Rest, recovery and the perfect chocolate shake

What’s the difference between overtraining and under-recovery? In practice, probably very little. Fatigue, poor performance, and poor sleep are signs of both. When I last left you, I thought I was an overtraining wreck. Now, two months and a 6-week break later, I think under-recovery might be a more likely culprit.

According to this post on Core 3 Training, seven signs of under-recovery are:

1. Workouts seem more like work than training.
2. You’re weaker from week to week with the same movements.
3. You’re sore all the time.
4. Your spouse or friends keep asking what’s wrong with you.
5. You toss and turn at night.
6. Your heart rate is higher or lower than normal.
7. Your heart rate variability is less variable than normal.

During my workout hiatus, I ran the gamut of tests to determine the cause of my symptoms. Blood tests for ferritin, cortisol, and thyroid-type issues came back normal. As did an adrenal stress index (for the most part) and test for DHEA levels. Not at all shockingly, given Seattle’s record-breaking rainy winter, one thing that’s low is my Vitamin D. But that’s an easy fix. I have two full bottles of Vitamin D supplements from the last time someone told me to take them.

So what’s left? A giant hole in my recovery nutrition. Which probably plays a huge role in my sleep issues. This article on Breaking Muscle sheds more light on this subject:

Eat More. Food is essential to restore muscles after an intense workout. The harder you train, the more food you need to eat. The amount of fuel you eat will either make or break you, and far too often athletes under-eat for a few reasons:

Lack of preparation or planning.
Blunted hunger due to elevated cortisol (stress) levels from intense training.
Thinking they are eating enough.

I am only guilty of all of the above. After consulting with a nutritionist, I have a plan that consists of increasing not only overall intake, but carbs in particular. She uses this formula to calculate a competitive runner’s total carbohydrate needs:

3.6 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day

In other words, a shit ton. As much as I love bread, a person can only eat so much of it. But smoothies are a great way to add carbs, protein, and whatever else you want to add to your diet. I love this recipe that I’ve adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook. It totally rocks.

Perfect recovery chocolate shake

I can’t stop making this. It tastes like a chocolate milkshake and yet contains zero refined sugar. More importantly, it’s entirely whole food based, so you know exactly what you are putting into your body.

Ingredients

1 cup milk (whichever type you use)
2 medjool dates, pitted and cut in half
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/8 avocado
1/4 banana, peeled and frozen (I keep a ziploc bag of these in my freezer)
2 tsp. almond butter
splash vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 tsp. espresso powder (if desired)
4-6 ice cubes (less for a creamier shake, more for an icier one)

Combine everything in a blender and mix into the perfect recovery shake. You’ll need a good blender for this one. Happy recovery!

A week of Instant Pot meals: Yes, it’s all that

When your favorite food writer, Rebekah Denn, writes in glowing terms about a new kitchen appliance how do you not jump on that? Especially when it’s time-saving and space-saving? And does just about everything? I mean, I think I’m a mere Google search away from programming it to run a race for me. See her persuasive argument in the Seattle Times here. She’s not wrong.

Enter the Instant Pot. It’s a pressure cooker, crock pot, rice cooker, and sauté pan all in one. For me, the main benefit was freeing up the cabinet space dedicated to storing the crock pot and rice cooker. Pressure cooking has always terrified me because of the whole blowing up the house thing. So I always worked around it. But now, with the introduction of the Instant Pot, whole new worlds are opening up to me.

Normally, I’m a total cheapskate who wouldn’t buy a new appliance on a whim. But Mike’s new gadget enthusiasm, coupled with Rebekah’s promise of faster food and less clutter in my cabinets, won me over. When the giant box arrived I was determined to put the thing to the test.

I’m not going to lie. Initially this was an intimidating endeavor.

Instant Pot instructions

Going against my usual M.O., I’d actually have to read the operating instructions.

Which weren’t, in fact, all that bad. It’s pretty easy to use. “Idiotproof” is the word Rebekah used. Perfect.

Once I started using it, I realized that it really does just involve pushing buttons. For the initial test drive I chose my standard turkey chili recipe. Though this recipe uses canned beans, I usually make mine with dried beans, which adds significantly to the cooking and prep time. Following instructions for Instant Pot soaked beans (I deliberately didn’t soak them overnight), I used manual mode for 4 minutes and the natural release method of depressurizing. All-in, I made completely cooked dried beans in about 45 minutes. This was starting to seem a little magical.

Next up, I tried Nom Nom Paleo’s Vietnamese Beef Stew recipe.

Another perk of the Instant Pot is the ability to sauté in the same pot that will do the rest of the cooking. Fewer dishes and easier clean-up? This thing is racking up the wins. The stew came together in a snap, and I realized that the time saving is not only found in the shorter cooking time, but also in the ability to completely walk away from it. I can cook and navigate the after-school sports taxi all at the same time.

Basic brown rice was my one miss so far. I’m not sure if I added too much water, or chose an overly long cooking time. Regardless, the resulting rice was a little goopy for my liking. But nevertheless paired well with this awesome Simply Recipes recipe for scallion pancakes.

Instant pot rice

The final, and best, test of the week was this Serious Eats recipe for Chicken and Black Bean Stew.

Instant Pot chicken black bean stew

I added some chopped tomatoes and substituted boneless chicken thighs for the bone-in legs and cannot emphasize enough how good and easy this recipe is. Even the kids, who don’t always love stew-like meals, couldn’t get enough of it.

My takeaway after a week of Instant Pot meals is that this thing is definitely worth the $129.95 investment (we went for the 8 quart size). Amazon will even deliver it straight to your doorstep, no driving to a store required.

Searching for my #runhappy: 3 days in the life

Three days into my quest to find my #runhappy and right the proverbial overtraining ship, and I think I’m performing at a solid “B” level. Given the Type-A behavior that got me here, maybe less-than-perfect isn’t such a bad thing.

Last Wednesday I skipped a hill workout. Friday I bailed on intervals, and Saturday I set out to make some changes. It may be too soon to celebrate.

Saturday
6:30 a.m. Eight hours of sleep and I’m raring to go. An off-day with a leisurely morning until the kids’ sports start at 10:00, I have plenty of time to make a smoothie and eat a good breakfast. Things are looking good.

10:15 a.m. Arrival at the Bainbridge soccer field for Alexa’s game. Mike and Colin are on the ferry to Seattle for Colin’s lacrosse game. My cousin Dave is with me and we’ll meet Mike and Colin in Seattle after soccer.

11:20 a.m. Game started at 11. Looking at my watch and wondering if our coach who is doubling as referee has decided to skip halftime. Damn. We’re only 20 minutes into the game.

11:30 a.m. Halftime. Starting to shiver and getting psyched to consume something warm.

12:30 p.m. Freezing cold, but survived the game. Picking up lunch and a latte on the way to the ferry. Making some solid protein choices at the salad and hot food bar. We’re headed to Pike Place Market anyway, so there will be plenty of snacking opportunities ahead.

Pike Place Market #runhappy

3:45 p.m. Fun afternoon showing Dave our favorite Pike Place Market haunts and getting him with the monk fish prank at Pike Place Fish. Just missed the ferry so it’s on to Uwajimaya to pick up food for dinner.

7:30 p.m. Said goodbye to Dave who visited briefly on his way to ski at Whistler (poor guy). Feeling good about my day of spectating and eating. I think my overtraining is a thing of the past.

Sunday
6 a.m. Up a little earlier than I need to be to meet my Sunday morning group run. But that’s okay, more time for my warm-up routine.

9:15 a.m. 10 1/2 miles done, yet I haven’t really consumed anything so far today. I’m about to remedy that with a protein smoothie.

10:00 a.m. Grazing on carrots and hummus, cheese and other odds and ends in the refrigerator. This whole multiple breakfast thing is hard when you’re starting this late in the morning.

11:45 a.m. Need to get some things done so decide to skip Breakfast 2 since lunch is right around the corner. Trying to balance the checkbook but my brain is addled and it takes me 25 minutes to realize I was still counting a cleared transaction. I think it’s time for lunch.

5:00 p.m. Early dinner at Bella Luna/Scratch Kitchen for Colin’s birthday. Order chicken on my salad to go with the “Little Piggy” pizza. I hope I’m making up for this morning’s breakfast lapse.

9:15 p.m. Still full from dinner, decide to skip a pre-bed snack.

11:00 p.m. Still awake. Grab a snack of nuts, an orange and some pita chips. Now regretting that skipped second breakfast.

Monday
6:20 a.m. 7 hours of sleep doesn’t feel terrible. In the next 2 hours I have a kid to get to the school bus, dogs to walk and a breakfast/school bag shuttle for the other kid who is currently at early morning swim practice. I shovel some nuts into my mouth.

8:30 a.m. I have a kid on the bus, breakfast and swim gear exchanged, and dogs that are walked. Given that Mondays are early release school days (thanks for that, Bainbridge Island School District), I have less time to run and grocery shop before the kids return home. But my coach scheduled a much shorter run for today. A mere 5 miles is less than half of the 12-miler I ran last Monday. Does this even count as running? I’m tempted to add, but what’s the point of a coach if you don’t listen to him? At least I should have plenty of time to complete everything by lunchtime.

8:35 a.m. Realize I haven’t really eaten breakfast. On the way out the door I microwave a quesadilla. 2 corn tortillas, shredded cheese, 30 seconds. I got this recipe from Colin. Perhaps I’m not really nailing it yet today.

10:00 a.m. 5 miles (*might* have been closer to 6 if anyone was really clocking it) done and I’m not as exhausted as a typical Monday. In and out of the shower quickly; I’m at least 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

12:55 p.m. Somewhere along the way I lost a whole lot of time. Running into one of my favorite friends at the store set me back a bit. But shooting the sh*t with her was so much more entertaining than whatever else I needed to be doing. And now my other friend has just brought me Girl Scout Cookies. I spend the time I need to catch up with her too. My groceries are melting on the kitchen counter. I won’t make it to the bus stop today. I think everyone/thing will survive.

1:45 p.m. The thing that unfortunately did not survive was my lunch hour. This is typical for me: I get busy, the time for a meal blows by and I either skip it and try to catch up at the next one, or graze as I go. Fortunately, I have leftover salad from last night. But I definitely couldn’t say that I’m three good meals into the day.

The day isn’t over but I feel Saturday night’s cockiness slipping away. Perhaps this performance rates closer to a C+. Finding my #runhappy might take more than one good day. But I’m working on it.

An accidental foray into vegan, gluten-free cooking

This week I’ve gone the full hippie: vegan, gluten-free. I accidentally-on-purpose impulse bought this cookbook.

Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows Every Day spun out of her popular blog, Oh She Glows. Which, I now know, specializes in vegan, gluten-free recipes.

At the time of purchase, however, I didn’t realize this. Alexa and I were enjoying a pre-Christmas girls’ day of shopping downtown and I had just completed a long-winded lecture about Christmas shopping being for other people. While I waited for her to choose a present for her brother, I flipped through the pages of this book. I saw beautiful photography and lots of vegetables. So, I bought it for myself. In hopes of enticing the kids with the pictures and adding some new and healthy dinner standards to the rotation.

Then I got it home and actually read it. Plant-based sounded great. But vegan, gluten-free? Apparently not all impulse purchases pan out.

But the book got me with the pictures. And some innocuous-sounding recipes. Apple Pie Overnight Oats? I can get behind that.

Vegan, gluten-free overnight oats

You’ll need to get the book to get the actual recipe, but the blog has a Vegan Overnight Oats recipe that is pretty close. This was a wading-in of sorts for me. Since we are neither vegan, nor gluten-free, I used our regular oats and full dairy milk, but everything else followed the recipe. And it was good! The kids loved it. I decided to go a little deeper.

One of my favorite things about this book is the simplicity. Yes, you’ll need to get some new ingredients. You might find yourself in an unfamiliar aisle at the grocery store. Those weird Bob’s Red Mill products you usually blow right past? You’ll need some of those.

But the recipes come together quickly and easily. Next up, I tried the Chocolate-Almond Espresso Cookies. You pretty much just dump the ingredients together and stir. No special equipment or technique required.

The verdict? Pillowy, chewy, chocolatey goodness. The kids didn’t miss the gluten or eggs. But that was child’s play. Anyone can throw together chocolate, sugar and almond butter and make it taste good. What about dinner?

Vegan nachos would really test the limits of these crazy recipes. The foundation of this dish is the All-Purpose Cheese Sauce recipe from the book. It gets layered with a bean and vegetable based chili, then topped with tortilla chips. A close cousin to the cheese sauce recipe from the book can be found on the blog here (scroll down the link to find the cheese sauce recipe).

vegan, gluten-free nachos and cheese sauce

Though Alexa complained that there wasn’t enough meat in the dish (apparently I’m not the only one not understanding the whole vegan thing), she went back for seconds and Colin took the leftovers to school for lunch.

Shepherd’s Pie prompted the same lamentation over the lack of meat, but the kids ate it all the same. And these seven-ingredient Endurance Crackers have steadily disappeared throughout the week.

This book is really great and the recipes could not be easier. And, more importantly, they’re actually pretty good. Believe me, no one is more surprised by this than I am. Though I wouldn’t consciously choose to go vegan, gluten-free, I wholeheartedly suggest trying this cookbook.

As a result of this week of recipe testing, Mike even suggested a meat-free month of February. That, however, is taking things too far. We’re having steak tonight. Because, you know, balance.

Recipe test: NYT Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake

Chocolate pumpkin layer cake

Forget about the other things you have planned for this weekend. You need to make this New York Times Chocolate-Pumpkin Layer Cake. You’re probably already buying a pumpkin or two for carving. Add a good eating pumpkin to your cart, check out my pumpkin puree instructions here, and you’ll be well on your way to the perfect October dessert.

pumpkinpureecollage

This recipe is easy and works as written. First prepare your cake pans. Parchment tutorial is here. Then sift together the dry ingredients.

pumpkincakedrying

Cream together the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. The recipe says to mix for 3 minutes, but this is a variable amount of time, depending on the softness of your butter. It usually takes me more than 3 minutes to get any combination of butter and sugar to be light and fluffy.

With the mixer running on low, beat in the eggs one at a time. Allow the eggs to mix between additions so that the mixture comes back together. Add the pumpkin puree (Libby’s works too, but fresh puree is amazing). At this point the mixture will look curdled, but that’s okay.

Add flour in three additions and mix just until it is incorporated. Do not overmix the flour into the batter or your cake will end up rubbery. Mix in the chocolate chips and pecans just until they are incorporated.

Bake at 350°F until the cakes spring back to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. Cool, and prepare the icing.

Chocolate pumpkin layer cake

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a water bath. Because I did not have unsweetened chocolate, I used semi-sweet chocolate and cut out 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar. However, I felt the frosting was overly sweet, and recommend following the directions for unsweetened chocolate. While the chocolate is melting, beat together the butter and powdered sugar, then add the melted chocolate and vanilla.

To frost the cakes, place one layer bottom-side down on your plate or cake board. Spread 1/3 of frosting over the top, then place the second cake upside-down on top of that frosting, so that the bottom (flat side) of that cake is now on top. Spread next 1/3 of frosting on top of the top cake layer. Then spread remaining frosting around the sides of the cake.

You’ll now probably have a mess of excess frosting hanging off the top edge of the cake. Smooth the sides the way you want them, then going around the cake, make one short pass over the top edge of the cake and remove the excess frosting. You’ll make one pass along one edge of the cake, scrape the excess frosting back into the frosting bowl, then turn the cake and do it again. Repeat this until you have gone around the whole cake, and you should now have a smooth top.

Chocolate pumpkin layer cake

To pipe a design without a piping bag or tips: use a Ziploc sandwich bag. Take the excess frosting that you just scraped off the top edge of the cake and put it in a Ziploc sandwich bag.
Snip a 1/4″ hole out of the corner of the bag, and you can now pipe along the top and bottom of the cake.

piping

Now cut, eat and enjoy!

Masters Mama Chocolate pumpkin layer cake

Got veggies? Make a veggie bowl.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The temperature is cooling down, fall is in the air, and I have vegetables coming out of my ears. Almost literally.

veggies

We’ve been canning, freezing, pureeing, and baking. We’ve stocked the pantry with pickles, salsas and jams, and packed the freezer so full that there’s constant danger of a frozen food avalanche. But my favorite thing to do with all of this garden fresh produce? Make a veggie bowl.

Masters Mama veggie bowl

This is one of my go-to meals year-round. It’s easy, flexible, and you can tailor it to the different seasons. Start with your favorite grain, add your favorite veggies, maybe some lentils or beans and you’re good to go. Finally, I toss everything together with a vinaigrette, add a protein on the side and serve it up as an easy dinner.

This particular bowl put to use the cucumbers, tomatoes and kale that threaten to overrun our kitchen these days. It went a little something like this.

Grains and beans

1 cup quinoa
1 cup dried lentils

Cook and cool the quinoa and lentils separately, according to their own cooking instructions.

Vegetables

4 garden cucumbers (mine are small, this is probably equal to 1-2 store cucumbers)
1 bunch kale (once chopped I probably had about 4 cups)
3 cups garden cherry tomatoes
3 carrots
1 avocado
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Remove the ribs and chop the kale. Dice the cucumbers, carrots and avocado. Halve the tomatoes and chop the walnuts. Combine everything together in a large bowl with the quinoa and lentils.

Vinaigrette

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, chpped

I play it fast and loose when it comes to making vinaigrette. My rule of thumb is to take an acid (lemon juice, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar) and whisk it together with an equal amount of olive oil and whatever seasonings you want to add. Since it’s that simple I rarely buy grocery store dressings. Toss this together with everything else and you’ve got yourself a killer veggie bowl.

As the weather starts to change and cool, I use more root vegetables and squash, which I roast before adding. I might choose a heartier grain like farro, or my kids’ favorite Israeli couscous. The roasted veggie bowl pairs well with a poached egg on top, drizzled with a generous helping of Sriracha.

The beauty of this meal is its flexibility. So, get out there and try it out. It’s cooking without rules and a fantastic way to add nutrient-rich grains and vegetables to your day.

Peach Blueberry Cake anyone can make

There’s nothing like a perfect peach.

Peachintree

And nothing like turning a perfect peach into an even better dessert.

Blueberry peach cake

A few weeks ago we had a tree full of ripe peaches and the corresponding debate about the best way to use them. Luckily, Epicurious came through with this awesome recipe for peach blueberry cake. Find the original recipe here.

This cake totally rocks. It falls somewhere between a cake and a pie, and is light enough to enjoy any time of day. I decreased the sugar in the fruit from the original recipe, giving me zero qualms about serving this morning or night. The best part about it? Anyone can make this. I mean it. You do not need any special skills or equipment.

Start by making the crust. The recipe calls for pulsing it in a food processor. If you don’t have one, just mix together the dry ingredients, then use two knives to “cut in” the butter to combine it with the flour. Use a spatula to add in the egg and vanilla to finish the dough.

The recipe also calls for using a springform pan. I always use a regular pan lined with parchment on the bottom. Find my parchment tutorial here. Press the crust into the pan, then chill while you make the fruit filling.

I made a couple of changes to the original recipe for the fruit filling. First, I substituted 3 Tbsp. tapioca flour for the 2 Tbsp. flour and 1 Tbsp. tapioca. I had tapioca flour on hand and didn’t feel like grinding tapioca. I also cut the amount of sugar back to 1/4 cup from the 1/2 cup in the original recipe. For the filling just toss everything together and spoon into the crust. Easy as… peach blueberry cake.

Peachblueberryprep

The Epicurious recipe says to bake it at 400°F, but that’s a bit high for my liking and people seemed to have issues with burning on the bottom. I baked it at 350°F and had no problems. Ovens vary, so I would start checking it at about an hour. Since I used a regular cake pan, I cooled it at room temperature a bit, then chilled it in the refrigerator to set up.

Getting it out of the pan is a little trickier than a regular cake, but not too bad. Make sure it is chilled and the fruit has set up. Run a knife around the edge to loosen the crust, then cover the top of the cake with a plate or cutting board. Turn everything upside down so that the plate/cutting board is on the bottom, and gently shake to turn it out. If it resists releasing, turn it right-side up and warm the bottom over a burner on your stovetop. Do this by moving it around for 10-15 seconds over a warm burner to slightly melt the butter in the crust. Then flip it back and try again and it should release. Place your serving platter atop the bottom crust (which is now on top), then flip it back over. Finally, cut, eat and enjoy!

Peach Blueberry Cake

NY Times Cherry Coconut Ice Cream Sandwiches

New York Times Cherry Coconut Ice Cream Sandwiches

We might have stumbled upon the perfect dessert. Seriously. The Cherry Coconut Ice Cream Sandwiches recipe from the New York Times might just be the total package. Find the recipe here.

Forget what you think you know about ice cream sandwiches. I would never be drawn by the component parts individually. Of all the flavors of ice cream, cherry probably ranks in my bottom third. And a lemon wafer cookie? Meh. But together, the flavors sing and the cookie brings a buttery crunch to the smooth ice cream. Suddenly cherry ice cream is actually worth something.

The best part about these ice cream sandwiches is that you don’t have to go to some hot new restaurant in Brooklyn to get it. You can make this yourself. TODAY. Do it, it’s totally worth the prep and planning that is required to make an ice cream dessert.

The recipe completely works as written. The first thing you do is make the ice cream base. Cherry ice cream does require the pitting of about a pound of cherries. Since this was going to be a Father’s Day dessert, I recruited a sous chef. I highly suggest getting yourself one of these.

Gotta take a selfie before you start working.

Gotta take a selfie before you start working.

Start by cooking the pitted cherries with the sugar, salt and lemon juice until they’re soft – it took me about 10 minutes – pretty simple.

The ice cream custard is a little trickier, but you can do it. I used milk in place of the cream/half & half and it worked just fine. Bring it to a boil with the sugar and vanilla.

Milk

Once that boils, you’re going to temper it into the egg yolks and tapioca starch (I was tempted to substitute corn starch here but since it will not boil again you might be left with a starchy taste) that you have whisked together. To temper a hot liquid into egg yolks means you’re introducing the heat gradually so that the eggs don’t cook and curdle like they would if you just dumped them into the boiling cream. While constantly whisking, pour 1/2 of the hot cream into the eggs.

Milkintoeggs

Now switch to a rubber spatula, and while stirring the mixture in the saucepan, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan.

Eggsintomilk

Over low-medium heat, gently but constantly stir to keep the eggs from cooking on the bottom of the saucepan. Cook until the mixture thickens and holds a line if you run your finger across the coated spatula, but do not let it boil. You want the eggs to cook enough that they will hold the custard together, but not so far that they cook into tiny egg particles.

Once cooked, add it to the cherry mixture in the blender, blend until smooth, then strain and chill (I like to use an ice bath).

This next part required the purchase of a new ice cream machine, after, ahem, an over-exuberant cleaning frenzy left me without a small, yet critical part, of our old machine. I found this Cuisinart on Amazon and was happy with the simplicity of it. There are only four large parts so hopefully I can avoid tossing another perfectly good machine. It did a great job freezing the ice cream in about 15 minutes.

Cuisinarticecream

The cookies are pretty straightforward. Mix the dough, let it chill, then roll and cut rounds to your liking.

Sandwichcookies

The fun part is the assembly. Let the cookies cool completely before you begin, and make sure the ice cream has had time to set in the freezer. I put the dried coconut on a plate and rolled the sides in it once the ice cream was sandwiched. Return the cookies to the freezer to set, call your friends, and wait for the compliments to come rolling in. These are the real deal.

NY Times Cherry Coconut Ice Cream Sandwiches

“Fried” pizza rolls and workout of the week

I am completely fried. Well done. Hopefully not to the point of totally burned, but I guess that remains to be seen. Not a good state to be in two days before the Carlsbad 5000, but here we are.

The kids are a school day away from spring break and I couldn’t make another school lunch for all the money in the world.

How did I get here? Could be the 1-2 combo of racing the 1500m last weekend at the SPU Doris Heritage Distance Festival and the killer workout that I squeezed in on Wednesday to allow for some rest before Sunday’s race.

I haven’t raced a 1500m since college. This isn’t even 4 full laps on the track. On paper I should have been ready for another race that very same day. But, as often is the case with physiology, things don’t work out neatly like that. Racing a 1500m is an all-out sprint for me. It’s taking off at top speed from the sound of the gun, and doing everything to hold on for 3 3/4 laps. I eked out a 4:56.42 – not bad, but will it keep me in the top 12 by the time the Trials qualifying window closes in June? We’ll see.

I was still beat by the time Wednesday rolled around, but there was a plan. Plans need to happen. That’s the way the universe works. Wednesday’s workout was a 3-round challenge set of 800s and 400s that went like this:

800m @ stretch 5k pace (which for me was 2:45 or faster, or 17:00 5k pace)
Rest 3:00
400m @ :80-:82 (also 17:00 5k pace)
Jog 400m
Repeat 3 times

I’d love to run under 17:00 but this workout was a huge eye-opener. I was barely holding on to that pace for two laps. How do you stretch that out to 12 laps? Anyone? I’d love to know.

With all of that going on, and a flight to California early tomorrow morning, decent meals around here are falling by the wayside. The kids don’t seem to care, especially when you come up with “fried” pizza rolls.

Fried pizza rolls

Baked, for when you’re fried

Make no mistake, this isn’t some earth-mother wellness meal to nourish the family inside and out. This is a knock-down, drag-out, I’ve-called-for-pizza-one-too-many-times-this-week meal. Sure, you could make it healthy, but that might be doing it wrong.

Here’s what you do. First, you take stock of your refrigerator. I had leftover spaghetti sauce (homemade, thanks to my half-Italian husband), leftover salami, and some shredded “Mexican mix” cheese (there was some sort of white cheese mixed in there – close enough). Maybe you have leftover pizza dough in the freezer from the last time you made homemade pizza dough (cue laughter), or maybe your local grocery store carries fresh, pre-made pizza dough in the deli section. Trader Joe’s even sells a whole wheat version for higher achievers.

Anyway… get yourself some pizza dough and roll it into a 3/4″-thick rectangle. Spread some sauce over the top.

dough:sauce

Add your cheese and desired toppings.

My crust is two-toned from a remnant scrap of whole wheat dough

My crust is two-toned from a remnant scrap of whole wheat dough

Then roll up like a jelly roll and cut into 1 1/2″ thick slices.

Slicedroll

I lined my baking pan with wax paper, but the rolls stuck to the paper, so I think you’re better off greasing the pan, then sprinkling cornmeal over that to keep the rolls from sticking. Line them up with enough space to account for the rising dough, but close enough that they bake together a bit.

Rollsinpan

I baked mine at 400°F for about 40 minutes. Ovens vary (as does the patience of hungry appetites) so they’re done when they’re puffed, set, perhaps a little browned, or once your family can’t seem to wait for dinner any longer.

Pizzaroll2

Gluten-free Cheese Rolls

I’m about to give you the keys to the baking kingdom. Gluten-free bread rolls with no yeast, no waiting for dough to rise, and no cooking or baking skills required? It’s possible.

Gluten-free Brazilian cheese rolls

But that’s not what this post was supposed to be about. This post was supposed to be about my triumphant (in the spiritual sense, not a presumption of victory) return to racing at the Mercer Island 10k over the weekend. It should have been a story about running a solid, though early-season race that built confidence for the races I have coming up over the next two weekends. How this 10k set me up for April 3rd’s Carlsbad 5000, a big race for which I’m traveling to California the weekend after next, and the 1500m this coming weekend, at which I’m hoping to run a decent enough time to qualify for the masters exhibition race at the Olympic Trials in July. I love a good plan and it was all coming together until I went down with a mild flu type of thing last week. And all I have from my experience on Mercer Island on Sunday was my boat-ride home, about 2 hours too early.

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If we didn’t live in the rainiest part of the galaxy, it would be more obvious that this is the sunrise over downtown, as captured from the 8:45 a.m. boat back to Bainbridge.

I went over for the race, tried to warm up, and still had undeniable body aches from being sick. Thankfully it was bad enough to cause shooting pain with every step, so I didn’t have to make any sort of excruciating decision, and as it turns out, I ended up with my first DNS (did not start).

But on to happier things. This is a Brazilian cheese bread, Pão de Queijo, which is made with tapioca flour, and therefore gluten-free. There is a great explanation and recipe at The Kitchn here. I first made these last week at work and had to recreate it at home for my bread-loving children.

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These are amazing. First of all, there are only six ingredients. Six! Even the busiest of us can muster six ingredients. Then there is the final product. These are chewy pillows of cheesy goodness. And gluten-free to boot. Try to eat just one. You can’t.

Gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread

When I went to make them at home, I had no parmesan cheese to spare, but plenty of extra cheddar. Being too lazy to go to the store, I went with the cheddar. It made my rolls a bit more dense than the original version, but still pretty good. I recommend parmesan, but if you’re in a pinch cheddar works too. Try this. It’s fast, your friends will think you’re a genius baker and your kids will love you forever.