Week 1 Completed!

Shoes!

I’m happy and proud to say that I’ve completed Week 1 of my training. Today I did my two-mile run and I’m happy to report I did it without ONE.SINGLE.WALK-BREAK! Ahh, the training. You are so wise! I went from walk/running to a full on 2 mile run. *Insert happy dance here*

I wanted to celebrate by making these amazing almond meal pancakes (with my own twists of course!), but sadly we were out of almonds. So, instead it was a healthy, protein packed breakfast of scrambled eggs and brown rice flour toast. Yum!

So, here was my program for the week followed by my stats (brought to you by Runkeeper)!

Monday: Rest Day–Can I just say that I love any program that has Monday as a rest day?

Tuesday: 2 Mile Walk/Run–As you’ll see below, that ended up being a 5 mile hike. Whoops!

Wednesday: 30 Minutes of Cross Training–I did 30 minutes on our stationary bike in the house and rode for a little over 9 km.

Thursday: 2 Mile Walk/Run–I walked. I ran. Slowly. Very slowly.

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: 2 Mile Walk/Run–This was a huge day for me. I ran more than I walked most of those 3 miles. It was the first real day where I thought, “Yeah. I can do this.”

Sunday: 2 Mile Walk–So, apparently this was meant to be a brisk 2 mile walk. Instead, I ran the whole 2 miles without taking any walking breaks which felt amazing. In fact, I was ready to go for the full 3 miles again but thought it best to stick to the program, err, more or less.

STATS:

Tuesday Week 1, Day 2

Thursday Week 1, Day 4

Saturday Week 1, Day 6

Sunday Week 1, Day 7

Next week I start adding strength training to the mix, and the hunt for new running shoes begins.

xoxooxo

Run

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Week 1, Day 6

The average life expectancy of females in the US is 82. So, at 35, experiencing a bit of a midlife, or perhaps what could be described as the rumblings of a pre-midlife crisis, might be a tad on the early side. Or maybe it’s perfectly natural. Who knows?

The funny thing is, I don’t feel 35. I don’t feel like 40 is only 4 and half years away. But it is. And, lately, that thought has been catching up to me. I’ve been finding myself feeling disappointed. A lot. It’s this nagging sensation that’s with me all the time, like a birthmark or a scar. I wake up and think of my regrets and fall asleep counting my failures instead of sheep. It’s not healthy, and I know it. So, maybe that’s why, sort of on a whim, I Googled “how to train for a half marathon”. Lots of hits came up of course, so I clicked on the first that caught my eye. It took me to the Women’s Running website to an article entitled “Couch to Half Marathon Training Plan. It was straightforward, it was simple and I thought, why not?

So, began the journey. I’m only 6 days in, but today I ran 3 miles, a personal record. I felt amazing. I felt proud of myself, which is something I haven’t felt in lord knows how long. I didn’t feel like a failure. It may have only been three miles, but they were my three miles and a real stepping-stone towards achieving my ultimate goal of running 13.1 miles at the end of 14 weeks, which for me will be on Sunday, December 14, 2014.

Now, there are definitely some obstacles in my way. #1) I’ve never run long distance before in my life, #2) my running shoes are falling apart and #3) I’ve started this journey at a ridiculous time. It’s September and by the time I’m running my 13.1 miles it will be well into winter. However, I’ve made this promise to myself. I’ve set this goal. And, most importantly, I WANT and quite possibly NEED to do this.

Why? Because its something I didn’t think I could do. Or rather, its something I didn’t let myself believe I could do which, in these past introspective weeks, I have allowed myself to acknowledge have been what’s held me back on a great many of my life decisions. You see, whether or not I like to admit it to myself, I’ve suffered from low confidence since I was a teen and this has led to a myriad of bad choices regarding the way I treated myself and the way I let myself be treated by others. I won’t get into details, but I’m sure you catch my drift. I’ve never had the courage to grab life by the horns and say, “Here we go!”

So, I’m running. I’m running because I have two working legs and a pair of old sneakers. I’m running because I believe that I can. I’m running because at the end of these 14 weeks, I hope that its not just the 13.1 miles that I’ll be running towards, but a better understanding of myself and what it is I can accomplish if I set my mind to it.

My tools:

Chicken Pie, Or What Happiness Tastes Like

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Hello and yes, it has been donkey’s years since I last posted. Without getting too much into it, a lot has been going on, not all of it pleasant. But, such is life and such is the reason do bury one’s sorrows in a steaming, heaping plate of chicken pot pie full of butter, gluten, carbs and happiness. When life throws you lemons, slice those up and put them in your cocktail, which you can sip on while you make your chicken pot pie.

So, for this dish I’ll be giving you two recipes: one for the dough and one for the insides. I don’t claim to be the original author/creator of either of these, but I’ve been using them for so long now I don’t even remember where they came from. And, as is usually the case with all us bakers, concocters, culinary adventurists, over time we add this and that and the recipe becomes a little bit our own which is a lovely thought indeed.

All right, enough exposition. Let’s get to the good stuff. First up, the dough.

This recipe is for your average Cream Cheese Crust dough which is great for pies, both savory and sweet, and I’m sure for many other things as well that I’ve not yet discovered or tried. These measurements yield two full crusts, and by full I mean you’ll have a top and bottom to the pie crust. For this crust you will need:

▪   226 grams of softened butter

▪   226 grams of softened cream cheese

▪   2 cups flour

I use grams since I’m here in Korea and nothing is in ounces. But, basically I think converts to 8 ounces of cream cheese and two sticks of butter. The name of the game here is equal parts. Follow that rule and you should be fine.

So, I let my dairies set out for a good long while until both are nice and soft and easy to work with. I then cream them together in a bowl until they are fully integrated. Then, I slowly add my flour until I have dough, like so:

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Then, I divide the dough into two balls, wrap them in wax paper, put them into two Ziplock bags and freeze or refrigerate depending on when I need/want to use the dough.

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I would recommend refrigerating for about an hour at least before you plan on using it otherwise it will be a gooey, unruly mess and you will end up covered in flour and tears.

Now, on to the Chicken Filling for the Chicken Pot Pie. You will need:

▪   1/3 cup butter

▪   a small-med onion, chopped (depending on how jazzed you are about onions. In fact, this applies to all the ingredients below)

▪   a small carrot, chopped

▪   a medium potato, cut into small cubes

▪   1/3 cup chopped mushrooms

▪   1/3 cup peas

▪   2 chicken breasts, cubed

▪   1/2 cup milk

▪   1 cup chicken broth

▪   1 tbsp thyme

▪   salt and pepper to your liking

Take out one ball of dough from the fridge and set aside. It will need this time to warm up so it will be easier to work with. Then, heat your oven to 200-205C so that it is nice and hot for zee bakingks. In a saucepan, melt the butter making sure not to brown or burn. Add in the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes or so or until they begin to soften and become translucent. Add chicken and cook until meat turns white. Add in the rest of your vegetables and spices and cook for about 5 minutes.  The veggies should start to release some fluid, particularly those mushrooms! Then, stir in your flour making sure all of mixture is covered in flour and well blended. Then, gradually stir in your liquids. Start with the milk and then add enough broth until your sauce is nice and thick but not too runny. Stir continuously. I would let cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is thick and bubbly. Turn off the heat.

Dust your workspace with some flour. Take your dough and cut it in half. You should have two fairly equal half-balls of dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out one half of the dough being sure to continually dust it so that it doesn’t stick to your counter or rolling pin! When you have it to the necessary size, carefully lift it up and place it into your buttered pie pan. Now, pour your mixture into the pie pan with the crust. Roll out the remaining half of dough for the top of your pie crust. Place on top of the mixture and seal the edges and cut in some decorative vents, like so:

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(Aside: remember, it doesn’t have to be pretty. Mine certainly isn’t, but Martha Stewart isn’t coming over to eat this. Chances are it will be eaten in front of the TV while watching Despicable Me 2. And, it makes my tummy joyful which is good enough for me!)

Then, place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Take the pie out of the oven when ready and let stand for five minutes before serving.

A few notes here: I find that its best to place the pie on a baking sheet or pan lined with some tin foil to avoid a smoky, horrible mess in your oven. The gravy gets bubbly and sneaks out of the pie and drips onto your oven and well, you get the idea. Also, as with all my recipes, these measurements are all ball parks. I’m an eye-baller and to-taste kind of kitchen person. So, if these measurements don’t work for you, adjust and change what you like for your best and happiest result.

Pair this with a salad and a bottle of wine and despair-be-gone!

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I hope this recipe helps you keep the blues at bay.

Though I may be silent, I’m always cooking. More posts, as always, to come.

Love and flour,

Gabi

Baking Win: Parts Two and Three

Hello baking friends and how time flies. Seems like it was just yesterday that I was posting about almond flour and now its two weeks later, the temperature has dropped and the skies are the color of cement. But, not to worry. Fall is the season for baking, after all, and though all may be a bleaker shade of grey outside, indoors it’s warm and smelling of cinnamon and nostalgia.

Anyhow, I’m back today to finish posting about my first experiment with almond flour in what turned out to be a fairly significant win for me as a baking hobbyist.

So, once my almond flour was made I set out to bake carrot cake cupcakes using a recipe from the always wonderful Elana’s Pantry. But, of course, I’m never one to follow a recipe without adding a few things of my own. So, here’s what I used:

  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins

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1. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda and spices.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, honey and oil.

3. Stir wet ingredients into dry.

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4. Mix in carrots, walnuts and raisins.

5. Scoop a heaping 1/4 cup batter into a buttered muffin tin.

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6. Bake at 325F/ 170C for 22-25 minutes.

7. Pierce cupcakes with a toothpick to check if they are done. If the toothpick comes out clean then they are done!

8. Cool to room temp.

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While cupcakes are cooling it’s time to make the frosting! Carrot cake isn’t complete without some cream cheese frosting. Here’s a recipe I experimented with that was a total success:

  • 8 tbsp cream cheese at room temp (nice and soft!)
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp (ish) vanilla extract

Mix the ingredients together until you have creamy, smooth frosting. When cupcakes are cool, frost and serve!

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All in all, this made for about 10 cupcakes which did not last the night! My fiancé, who is a fan of Starbuck’s carrot cake, told me that these cupcakes were better  (he sure knows how to say the right thing!) and our dinner guest told me she would buy these at a shop!

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Anyhow, I felt like a baking hero after whipping up these treats and I will certainly be making them again. They’re a great dessert alternative that doesn’t sacrifice taste for healthiness. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Love and cupcakes,

G

 

Baking Win: A Story in Three Parts

Today was a baking win on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start. So, I suppose I’ll just start at the beginning.

My morning agenda included accomplishing three tasks:

  1. Make almond flour
  2. Use said almond flour to bake carrot cake cupcakes (as per fiancé’s request)
  3. Make cream cheese frosting for cupcakes

 

Let’s start with the almond flour. As confessed in my previous post, I’m a carb counting baker which usually means I bake a bunch of stuff that I don’t really get to eat or enjoy. Enter Interwebs. In doing research for my previous post’s No Flour Banana-Apple Muffins, I came across “Almond Flour”. Now, before I go on I should divulge a little bit about my recent situation so that you don’t think I live under a rock and send smoke signals instead of text messages and that laundry day consists of me going down to the stream to beat our clothes against rocks.

Up until September 20th, I was working on getting my second MA in Applied Linguistics. Translation: for the past two and half years there has been little baking, joy or spare time in my life. Up until my dance with the No Flour Banana-Apple Muffin recipe, it had been over a year since I had last made an oven goodie and my recipes were pretty much all-purpose flour based. Fast forward to this past week where in I first encountered “Almond Flour”. I was intrigued to say the very least. Now, something else about me, I currently live in South Korea where my fiancé and I teach at a University. Translation: there’s no way I’ll be able to buy almond flour at the local grocery store.

So, that brings us to this morning, when I decided I would try my hand at making my own almond flour, using pointers by the Detoxinista.

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For my almond flour I used sliced almonds that I found at E-Mart Traders and our blender. As per the Detoxinista’s suggestion, I used the pulse function to make sure that I wouldn’t end up with too many clumps or almond butter! I also blended one cup at a time to have better control over the consistency of the flour.  I pulsed for about 20-30 seconds at a time and only had to do it a few times for each cupful of sliced almonds. The four cups of almonds yielded about 3 3/4 cups of almond flour which wasn’t as fine as regular flour but certainly bake-able. I also sifted through the flour with a fork before storing to get rid of any clumps.

Overall, I have to say I was 100% pleased with the results and am now scouring the Internet for almond flour recipes of which, fortunately for me, there are many.

Stay tuned for the next post for my Almond Flour Carrot Cake Cupcakes, based off of the recipe from Elana’s Pantry. Spoiler: They were awesome.

Love & Baking,

G

I’d Rather be Baking

Generally speaking, I would almost always rather be baking. As I’ve gotten older, it has become such a meditative, relaxing enterprise that I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out. Darn you whiskey 20s!

I first discovered the joys of baking towards the tail end of both my 20s and a bad/doomed relationship whilst living in NYC. Domestic bliss it was not. But, when I would wake up early on the weekends and fill the apartment with the warm smell of buttermilk biscuits or a fresh apple pie, it almost gave the illusion of a home and of a life less hectic, and I have been hooked ever since.  Maybe that’s f****d up. But hey, baking blisses me out. And, there’s nothing I love more than to put on a little The Head and the Heart on the stereo and whip up something whose smell can both hollow out and fill up my heart at the same damned time.  Maybe I’m sentimental about a good banana-walnut muffin, but this is my blog and I can truth if I want to.

So, in honor of my love of baking, I thought I’d post a few recipes and photos of what’s been happening in my kitchen though I don’t claim to be exceptionally talented at either. Baking is a passion and the photos are a necessity for the blog.

Today’s experiment was inspired by the bunch of brown bananas in my fridge. Any home baker knows that brown, mushy bananas are like a prized cow at the 4H club. Those who don’t understand (i.e. bake) would turn their noses up at said bananas and presume them to be “rotten” and “no good”.  But, bakers see the world of expired fruits a bit differently. We don’t see a fruit past its prime but rather a plethora of possibilities in the forms of muffins, cookies and breads (which may explain some of our poorer life choices earlier on in life, but hey, so be it).

Anyhow, back to the point. Mushy bananas. Usually when I find myself confronted with mushy bananas I turn to my go-to Banana Walnut recipe, whip up a dozen or so of them, and have them for breakfast, hand them out to coworkers, etc. But, here’s the thing: though I love to bake, I rarely allow myself to fully enjoy any of my baked goods. Sure, I’ll have a taste to make sure it passes the yum-factor inspection, but rarely do I let myself partake in the fruits of my baking. Why? The ugliest five letter word in my vocabulary: carbs.

I am a carb counter and this blog post is starting to feel unsettlingly confessional. But, there it is. I’m baker who counts carbs. So, in light of this, with mushy bananas awaiting, I thought I would try to make a baked good I could eat without the carb guilt so that I could actually enjoy a muffin for once.

Here is the end result:

No Flour Banana-Apple Muffins (Adapted from various recipes online. My additions include the apples, the spices, the milk, and the vanilla.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 old, mushy nanas
  • about a tsp of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves (really to your taste/liking)
  • 1-2 tsps of vanilla (again, to your taste/liking)
  • a cup of cubed, spiced (I use the same spices from above) apples
  • brown sugar (opt’l and to taste)
  • Other add ins: walnuts, raisins, whatever makes you happy

Muffins pre-bake

Instructions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400F/200C
  • Mash up bananas in a large bowl. Once they’re good and mushy, add in other ingredients and mix well.
  • Add more milk if necessary to get your desired consistency, but you don’t want the batter to be too wet.
  • Spoon mixture into a buttered muffin tin.
  • Bake for 15-20 mins. Check with a toothpick. If it comes out clean then they are done! If not, leave in oven for a few more minutes.
  • Once done, let cool in the pan for 5 minutes
  • Then, remove the muffins from the tin and place on a cooling rack and enjoy!R0011176

 

Some notes: These are great for breakfast and a healthy snack. I wouldn’t consider them a sweet treat. I had mine warmed up and with some butter and it was fantastic. Some jam or honey would also be good. Heck, maybe even some yogurt.

Also, my measurements aren’t always “exact”. But, this is a rough estimate which I hope is at least a good starting point. Anyhow, I hope you can use this recipe as is or adapt it to your liking.

Lots of love, and remember: Bakers do it Better.

xoxoxo

G

Hello Blog,

Today is Thursday, “Thor’s Day”. Today I promised myself I will only write. I’ll forget about the dishes or the floors that need cleaning. I will ignore the refrigerator. I will focus only on the blank Word document and blinking curser. Today my desktop will not be some place poems go to die. My fingers will tap madly on the keyboard, each click a minor victory. Each return, a celebration. Yes, blog, today is that day. But first, a blog post and some tea. Then, respond to emails and finally a Skype chat with an old friend in another time zone. Today is Thursday. The fourth day of the week in a string of weeks woven into a rope of years. Well words, where are you now?

***

Hi there. Back again. Wrote a poem and now feel victorious. Actually, that’s a complete lie. I’m making soup. I wrote a poem though. That’s true enough. But now, where to go? Just read the website of an old acquaintance who said that real writers finish projects. Welcome to my project graveyard. I should make a book of all the outlines, sketches and false beginnings of all of my projects over the years and call it, “Bone Yard”.

In other news…

Maybe I should start my memoir. Again. This time, it will be brief. This time, I will eliminate New York.

The soup is boiling over. There are other things I should do.