Friday, May 28, 2010

Recipes: PIZZA!!! (Pictured on pans after being baked on the pizza stone - I put them in the oven to keep them warm until dinner).

I'm not posting the recipe I use for pizza because it's not mine - it's a "secret family recipe" from a friend. But here's a really good one from the California Pizza Kitchen (note: it's only for 9"pizzas so I'd double it to make 2 good-sized pizzas).

By the way, a pizza stone makes a HUGE difference. Invest in one! And, while you're at it, get a pizza peel if you can so you can slide the pizza onto the pre-heated pizza stone in the oven. Keep the stone hot. Pre-heat at 500 F for a good 30-45 minutes before you use it. When the first pizza is done, scrape off excess cornmeal and cheese, then put the stone back in the oven for another 20 minutes if you can to bring the heat back into the stone. (careful! 500F is HOT!).

1 teaspoon yeast
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water (105 degrees to 110 degrees F)
1 ½ cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon for coating
Cornmeal and flour (to spread on pizza peel or pan before forming pizza dough)

Dissolve yeast in water, set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. Combine all other ingredients (except 1 t. olive oil) with dissolved yeast in mixing bowl. Mix for 2-3 minutes, until dough is smooth & elastic. Lightly oil your hands & begin kneading the dough for 5 minutes. When done, dough should be slightly tacky.
Lightly oil the dough ball & interior of a 1-quart glass bowl. Place dough in bowl & seal airtight with clear food wrap. Set aside at room temperature to rise until double in bulk - about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Punch down. You can either use the dough now or wait until tomorrow! (About 2 hours prior to assembling pizza, remove dough from refrigerator. Use a sharp knife to divide dough into 2 equal portions. Let dough come to room temperature for 2 hours).

To form the dough
Generously sprinkle flour and cornmeal over a clean, smooth surface. [Form the dough on a pizza peel, large bread board or the back of a large cookie sheet so you can lift it and slide it onto the pizza stone). Carefully remove a dough ball. Flour dough liberally. Place floured dough on the floured smooth surface.
Use your hand or rolling pin to press dough down forming a flat circle about ½" thick. Pinch dough between your fingers all around edge of circle, forming a lip about ¼" above center surface of dough. Continue outward stretching motion of hands to make a 9-inch diameter pizza dough.

I've gotten sort of comfortable twirling the pizza in the air. Don't use a rolling pin - the pizza won't come off easily enough to put on the pizza stone. REMEMBER: keep lots of flour and cornmeal under the pizza dough after it's stretched/pulled/pushed into form so you can remove it.

Brush olive oil on top of pizza. This keeps pizza sauce from soaking into the dough and making a soggy pizza. Use sauce and toppings of choice. Slide onto pizza stone (if you don't have one, go ahead and bake on pizza pan or cookie sheet). Bake for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted and dough is golden.

Topping ideas:

Thai pizza variation #1: Use Thai Sweet Red Chili Sauce for the pizza sauce (about 1/4 cup each pizza), mozzarella or other cheese of choice, then toppings of choice - like cooked & cubed chicken, green peppers, onions, garlic. When pizza is done, add shredded carrots, cilantro (if you like), fresh tomatoes, or whatever you like.

Thai pizza variation #2: Use Thai peanut sauce (mix in some plum sauce, too, if you like). Same cheese and toppings, but try adding at the end fresh bean sprouts.

BBQ: Use BBQ sauce, cheese, chicken, pre-cooked and crumbled bacon, onions.

Cheese: use pizza sauce and cheese. :)

Alfredo: (these are all pretty self-explanatory, aren't they?) Use alfredo sauce, cheese, chicken, onions, and broccoli.

(Grand)Daddy's Cookies (you don't have to use blue frosting and pink sprinkles, by the way :) This is what happens when kids decide).

When I was little, we always called these "Daddy's Cookies." Now that my Dad is a grandpa, and my husband is "Dad" we have to change the name. These were/are my Dad's favorite cookies. They are sooooooooo yummy. They are a drop sugar cookie, but you could roll them out and use cookie cutters if you want - just add more flour so the dough is thick enough for that.

1 C. Butter or margarine

1 C. shortening (we always use white, but I bet butter-flavored would be good, too)

1 C. powdered sugar

1 C. Granulated sugar

Beat above together until sugars are dissolved.

Beat in:

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

Mix in:

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. baking soda

Add 4+ cups flour until desired texture. (I usually do 4 1/2).

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Check at 8 minutes. Cookies are done when they have lightly browned edges.


Frost with whatever you like - butter, cream cheese, or shortening frostings. This is the traditional frosting my Dad likes (but I often just use a butter frosting).

Beat together:

3/4 C. Flour

1 C. Shortening

1/2 tsp. salt

When all is mixed thoroughly, SLOWLY add 3/4 C. cold water while continue beating. Add 3 C. powdered sugar and beat until frosting is done.

This is so not healthy, but really really tasty!

Reading: I'm back to reading Horatio Hornblower. I have now read him out of captivity and back to his crew. He just helped capture another French frigate. Good for him. (I'm enjoying the book, by the way).

Running: I did my long run yesterday (Friday) so I'd have the whole Memorial Day weekend to be lazy. It was tough, since I'd had a hard speed-work session on Thursday and had a late book-group night Thursday night, but I did it. 20.6 miles (I really want to say 21, but that's not exactly true. Dang.) all by myself. Usually my brother runs with me, but couldn't. So off I went, passed some friends going the other way and thought about joining them, but I wasn't sure if my plans were the same as theirs (and I didn't want to turn around). It was very very pretty, when it wasn't raining on me. I did kind of lose my mind after 2 hours or so, and began thinking really random thoughts.

This is what I got to see on my run - Pictured above: The farmers are preparing their fields. Way in back you can see the tractor that is plowing the furrows. My thoughts when I ran by: "Wow, potato farmers are really down-to-earth people." A few minutes later I realized what I'd thought and just laughed.

The nice thing about running early is you get to see the sunrise. (I run with my phone so I just used that for pictures).

I really do like running. I am not fast - the whole 20.6 miles took too long and would put my marathon at a 4:15 time (my best time is 3:50, but that was 2 years ago). I was very happy though with my time on Summer's Hill. It's a 3 mile-long uphill that is a beast. I did it under 25 minutes (about 8 minute miles). Maybe I just need to find a marathon that is all uphill and I'll get my best time on that...?

No ruminations right now - my head is empty.


Spring is cold this year, and cloudy, and rainy, but still pretty. My girls love the flowers at my mom's house.

My son going crazy with the clarinet.

My other son with his lego Name Plate. Good job, Oliver.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Discrimination hasn't died. Recipe: Chicken lo mein.

This is kind of a heavy post, so just read the recipe and running parts if you want to avoid feeling pulled down! Sometimes life isn't brilliant all the time. But it's okay. It is wonderful most of the time. My next post is going to be full of smiles and happy thoughts - I PROMISE!

Recipes: Chicken Lo Mein (pictured above before the noodles were added)
This is an adaptation from's chicken lo mein recipe. We love it. It is so easy and so good, and a great way to get veggies in the kids!
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Marinade:
  • 4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. tsp. Chinese sweet cooking rice wine (you can omit this and just use a little apple juice or white grape juice - or you can omit it all together, not a big deal.)
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame seed oil
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • Sauce:
  • 1 1/2 Cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 Cups plus 1 teaspoon oyster sauce (this really is a must - for a great taste).
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • Other:
  • 1 lb. Chinese noodles (thin or thick noodles are fine) OR we often just use thin spaghetti noodles (cooked al dente)
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (about 1 carrot) OR just use pre-cut packaged matchstick carrots. Saves time.
  • 2 (8 ounce) can straw mushrooms - or really you can use any kind of mushrooms.
  • Any other vegetables you like! We use broccoli, sweet peppers, onions, green onions, summer squash, zucchini, or any other stir-fry friendly vegies.
  • 6 Tbs. vegetable or peanut oil for stir-frying, or as needed
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste, if desired

1. Cut the chicken into thin strips about 2 inches long. (It’s easiest to do this if the chicken is slightly frozen). Add the light soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, sesame oil and the cornstarch. Marinate the chicken for 20 minutes.

2. While the chicken is marinating, prepare the other ingredients: Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Chinese Noodles: Cook the noodles in boiling water until they are cooked al dente (tender but still firm). This will take about 3 minutes for fresh noodles, and 4 - 5 minutes for dried noodles. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

Spaghetti or other thin noodles: cook al dente in salted water according to package directions. Drain, rinse briefly to stop the cooking.

3. Cut the carrot into thin strips to match the chicken (Or use matchstick carrots - MUCH easier and faster). Rinse the mushrooms under running water to remove any “tinny” taste. Drain thoroughly.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high to high heat. Add the garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds until aromatic, then add the chicken. Stir-fry the chicken until it changes color and is 80 percent cooked. (If you need more oil, try adding 1 tablespoon water). Remove the chicken and clean out the wok.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil and the salt in the wok. Add the carrots and mushrooms. Stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the chicken. Add the noodles, stirring to mix in with the other ingredients. Add the sauce into the wok, mixing with the other ingredients.

6. Cook for 2 more minutes. Taste and add salt or pepper if desired. Serve hot.

Running: 7 1/2 today (outside, hills), rest yesterday, and 7 (treadmill) on Monday. Last week I logged around 40 miles. That's a high mileage week for me. But everything is relative: there's a lady from Idaho (Lisa Smith-Batchen) running 50 miles A DAY in each of the 50 states over a period of 62 days (she takes a rest day every 5th day). And she's doing it to raise money for orphans. How cool is that?
I had a lot of energy last week, left-over glycogen in my muscles from fueling on the marathon the Saturday before. It took me all week to deplete the stores, and finally felt the bonk around mile 5 of my 14 1/2 mile run this past Saturday. I was actually relieved. It means I know where I am (nutritionally) and know how to handle each day as I get ready for another marathon in 2 1/2 weeks. I think I will have to fuel better beforehand this next race - fuel didn't kick in until mile 10 - and will start w/the gels probably the day before. Not everybody's body acts like mine, so I don't dare recommend this as a general rule. Most people will be fine if they stick with the food carb-loading approach. But I metabolize things really slowly - I know that. (For example, at the dentists or doc's whenever I need an anesthetic, it always takes way longer and way more than most people.) Never try anything new on race day, they say. And they're right - I've had really bad experiences with trying something new on a race. But I don't want to try it on this week's long run because I don't want to take another week of heavy training to deplete the glycogen stores - it's too close to the race and won't give me enough time to recover. So I'm going against all wisdom, and justifying it with the thought that I'm just taking in fuel a little earlier than usual... (I hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot with this one).
Towards the end of the week after my June 12th marathon I want to join Lisa on her final run. I would love to do all 50 miles with her, but I don't know how I'll have recovered after the race. I think I'll just see how much I can do, take my phone with me, and call my husband to retrieve me when I bonk. We'll see.
Reading: Oh my. My heart feels as if it will break with sadness after having finished, "Left to Tell." I really do not, can not, nor want to ever understand how people can be hardened, evil, and malicious. To slaughter men, women, children, babies, old people...I can't even bear to think of it. Instead I have to dwell on the lessons Immaculee learned and teaches - faith and forgiveness, and a relationship with God that gave her the strength and perspective to conquer the fear, hatred, and evil that threatened to kill her soul. It can be done, although I doubt I could ever be so strong. I do not understand what would ever motivate someone to be cruel...okay, Satan, but I don't understand why anyone would listen to him. He's not worth any attention.
Ruminations: On Discrimination: So "Left to Tell" is on my mind. I keep thinking it over, trying to sort it out, trying to understand Immaculee's miracles and miraculous existence, trying to feel the kind of forgiving love Immaculee did for the cruel enemies around here - the strangers who did me no harm, but murdered her family. I do not have good feelings for them, to say the least. But she forgave them. I should, too. That the Hutu killers could be so barbaric to the Tutsis still is unfathomable. (Not all Hutus were like that, of course!). Thinking of discrimination drew me back to my past to a time that I had at one time wished to forget, but never have - and now I realize things like this are good to remember for the lessons learned.
I lived in a small town in New Hampshire, went to a small school, and attended a small (tiny) congregation called a "Branch" in the LDS (Mormon) faith. I loved the people in my church. There were so few of us in that whole area that we really got to know each other well and felt like family. Outside of my home, it was where I felt loved the most.
In my school, I was one of three Mormons (my brother and another boy were the other two). It didn't bother me, I didn't feel odd. It wasn't a big deal. I even went to Mass with some of my Catholic friends, and it was fine. Other kids went to different churches, if they went at all, and life went on. My family had lived in New Hampshire almost two years and I was just beginning to feel settled with the kids at school. 7th Grade had been fine, but 6th Grade had been tough since I was the new kid. 8th Grade promised to be better, maybe even great. By Christmas I finally felt like I belonged. By January I was making wonderful friendships. February, and I was part of a group of good friends.
8th Grade. The worst possible year to be a girl. Maybe a boy, too, but I don't know about that.

The Mormon (LDS) church asks all young men to serve missions when they are 19 years old. It is a privilege and a commandment to share the gospel with the world, to give everyone the opportunity to learn, accept, or reject the LDS faith and understanding of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. These young men leave their homes for 2 years to preach the Gospel, paying for their expenses out of their own pockets. During those 2 years, there is a lot of down time when there isn't anyone to teach, especially in places like New Hampshire. The missionaries (also known as "Elders") would often stop in at our home, unannounced, to visit and grab something to eat, before heading back out. The Elders felt very comfortable and happy with my family, and we loved having them there.
So I didn't think anything of it when I had a friend come to my house for a sleep-over and the missionaries planned to stop in the next day.
Earlier that Friday evening, my friend (let's call her Sue) had come with me to a presentation put on by the Elders at the little Methodist Church we rented for our church services. She had permission from her parents. It was a no-pressure, informational, refreshments-provided get-together with lots of people, and we had fun just hanging out.
From my journal:
February 19, 1988 Friday
[Sue]'s here! We just got back from the meeting. It was okay. I hope Sue liked it. She's talking about it right now. The Elders are the BEST! They're coming over tomorrow. Oh, Sue and I are going to the Snooty Fox, a restaurant down the street, for lunch! We're going to wear bow ties, black pants, and white shirts.

February 20, 1988 Saturday
Tomorrow is the last day of vacation. I want vacation to go on, but I want to go to school because my friends are there. Sue and I had fun at the Snooty Fox. The Elders came over today.

February 22, 1988 Monday
Sue was a real jerk until the last two periods.

February 23, 1988 Tuesday
No one likes me anymore. It was awful. What did I do that was so wrong?

March 1, 1988 Tuesday
I went to sit with my friends. They picked up their books and walked off to another table and left me by myself. I just sat there, feeling miserable and rejected. What did I do wrong?
...I was reading the scriptures, looking up "loneliness", when all of a sudden a feeling came over me that God loves me and doesn't want me to be lonely. No matter what happens, He loves me. Even if everyone rejects me, I still have a friend. He loves me. Thank you, Father. I love you, too.
The rest of the school year was awful because of the rejection of those few girls who had been my best friends. They talked about me behind my back, walked away from me, laughed at me, and were basically cruel. I had received nominations for "prettiest" and "smartest" for yearbook, and my friends said, "I don't know why anyone would vote for her," within earshot. My teachers noticed. I think their pitying eyes were by far the most painful part of the whole ordeal.
During the last few months of 8th grade I found new friends in a couple of boys who were like brothers to me. I often think they saved my life. That, and - like Immaculee - the peace that came when I turned to God.
9th grade started at the High School. God must have known I could take no more, because he sent me an incredible blessing in some of the best friends of my life. It was an entirely different experience, having so many friends - truly true friends, who knew me, my beliefs, my quirks, and just loved me for being me.
I forgave the girls. I really did. I even told a couple of the girls at the beginning of 9th grade that I still thought of them as my friends. One girl blushed bright red and apologized. Another wrote me a note, saying she was so sorry. The two worst ones were in boarding schools, but when I saw them during vacation, they refused to meet my eyes. I managed to tell them anyway that it was okay, I was okay, and I didn't hold it against them. One felt really awkward and left, and the other one looked relieved and smiled.
I realized (with some further information) it was because Sue's mother was afraid of Mormons. When she found out that Sue had met the Elders I'm sure all sorts of motherly fears surfaced. I don't blame her. I'm protective of my children, too. I do wish things could have been resolved differently. It would have saved me months of tears and loneliness, and thoughts of suicide. I begged my mother to take me out of school and homeschool me. I begged God to give me cancer or anything else that in my mind seemed an easier burden. But I wasn't released from the trial of discrimination. If I had been, I would have missed the important lessons I learned, the pain of being different, the fear of what each day had in store, the misery of rejection, the emptiness of being alone, and the questions of confusion. I had friends one week, and over the course of a weekend, I was friendless. I learned empathy for those who are discriminated against. Thankfully, I never had to endure the pain Immaculee did in having her "friends" turn into her family's killers. Like I said, I do not think I would ever be strong enough to forgive as she did, but she is an example of what forgiving is.
And while I truly have forgiven, and most of the time have forgotten, I do remember what it felt like. I don't think I should ever forget that. I would not want anyone to ever feel that, and I would not want those months to have been in vain. I only want to remember so that perhaps I can shield someone else or help another who maybe feels that way.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Boys Life. And Minestroni, Orange Crunch Muffins, O Henry Bars

Mixing up the order of things today. Ruminations first, because it seems most important.

Ruminations: I start this out feeling annoyed, justified, and a little weary. Read on...

A young man, about 17, knocked on my door today. He spent about 5 minutes chatting, telling me how he was earning points so he could go on a trip with his family and have money for college books. A good cause, sure. He was charming and charismatic, chatty and affable. He asked what I did, and said he earned 50 points because I was a "domestic goddess" and 40 points because I had been a lawyer. He was trying to practice communication, he said, and that earned him points. Great. So far so good. Then I asked the question I ought to have asked first, "What are you trying to sell?"


I am so tired of magazines. I don't need more. I have the ones I want - National Geographic, Runner's World, Bicycling, US News & World Report, Reader's Digest, Scouting, the Ensign and Friend (in three different languages!). Good grief! How many magazines do we need!

But I wanted to be nice and help him get his points, so after browsing through a brochure of pointless magazines (I don't want a Muscle magazine), I decided on Boys' Life. That's as good as any, better actually (for my boys). He beamed, and said he was an Eagle - since last week.

"How much?"

Lengthy spiel about how much we're saving off the cover price.

"You still didn't tell me how much."

Lengthy spiel about the difference between a 2-year subscription and a 3-year subscription, and about how we'd be getting a magazine every two weeks. Great, just what I need - a new magazine every two weeks. I tried to smile.

"So, how much is it?"

Finally he told me. Okay, I can handle that. $48 is doable for two years, although I'd rather do it a year at a time. How many Boys' Life magazines do we really need?

So while he chatted I got out my checkbook. I was trying to be nice and help him win his contest so he could go on a trip to Israel. "Ever been there?" he asked. "Yes." I didn't elaborate. I didn't tell him that I had actually worked in a real job to earn money to pay for my study abroad. I didn't tell him that I had also worked in school really hard to earn scholarship money to pay for my books and tuition. It didn't seem appropriate to tell him that. But that doesn't mean I wasn't thinking it. Good feelings were leaving.

He filled out his paperwork, got all my information, and handed me the paper to sign, pointing to the X and slightly covering up the tally.

The tally. I would've seen it eventually, since I had to write the check. I was not prepared for this.

"Why does it say $63?"

Oh, that's for shipping and handling, he explained. And part of it goes to charity, he added lamely.

Uh huh. I can write a check for $63 and ALL of it will go to charity, I thought to myself.

Still trying to be nice, I said, "Can't I just write you a check to help on your trip?"

No, he said, it's not legal. He was not being his charming self anymore.

"Can I hold on to this and think about it?"

No, he said. I can't come back.

"Doesn't $63 seem like a lot of money for a magazine?"

No, he said, he pays $12 a month for his Muscle magazine.

Well, if he has $12 a month for a Muscle magazine, he has money enough to save for books and a trip. I am not a happy lady any longer. He can choose to spend his money the way he wants, but he cannot expect me to step up and fill in the consequences of his choice.

I told him I'd have to pass, and I was sorry. His entire countenance fell and he was a very different person. His face turned red, his eyes hardened, he scribbled out my information, and marched out the door, muttering loudly, "It's always the rich people..."

Well, maybe in another part of my life I might have left that alone, but this is not that part. I was grown-up enough not to be furious, and kind enough not to beat him up, but the mother in me was not going to let the boy get away with that.

I took a moment to think over what had happened as I watched him (from the window) canvas the neighborhood. When he got to our backdoor neighbors' house, I walked out back and waited. It wasn't long until he came back from their door. I stopped him in the driveway.

I don't know if he thought I'd changed my mind or if he was scared, but he was certainly surprised to see me. I guess people don't chase after him much.

Nick, I said (I learned his name), I need to tell you something. You can't just walk out my door muttering, "rich people" like that. It is so wrong to judge people by what they have. It hurt my feelings.

He said he'd spent 3 years in India where people would give him the shirt off their back if he needed it.

This is not India, but I would give you a shirt if you needed it. My discretionary money is used for things like piano lessons, doctor's bills, car repairs, oh, and little things like groceries (we do have to eat!), and our other money goes to pay for our home. You can't assume that I am rich. The house I live in has to be paid for somehow.

And, I said, you cannot judge me by where I am. If it makes you understand me better, I'll share with you that I was homeless for months during my life. I am NOT my house, nobody is what you see them as - they are more. Much more. Nick, do not judge people so rashly. If I think $63 for a magazine (and to send you and your family to Israel) is not a wise use of my money, then let that be my choice and respect that.

He apologized, said he'd had a rough day, and that he was just being a stupid teenager. I know. You were. But you're also a very sweet teenager. And I was just explaining to you the lessons I would want my own sons to know.

It is so interesting the judgments passed on me during my life because of where I live - whether in a tent in a campground, a little rented house (that my girlfriends refused to use for a group date because it was...well, you know), the basement of my parents' home, or the house that we just built. I would rather this didn't happen, but it does. I hope I learn the lesson, too, and respect people for who they are, and not for what they buy - or do not buy.

Reading: I started "Left to Tell." I can not even imagine living through what Immaculee did. I am angry at her world for letting genocide happen - I thought we had evolved beyond that. I suppose there are parts of humanity that just are sick and wrong that will always be around for us to combat. Her relationship with God is inspiring, to say the least.

(Horatio Hornblower remains in the grasp of the French, to be rescued at a later date when I have time to read him again).

Running: Did 7 1/2 yesterday, and I'm using today as a forced rest day, but I did spend 1/2 hour doing some core work with my girls, just for fun.


Crockpots are the stuff dreams are made of! I love putting all the stuff in the pot in the morning and spending the rest of the day knowing dinner is done (and having the delicious aroma in the house!).

Crockpot Minestroni Soup
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, sliced
3 small potatoes, diced
2 Tbs. chopped parsley or 1 Tbs. dried parsley flakes
1 - 2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp. beef bouillon granules or 4 beef bouillon cubes (if using cubes, dissolve first with the water further on this list)
2 tsp. dried basil leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans with liquid
1 lb. hamburger
4 cups hot water (or, if using bouillon cubes, dissolve cubes in water)
2 (15 oz) cans diced stewed tomatoes

8 oz. cooked short cut pasta noodles of choice (small shells, small elbow macaroni, or whatever). Note: boil pasta in pretty heavily salted water (about 1/8 + cup. salt in large pasta pot) for great taste.

1. Brown hamburger in skillet, drain.
2. Layer in crockpot in order: carrots, onion, celery, potatoes, parsley, garlic, bouillon granules (or, if using cubes, don't add the bouillon cube/water mix yet), basil, salt, pepper, kidney beans with liquid, and browned hamburger. DO NOT STIR.
3. Pour water or water/bouillon mix over everything. Add more if needed to cover everything (1 tps. or cube bouillon to 1 cup water). DO NOT STIR.
4. Cover and cook on high for 4 4 1/2 hours on high or on low for 8-9 hours or until vegetables are tender.

Now spend the rest of the day doing other things while it cooks :)

5. Stir in stewed tomatoes. Immediately cover and cook on high for 10-15 minutes until heated through.
6. Gently stir in cooked pasta. Serve hot. We like cheese cubes or slices with the soup. Yum.

Orange Crunch Muffins featuring Grape Nuts
These are typically breakfast muffins, but the sweet muffin really compliments the salty soup and I don't mind breaking rules and having muffins with dinner. My mom used to make these when I was little and I have always always always loved them, especially with melty butter and raspberry jam. Oh, so good.

Sift or stir together in a medium mixing bowl:
3 C. flour
1/2 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. soda
3/4 tsp. salt

Add: 1 1/2 C. Grape Nuts cereal (or store brand taste-alike cereal).

In a separate large mixing bowl combine:
3 lightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 Cups Orange Juice (if using concentrate, mix up w/water first)
2 -3 tsp. grated orange peel (or none if you want a milder orange flavor)
1/2 C. vegetable oil

Stir dry into wet, just until moistened and there are no lumps of flour.
Grease muffin tin or line with baking cups.
Bake at 400 for 18-24 minutes. Do not over bake.

O Henry Bars

I first tasted these last week and as soon as I got the recipe I made them (really, like within minutes of getting it). (I didn't cite the recipe owner just to maintain her privacy) So good! And, as a bonus, they are gluten free (if you need that - as long as your choc. chips and oats are made in gluten free environments).

1/2 C. melted butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. oats
6 oz (or 1 c.) choc. chips

Mix together first 5 ingredients. Heat until dissolved (microwave is great). Stir in oats and chips. Press into greased 9x 13 pan. Bake at 375 for 15 min. Do not overbake. Cut into bars.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Ogden Marathon - been there, done that. And would do again.

The 10th Annual Ogden Marathon played host to a good group of Rexburgers, including me and my brothers. Was it fun? Sure! (I can say that now that its over). Was it worth it? Yes! (I wouldn't have answered that question the same way at the start of the race, though). Marathons...(sigh). You know, although growing in popularity, it's really just not normal to intentionally wake up at 3:30am to drive up a canyon where you wait in freezing weather until 7am just so you can run 26.2 miles with 2000 strangers. But people do it. We did it. And we'll do it again.
For any given runner, a marathon doesn't really begin the day of the race. For some, a race begins with the first day of the typical 18 week training program. But for my brothers and me, our marathons all started way back in 1986 when our Dad ran his first 5K race at the New Hampshire Greenfield State Park 4th of July Fun Run.It's all his fault, you know. Dad didn't have to run, but he chose to and the dominoes began to fall. (It's always good to have someone to blame, by the way. We love our scapegoats). My brothers Don, Jim, Jon and I watched Dad run his first race, watched him finish and fall on the ground, pleased and panting, and watched the paramedics bend over him in concern. He was fine, just tired. And that's when I realized you run a race not because it's easy, but because it is satisfying.
That summer, Jim, Jon and I started running on our own. Jim joined the High School cross-country running team. Later, when Jon was in High School, he also joined the running team. I never joined a team, but I always ran on my own. We'd caught the bug.
Leave New Hampshire for a new setting: nearly twenty years ago, Fourth of July, Rexburg, Idaho. Aka, "Whoopie Days." The 5K Fun Run. There was my dad. And there were my brothers and me. Don "ran" in the fun run in his wheelchair, driving it with the electronic sensors in his head-rest. We tied a bathrobe belt on the end of the chair to hold on to so we could help Don steer straight. It was a slow 5K, but it was fun. Ah, yes, those were the days.
Now jump forward to yesterday, May 15th, 2010. Ogden, Utah. The full 26.2 mile marathon is about to begin. Don has an adult running chair, complete with a helmet we don't use, various pillows and blankets to prop him up, and an official bib # pinned to his winter coat. Jim, Jon and I hop around in the dark, trying to stay warm. It is 5:30am, and the race doesn't begin until 7am. They told us to be at the start before 5:45am or we wouldn't be allowed in. It is cold. It is dark. Don and I both have miserable colds. But we've been training for Ogden - our third sibling marathon - since we signed up in January. And the day has come.
As a side note, the problem with actually signing up for a marathon is that you kind of feel committed to do it. You get a thrill telling people you've signed up - as if signing up is equivalent to already running it. But when it comes down to race day, you seriously question your sanity. If only you hadn't told anyone, then you could just stay in bed and none would be the wiser...Meanwhile, the race day jitters are thankfully turning to race day excitement, and the further you get from that 3:30am alarm, the more alert and eager you become. The thrill replaces the dread, and you remember why you like to run...(unless you're sick on race day like I was - then the thrill didn't show up until mile ten!).
We had a special permit that allowed Dad to drop us off at the start. No other cars were allowed except official race vehicles. We arrived before any other racers, but it wasn't long before they came.
There we were, up above Huntsville, just below Red Rock Outfitters Ranch, standing out of the way while 80 buses pulled up and dropped off their load. They kept coming and coming, bus after bus, depositing runner after runner. They walked stiffly off the buses into the black cold air. Warming fires were burning in the field - there must have been fifty fires at least. Banks of port-a-potties welcomed their guests in a constant flow all the way through the 7am race start.
Water and sports drinks, Clif bars and GU, people with their secret running weapons in their running bags (arsenal to help them through the next few hours), murmurs in the cold, lines and more lines, circles around the campfires as people took turns scorching their freezing legs, hands shaking, cups sloshing...some of the shaking was cold, some was nervousness. The tension and excitement were palpable. As the black night faded and day began approaching, the dull murmur changed to enthusiastic chatter. A shift in everything as darkness made way for dawn and our nerves scooted over to make room for excitement. We were in a group that instantly became a community not of strangers, but of runners. And we knew we weren't competing against these new campfire friends, instead we were running with them, cheering each other on, each in pursuit of our own goals, but all collectively in pursuit of the identical and ultimate goal - to run this marathon.
I really like running with my brothers. It is an entirely different race when I run solo. I push myself when I'm alone, and it's not much fun. But when my brothers & I are pushing Don, it's a huge adventure. Don has a magic about him, of course, that attracts good Karma. Good vibes. Good people. Don brings the good out in the world around him. I like to hover around him just to get a taste of the goodness he both exudes and attracts. We met some really good people at the race. Or, I should say, DON met some really good people and I stood next to him, smiling.
(For example, see this blurry picture: Bart Yasso - a famous runner - now knows who Don is!)
Of course we'd meet great people anyway, but it's just easier with Don's smile. I have to say that it restores your faith in humanity when you see a group of freezing runners voluntarily give up their fire to make room for a stranger in a running chair, and the same shivering runners linger to chat and share ours and their stories.
Finally it was time to line up. Runners positioned themselves according to their projected pace - the fastest 6 minute milers line up closest to the front, then 7-minute milers behind them, and so forth, until the runners who were there just to run their best and finish take up the majority of the queue. We belonged with that majority, but instead we stood at the very very front, along with one other buddy runner team - "Team Bart" they called themselves. A white-haired gentleman pushing his neighbor and friend Bart in their own make-shift running chair. We are instant comrades.
Wheelchair racers always go first, that's the reason we're in front, not because we're vying for the enviable position. In fact, usually (and we were told this would happen in Ogden) the wheelchairs are supposed to take off a few minutes before everyone else. This keeps everyone happy as no one has to stumble over an awkward chair or team of running buddies. However, the early start was cancelled and we had to begin with the speedsters beside and behind us.
The countdown. The stopwatches. The excitement. Finally, the race began. A wave of runners washed over us, and we tried to be as helpful as possible to the crowd. We ran on the far right while long, fast legs whipped past us. Thankfully, we didn't trip a single runner. After a few minutes, the race settled down. We waved goodbye and good luck to Team Bart, then hunkered down for the long haul.
Runners are really nice people. We had so many high fives, cheers, and smiles that I couldn't even begin to count them. I loved that people would say, "Good job!" and Don would say, "You, too!" He talked for us which was great, especially when we were breathless. The miles passed slowly at first, then they just passed with little notice on our part. We did mark the miles so we could switch pushing Don every two miles. It took us a little over an hour to do the first 8 miles. Long enough to get into a rhythm. Dad had agreed to meet us at mile 8 to check on our status. Since Don had not felt well in the morning, the first 8 miles were a trial period. He could back out at mile 8 if he still didn't feel well.
Like so many things, however, once you get started you find it's not as bad as you thought. Don never even played with the idea of backing out when we saw Dad at mile 8. We stopped briefly just to drop off the warm clothes we had shed, then we were back on the course for the next three plus hours.
At mile 13.1 we ran under the starting banner for the half-marathon. Crowds lined the streets and cheered wildly. It was very cool. Then we hit mile 14. The one big hill.
You could see the hill for a good half mile or so before you even got on it. It looked really long and steep from the side. But - once again - like so many things it wasn't as bad as we'd thought.
True, it was bad enough, but it was over quickly.
Along the race we kept passing or being passed by the same people. We would walk at aid stations, they'd pass us. They'd walk at aid stations, we'd pass them. It became a game of leap frog, and we got to know our new friends by face, even if not by name. I think one favorite was a guy (I don't know his name!) who we found out lives in Sugar City, the town neighboring our hometown of Rexburg. I don't know how many times he'd run up from behind, calling out, "Hey, Rexburg!" and we'd call back, "Hey, Sugar!" I can only imagine what thoughts crossed the minds of runners and volunteers around us as we called the man Sugar...
The volunteers and the aid stations were fabulous. Water, Powerade, GU, bananas, oranges, Clif bars, and encouragement were all available at each aid station. A well-organized, well-staffed, and well-stocked race like Ogden all combined to make running the marathon relatively delightful!
The scenery really was spectacular. After wide views of the country around us, we made our way between high, sheer cliff walls that flanked either side of the road and the reservoir. We poured down the narrow, winding canyon until we were dumped out onto a paved
walking/running path. The tree-lined path meandered through parks and beside a creek, and at last the miles really began to count. Mile 23. Almost there. Bart Yasso, the famous runner we'd met the day before, passed us with an encouraging word. Mile 24. Still almost there. Mile 25. Aren't we there yet? Then the last mile we ran down the city street where we saw the Finish banner up ahead. Out of the crowd came a yell, "STEPHANIE!!!" It was my husband and kids, rooting for us. That one little moment made any pain during the previous hours melt away - and I was thrilled.
Mile 26. A little bit more. The clock was running before our eyes. 4 hours, 28 minutes and 40 seconds - Mile 26.2 - FINISH! It was over. We had done it again. Bart Yasso high-fived us as we stopped running and walked now to volunteers ahead. One by one we each bowed our heads as a volunteer placed a yellow ribboned finisher's medal over our heads. We made our way through the crowd, by-passing the runner's court. We wanted to go directly to our families: our dad, my husband and kids, Jim's wife and kids, and Jon called his family who couldn't make it. We all missed Mom who was in Maine, but still somehow we were all in this together. Our sibling marathons are definitely a huge family affair. None of us would have even considered a race without the example of Dad, the support of spouses, and the cheers of our children. It makes running fun.
Since Don was the first of the wheelchair racers to finish the marathon, he got to bring home a First Place plaque. It is very cool. Team Bart has the second place. Just as cool.
There were quite a few people from Rexburg running the different Ogden races that day. We had friends - a married couple - run the half. They were new to running, and it was their first half ever. They said afterwards they'd do it again. Another runner friend ran her first full marathon that day, and finished in 3:30! That's a good fifteen - twenty minutes under the time needed to qualify for the Boston Marathon! Everyone has different reasons and goals, and everyone has a chance to succeed, whether it is in the 5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), half (13.1 miles) or full marathon (26.2). A race like Ogden is a huge conglomerate of strangers brought together for different reasons, where each person plays their part in making the community function as a whole, and makes the whole succeed in the ultimate goal of starting, and hopefully finishing, a race together.
Everyone's success was mine, and mine was everyone's. Part of a whole. That's the difference between going out for a run and joining a race; that's why I race.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teriyaki Stir-fry, Blended Oatmeal Cookies & Good Reads


Teriyaki Stir-fry. Super good & easy. It all starts with the marinade:

In a gallon size zip-top plastic bag, mix the following:

1/2 C. Vegetable Oil

1 C. carbonated drink: 7-Up, Mt. Dew, etc.

1/4 C. Soy Sauce

1 tsp. Horseradish (this can be omitted or substitute with 1 tsp. onion powder or ginger)

1 tsp. Garlic powder

Add chicken breasts, seal bag, shake to coat the chicken, place bag in bowl, and refrigerate. Marinate 2-4 chicken breasts up to 24 hours (sometimes I only get 2 - 3 hours in, and its just fine).

I then cube the chicken for stir-fry. You could leave it whole for grilling. SAVE THE MARINADE!!!

Prepare stir-fry veggies. I just use whatever is on hand. This picture shows broccoflower, bell peppers, celery, and carrots.

Pour marinade in microwave-safe dish. Add about 1/4 C. brown sugar, stir, then microwave on high 2 minutes or until it comes to a full boil. You want it to boil to kill off any chicken germs. In a small separate bowl, mix about 1 Tbs. cornstarch with 1 Tbs. cold water. Add cornstarch mix to the marinade, stir, then microwave another minute or two until the sauce thickens. It is now safe to taste (be careful though, it's hot). Add more sugar or soy sauce, ginger or garlic, or whatever you like, to make the teriyaki sauce.

Stir-fry the chicken cubes in hot oil (peanut oil is great) until cooked through. Remove chicken. Add vegetables to your wok or skillet, sprinkle with salt and sugar (this brings out the flavor nicely). Stir-fry the veggies just until heated through, but still crunchy. I hate soggy-vegetable stir-fry! Return chicken, dump as much of the once-marinade/now teriyaki sauce on your stir-fry, stir to combine, and remove from heat. Serve over sticky rice if you have it. Long-grain is fine, too - but it's just not as good.

Blended Oatmeal Cookies

This is one of my favorite cookies. It comes from my mother-in-law.

2 C. butter or margarine (I actually use 1 c. of shortening & 1 cup butter/marg. because of our high elevation: shortening helps the cookies not turn out flat).

2 C. Granulated white sugar

2 C. Brown sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

5 C. oatmeal (Here's the only tricky part: fill your blender with 5 cups oats - quick or rolled. Then blend the oats until they turn to a fine powder. This is your blended oatmeal :) Not that hard, is it?)

4-5 C. flour (you can use whole wheat, or all white, or a blend)

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

Chocolate chip (up to 24 oz) and/or nuts to taste - optional! (I love these without any chips or nuts).

Cream together butter, sugars, eggs & vanilla. Add blended oatmeal and the rest of the ingredients, and mix together. Roll into small balls or drop on cookie sheets. Bake at 375 7-8 minutes (or 325 in the convection oven for about the same time). These cookies do taste better if they're on the under-cooked side of things (and I usually like cookies on the over-cooked side!).

Running: I feel like the Energizer Bunny. It must be left-over glycogen from fueling during Saturday's marathon, because I certainly haven't been eating very much. But I have tons of energy. Technically this should be my "recovery" week, with light running and plenty of resting. I can't do it. I have too much twitch in my muscles right now. So Saturday was the 26.2 mile marathon. I rested on Sunday, as always.

Monday I woke up at 4:45, felt rested, so went for a 5am swim. I only did one of my normal two miles (I was trying to be judicious, and I was feeling tired). But a few hours later I couldn't hold still so I took my girls out in the stroller for a 4 mile run. It was actually 3.25, then we stopped to look at flowers and visit with neighbors, and finished the other .75 afterwards. It's tough pushing about 100lbs. of girls, stroller, blankets, water bottles, treats, and books up Rexburg's hills into headwinds! But we do it and we have fun - usually singing songs if I'm breathing well enough, or the girls will cheer me on ("Go, Mommy, Go!") when I can't talk.

Tuesday was a normal mid-distance tempo run. I ran 7.25 miles on the treadmill, inclined at 3, at a 7:30min/mile pace (which translates to a 8 - 8:30min/mile pace if I were on the road and depending on hills). Wednesday I woke up at 5:45 rested and ready to go. I decided to give my feet a break and rode my bike trainer for an hour before the kids got up. Then the girls joined me for some P90X abs work.

Tomorrow I should rest. And I want to. We'll see if this energy will have dissipated by then. I have a little over 3 weeks until my next marathon. I hope I don't over-do it now and bonk on my next marathon. Trying to be wise!!!

Of course, there are people that run 50 miles every day...or 4 days in a row with a one day rest, then off to another 4 days of 50 milers each day (until 2000 miles have been run)! (see AWESOME!

Reading: I've been carrying my new book around with me for days, in hopes that I could grab a minute here or there to read. I've left poor Horatio Hornblower in captivity too long, and I have to see him rescued or escape! What a delightful book. I am pleasantly surprised at the readability of a Napoleonic era book about a midshipman - both subjects foreign to me. It's a Good read indeed.

I'm also about to begin "Left to Tell." I haven't started it, but here's a synopsis:

ImmaculĂ©e shares her miraculous story of how she survived during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 when she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house for 91 days! In this captivating and inspiring book, ImmaculĂ©e shows us how to embrace the power of prayer, forge a profound and lasting relationship with God, and discover the importance of forgiveness and the meaning of truly unconditional love and understanding—through our darkest hours.

Ruminations and Relations/Family: I spent all my thoughts already on finishing up my post on the marathon. That'll have to count as today's ruminations. I put the marathon on as a separate post because it just didn't seem to be the kind of thing that should be preceded by a cookie recipe. Just sayin'. :)