled up in the car with a few jackets over me and a good book.

Less than an hour later, Ed arrived, happy with his own race (4th place!!!) though a little put out that I wasn't at the finish to cheer him in. If only it hadn't been so wet and cold!

We drove back home, contented and exhausted, having given our best efforts to the trails.

The conversation on the way home?

Our next race. Looks like we'll be racing together next month at Pirate's Cove :)

Our very muddy legs post race :). You can tell that we had fun!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Oven Puffed Pancake

Ed has been craving pancakes lately, since there has been a definite lack of pancake-y breakfasts since I started eating healthier.

I decided to do a bit of research and came up with Cooking Light's, "Oven Puffed Pancake," a lower calorie and delicious alternative to the traditional breakfast treat. As an added bonus, it's much easier to make than a normal pancake and it also a bit more fun.

Oven Puffed Pancake 
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c. fat free milk
2 T granulated sugar
1/4 t salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 T butter
Powdered sugar (optional)

Nutritional Information

(serving size - 1/4 of pancake)

141 (28% from fat)
4.4g (sat 2.3g,mono 1.4g,poly 0.4g)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through egg white); Stir until combined. (Edited: On making this again, I used a wisk instead of a spoon and it was easier to combine)

Melt butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet or other oven safe pan (we used a stainless steel pan).

Pour batter into pan. Cook over heat for 1 minute. Do not stir!

Transfer pan to oven and bake at 425 for 15-18 minutes, or until golden.

Ours barely made it 15 minutes, and was very poofy and golden brown.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar using a sifter (if desired) and cut into fourths (kitchen shears worked the best for this!). I had a little over 1/4 (the serving size) and Ed had the other 3/4's.

We topped ours with cut strawberries and just a touch of low calorie maple syrup. The pancake would also be lovely with honey, jam, or even plain, as it is sweet and delicious on it's own!

Happy Breakfasting.

(Edit: I've just made this recipe again, and have to say, I love making it from my blog with the pictures! It was easy to follow :). Good motivation to post more recipes)

Vanilla Cupcakes

With all my healthy eating, treating myself to cupcakes was not high on my list of dessert options. However, Ed and I had been feeling a little bored with our pudding and ice cream treats, and thought that this would be a fun treat.

The recipe is officially titled, "Hungry Girl Fluff Cakes," and is a lightened version of the traditional cupcake, that can pack a mind boggling 348 calories and 14 grams of fat. This version has a much more respectable 164 calories and only 3 grams of fat. It tastes lighter, but it still really enjoyable! To see the original recipe, click here.

Light Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 9 - 10 Servings

For Frosting
1 1/4 cups Cool Whip Free, thawed
1 1/2 tbsp. Jell-O Sugar Free Fat Free Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix

For Cupcakes
Half of an 18.25-oz. box (about 1 1/2 cups) moist-style yellow cake mix (I used my food scale to measure out 9.15 oz of cake mix)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup Sprite Zero (or another diet lemon-lime soda), room temperature (I used Fresca)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg whites

For Topping
3 tbsp. rainbow sprinkles


First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

You'll want to make the frosting first, because it needs time to sit in order to reach it's full potential :). 

To make the frosting, place your Cool Whip in a bowl, and then add the pudding mix. Mix until smooth. Then, take plastic wrap, and press into the top of the frosting until covered, press into sides of bowl and over the top. Place in fridge and keep there until needed. 

Next, I took a large bowl and put my sifter over it. Into the sifter, place the cake mix and baking powder and sift so that there were no lumps. Then, add the soda and vanilla extract, mixing until smooth. The batter will be fizzy! That's okay :). Once you've finished this step, set it aside. 

In a smaller bowl, whip egg white with a handheld mixer, set on medium speed until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. (This part was very cool, as I've never whipped egg white before! They got very fluffy. I whipped mine for about 1 1/2 minutes). Gently mix egg white into the cake batter until thoroughly combined. It took longer than I expected to mix these together, but they got there.

Now, it's time to get the pan ready. Line 10 cups of a 12 cup muffin pan with baking cups (the recipe says it will only fill 9, but ours filled 10 with a little to spare). Evenly distribute the batter among the cups (start with filling 9 and then add to the 10th if you have enough batter). The cups will be VERY full - that's okay! All of the cups on ours will fill to just above the brim, which was perfect. 

Bake for 15 - 17 minutes (ours baked for 17) until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out fairly clean. Your cupcakes should be slightly golden and poofy. 

Remove the cupcakes from the pan using a knife and your hand to carefully lift them out and onto a plate. This will help them to cool faster. Once the cupcakes are cool (it takes what feels like a
long 20 minutes, with the cupcakes removed from the pan) frost with your reserved frosting and add sprinkles. The frosting is delicious and we'll need to make a bit more to frost the last of our cupcakes, but if you do a thin layer yours should cover all of them. We only frosted the ones we were eating so that we could leave the cupcakes out overnight and have freshly frosted cupcakes when we're ready for them!


Makes 9 - 10 Servings

"Homemade Pizza"

While this isn't really a recipe, it's a good reminder that making "homemade" pizza can be a quick and fun activity, and is infinitely superior to the boxed variety.

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Pizza

*Trader Joe's Pre-made pizza dough, fresh herb (sold in small bags in the refrigerated section of the store.
* Tomato sauce (we used Classico's Red Bell Pepper and Roasted Garlic)
* 1/2 an onion
* 2 zucchini
* 4 artichoke hearts, (canned in water)
* minced garlic (to taste)
* Fontina Cheese (about 2 cups)
* Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes (also from trader joes)

Ed and I were in the mood for pizza and, since we were given a very nice toaster oven for Christmas, from Ed's Brother Tom, that promised it could cook a 12 inch pizza, we decided to give it a try.

We began by pre-heating the toaster oven at the "pizza setting". We realized afterwards that this setting is probably for frozen pizza and wasn't quite hot enough for ours. Next time, we'll set it at 450 like the dough packaging recommends.

Once the oven we going we started cooking the onion and zucchini. I like crisp zucchini, so I cooked the onion first, until it was slightly caramelized, and then cooked my zucchini over a higher temperature, sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Once they were cooked, we put them aside.

Next, we took the artichoke hearts and cut them into bite sized pieces. Then, we put them in a pan with some minced garlic and cooked a minute or two, until slightly browned.

Once the "cooking" was done, we were ready to assemble the pizza.

The fun part was making the crust. Ed and I took turns turning and stretching it until it reached the 12 inch size needed to cover our pan. Once it was made, we put down a thin layer of tomato sauce, and then covered with our onion, zucchini and garlic artichoke hearts.

After our layer of veggies, we coated the pizza with a layer of fontina cheese.

Next, we put down a layer of sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes, face down.

We put the pizza in the oven for about 20 minutes.

It was very delicious and fresh tasting, and we especially loved the dough. We topped it with some parmesan and red pepper flakes to give it some spice. The dough wasn't quite as crispy as we would have liked, and next time we'll pre-heat the pan to see if that helps.

All in all, though, a very successful meal of pizza!

Seared Sesame Encrusted Ahi with Onion Quinoa and Asparagus

This recipe is my go to recipe for when we have company over, because it is reliably good, somewhat impressive, and pretty healthy.

Onion Quinoa

*1 large yellow onion
*1 T Olive Oil
* 1/2 C. White Wine

* 1 t olive oil
* 1 - 2 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 C Quinoa (rinsed)
* 2 1/4 C. Chicken Broth
* 1/2 t. onion powder
* 1/2 t. garlic powder

The quinoa should be started first, as it takes the longest to cook.

To begin, caramelize cut up one large, yellow onion into small pieces. Place onion into a heated pan, coated with olive oil. Put a lit over onions and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once onions have started becoming translucent, add about 1/2 a cup of white wine and recover, cooking another 10 minutes or so, until the wine has cooked off. Once the onions look caramelized, take off the heat and place to the side. I usually only do this step before guests arrive, as from here on out, it is very simple and takes only about 25 minutes for dinner to be ready.

Once you are ready to start cooking dinner, take a medium saucepan and add a small amount of olive oil (1 tsp or so). Heat the pan over medium heat until oil has warmed, then add chopped garlic (1 -2 cloves). Let cook for about one minute and then add 1 cup of rinsed quinoa and the caramelized onions. Cook for another minute, to toast quinoa, and then add 2 1/4 cups of Chicken Broth, and the onion and garlic powders. Stir a few times to mix, and then put on the lid. Continue cooking until liquid has been absorbed (20-30 minutes).

Seared Sesame Encrusted Ahi

* Seared Grade Ahi Tuna Filets
* Sesame mixture from whole foods (A mix of black and tan sesame seeds would also work)
* 1 T sesame oil

The Ahi is the easiest part of this recipe. I start with sear grade Ahi filets from Whole Foods (though any good produce store will work). Whole Foods is best, though, because when you buy their Ahi, you can get complementary sesame mix that works perfectly for encrusting the filet.

The Ahi is a very quick cooking fish and should be started about 5 minutes before you would like to eat. To prepare, cut the Ahi into filets. Then, take a stainless steel pan and heat over medium high heat. After pan has heated, at a few tsp of sesame oil to pan, swirling to coat. Once oil has heated, take each filet and dip one side and then the other in the sesame mixture. Place filets in pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. The filet should still be pink around the center, with a tan color around each edge.


* 1 lb. Asparagus, trimmed
* salt and pepper, to taste

The asparagus goes well with this dish, and can be roasted in the oven (with a little olive oil, salt and pepper) or steamed on the stove.


Adventures in Food

My Woodside Race report is still coming (but, long story short, it was wet and fabulous! I had a great time :) ), but I thought I would take a moment to put up some of the many food creations I've been making lately. Ever since I've begun my journey to be healthier, I have become a lot more adventurous with cooking and baking. I've also been using my camera to document my lovely creations. I thought it would be fun to actually post some of those recipes on here, both to share with all of you, and to have a record of things I've tried so that I can look back on it :).

So, the next few posts will be some of my favorite food successes from the last month!