Tag Archives: Disney

2013: The Rundown

5 Jan

Even though I didn’t have this platform at the beginning of 2013 to share my goals, I thought it would be fun to look back at the year to see the pluses and deltas (the former inner city educator in me still rules my assessment technique vocabulary).  Reflection is a handy tool when setting yourself up for success in the future.

Resolutions

Running/Fitness

  • 2 Hour Half–  I was thrilled to complete a sub-2 hour marathon in March (at Zooma Texas which gave out PR medals last year… totally sweet perk!), which meant I quickly reloaded this goal to a 4 hour marathon.  Leah (my coach) and I set my training sights on a 4 hour finish at the BCS Marathon in December… which didn’t happen.  The 4 hour marathon goal will show up once again in 2014.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • 25 Miles a Week– I was hoping to put in enough mileage over the year to average at least 25 miles for the year.  My actualization? 623.71 miles for the year which averaged out to 11.9 miles a week.  Weak.  464 of those miles were January-May.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Take Class–  In 2013, I wanted to commit more to taking dance classes instead of just teaching.  I did a great job during the summer when my training was stalled, but I didn’t come close to the diligence I was hoping for… probably because I didn’t really establish a measurable goal.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

Personal

  • Personal Blog– I enjoy sharing my thoughts with the interwebs, but before when I was blogging for other people’s sites I really only got to share on a limited scope.  I wanted a platform to simply do my own thing on whatever topics and whatever pace seemed natural.  After I had surgery in June, I found the time to start this blog.  Hooray!

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Artisan Bread Baking– I wanted to greatly improve my artisan bread baking skills and push myself to try a new type of bread baking each month.  I had visions of bigas, starters, and soakers. Empty visions.  In reality, I greatly improved my bread baking prowess on my go to bread recipe and did a great job at adapting that recipe to high altitude baking, but I didn’t really push myself out of my comfort zone.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Learn Basic French– Knowing that Baby Bird will start French school Fall of 2014 made me keen to start learning basic French in 2013.  We started working with a French tutor weekly in August and my comprehension has greatly improved, but I frequently defer to The Hubs to speak for me… even in a lesson.  I need to get braver.  I’m a big girl.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

Parenting

  • French Vocabulary– So that Baby Bird doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the dual changes of starting school and learning a new language in Fall of 2014, I wanted to help her to learn French in 2013.  She loves her French tutor, sings French nursery songs, and surprises us frequently by incorporating terms into her daily speech so this one feels like a victory!

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Number Sense– When I was a teacher, I was shocked by the number of students I would see in middle school who didn’t have a basic understanding of what numbers represented.  It was my goal for 2013 to help Baby Bird develop a basic understanding of numbers and number concepts through play and manipulatives.  I feel that she has an appropriate understanding of numbers for someone with her cognitive development level which she has demonstrated through her basic usage and actions.  Awesome!

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Social Skills– More easily put, 2013 was the year of establishing “Don’t be an a-hole” social basics and empathy training.  Obviously, I’m not using the term “a-hole” with my toddler but when we boil it down, that’s what this goal represents.  We worked on empathy, affirmations, and managing and respecting big emotions.  In the end, I have a toddler who can identify and acknowledge many of her emotions, verbalize them, and let me know when she needs a quite time or to have a conversation… most of the time.  And some of the time she still melts down.  Because she is two.  All in all, she is better emotionally equipped for life than I was at 25.  Win.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

Race Recap

The first quarter of 2013 was packed with races.  We kicked things off with a bang at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend at which my husband ran the half marathon as an easy training run (1:25:42) and I ran The Goofy Challenge- a back to back half (2:33:01) and full marathon (5:23:57).  They certainly weren’t my fastest finish times, but the name of the game was completing each day’s race with enough remaining energy to enjoy the rest of the at the parks with Baby Bird.

Go Running Mama- WDW Marathon 2013

If you’ve never run a Disney race, I highly recommend it.  Disney puts just as much attention to detail into their race courses as they into everything else- fabulous scenery in and out of the parks, character stops (not my thing when I’m running, but a fun break for many), ample aid and restroom stations, great entertainment and music, fantastic crowd support, and tons of little magical surprises.  Once your running, it’s easy to ignore the fact that you had to get up at 2:30 am to ride the monorail to EPCOT to make your corral call time of 5 am or some such nonsense.

The Goofy was my first back to back race and marked my highest mileage week ever.  And it was HOT for a January race- thankfully I’ve trained through an Austin summer.  I was a little tired and a LOT nervous on marathon day, especially since I realized that the only way I would be able to run comfortably would be in my sports bra since I’d packed running gear for a colder temperature.  That was a big move for a woman who had a baby less than two years prior and a major “shirtless” victory for a lady with some lingering post-partum body image issues.

Additionally, I was corralled back further than I should have been and I didn’t want to wait in the corrections line at the expo because we might have missed our dinner reservations with Mickey so I decided to simply run with the corral I was assigned.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise- since my assigned corral’s start was so delayed I was able to see The Hubs in his final miles as I was within my first five, and two days of having to run around slower people who started ahead of me provided enough of a push to buckle down in my training to start running the paces I was capable of (at least for a good six months).  All in all it was a fabulous experience that I will definitely repeat (next time with a better corral), even if I spent a good portion of down time chilling in Baby Bird’s stroller following the marathon.

WDW Marathon- Go Running, Mama!

One month later, I ran the Austin Half Marathon (2:24:59) pacing my dear friend Rachel through her first race ever (That’s EVER y’all… no 5k or middle school track meet to speak of in her past!).  Her goal was to finish in 2:30 or better, so 2:24 was an awesome result.  I hadn’t had much time since WDW to make any real progress which was fine since that race was about Rachel and not me.  Even better than sharing a personal victory with one of my closest friends was the fact that The Hubs finished the marathon in 3:00:07, securing his BQ for 2014.

Go Running, Mama!- My BRF's Runiversary

Once Austin was over, my amazing coach Leah helped me buckle down and make some serious progress.  My goal was to run a sub 2 hour marathon the next month.  A PR by 23 minutes is totally reasonable, right?  When I joined my girlfriends for Zooma Half Marathon (1:58:34) in March is was ready to make the most of any improvement that could be made from a month of hard work.  My mama friends and I stayed at the Hyatt Lost Pines the night before the race and had a wonderful, relaxing girls’ night out before race morning.  With the support of my good friend Casey who met me on the golf course and paced my last few miles after her 5k, I managed a sub 2 hour finish followed a lot of happy tear and hugs with Casey and a fabulous brunch with the ladies.

Go Running Mama- Run Gorgeous

After my Zooma success, I buckled down ready to try my hand at some night trail races during the summer to vary my training before my fall race schedule, but that didn’t really end up working out as planned.

Bumps in the Road

Once I’d really built up some great training momentum in June, I had a brush with melanoma and had to have surgery.  Total bummer!  My incision was on my abdomen, right where my running shorts rubbed which further delayed my training.  When I could finally start running again it was in the dead heat of Austin summer… pretty oppressive.

In September I was diagnosed with mono and a severe Vitamin D deficiency which once again stopped me in my tracks.  Fall races? Cancelled.

In November, Baby Bird got pretty sick and our family was introduced to febrile seizures.  As every mama knows, the health of your family trumps all “me” time activities so there was no time for stress reliving activities but plenty of stress… which led to some time at the cardiologist for me.  Makes total sense for a marathon running, health conscious (moderately) young woman.

It’s all made it interesting and made us really flexible.  And compared to the hardships faced by multitudes of families these were infinitesimally small challenges.  And they will make the high points of 2014 even sweeter!

Top 13 in 2013

2 Jan My 5 Favorite Posts of 2013- Go Running, Mama!

This blog has been a new adventure for me and, even though it only covered the second half of the year, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at my 13 most popular posts of 2013.

It’s been a lot of fun sharing, and I’m excited about another year with y’all!

Top 13 posts in 2013- Go Running, Mama!

13. Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick Me Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors (September)- Forgetting water during a high altitude half marathon, finding out I had mono, and the smoothies that got me through the ordeal!

12. Carrot Top Tacos (July)- Spiced carrots and beans with carrot top chimichurri.  Never, ever waste your carrot tops again.

11. Maple Bacon Biscuits (September)-  Maple.  Bacon. Biscuit.  Trifecta.

10. Gifts from the Heart: Apple Cinnamon Ornaments (December)- An ultra non-toxic clay that makes heavenly scented ornaments or an amazing material for sensory play.

9.  #FirstontheFirst Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Penuche Frosting (October)- We were supposed to make candy, but I cheated and frosted a very yummy cake with this praline-esque frosting.

8. #FirstontheFirst Gateau Larsson (September)- My Scandinavian twist on a traditional Basque dessert.

7.  Gifts from the Heart: Baking Soda Clay Ornaments (December)- These smooth ornaments are an inexpensive (and toddler friendly) alternative to a trip to a ceramics studio.

6. Creamy Garlic Kefir Pasta (July)- A probiotic packed easy meal.

5. Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars (August)- Lunchbox snacks don’t get much healthier.

4. Meeska… Mooska… Mouseka Cakes: Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties (August)- Healthy food tastes even better in Mickey Mouse form.

3. #FirstontheFirst Candy Canes for Cheaters (December)- Once again, we were supposed to make candy.  And I didn’t.  But I think you’ll forgive me when you taste these cookies.

2. Frosty the Cheese Man: Snowman Cheese Ball with Hand Cut Tortilla Chips (December)- The most adorable, toddler friendly appetizer you’ll ever bring to a gathering.

1. Gifts from the Heart: Homemade Ornaments– Salt dough ornaments are a classic go-to holiday activity.

Looking for even more fun?  Here are my five favorite posts you may have missed this year…

My 5 Favorite Posts of 2013- Go Running, Mama!

#FirstontheFirst: Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 Jan Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

It’s a new year, y’all!  And thanks to our First on the First subject du jour, I’m kicking the year off by baking with an entire twelve months worth of richness- Sticky Toffee Pudding!

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

I can remember the first time I had sticky toffee pudding- I was at at Rose & Crown Pub at Epcot’s British Pavilion trying to hold custody of an amazing  waterfront table long enough to see Illuminations so I was slowly and systematically ordering my way down the appetizer menu when things looked appealing… which left me with limited options as Americanized traditional British pub grub just isn’t my cuppa tea. After exhausting all of my appetizer options, I decided to make friends with the dessert menu just in time for fireworks which is where I happened upon sticky toffee pudding.  By name it doesn’t seem very appealing but my patient yet slightly exasperated waitress recommended it so I decided to give it a go… and it was amazing!  Tender and moist, sweet but not cloying, with a depth of flavor I had never experienced in dessert.  Fireworks! An A+ to my young palate.

In the years since, I’ve tried sticky toffee pudding elsewhere and never really enjoyed it.  It always seems too sweet, excessively dense, and pointlessly rich.  I’ve not had it again at WDW though, so maybe there is a bit a ever present Disney magic in their recipe.  Or maybe it’s the fact that without the accompaniment of spectacular fireworks, sticky toffee pudding is just another dessert worthy of critique.

Either way, when I set out to make sticky toffee pudding my own I knew I wouldn’t be serving it next to fireworks and a spherical video display globe so I would probably notice if I produced a dessert with cloying sweetness- talk about pressure!

A little googling taught me that the cake portion of most sticky toffee pudding is usually made with Guiness.  First problem.  We aren’t Guiness drinkers outside of Ireland.  Just like we aren’t Pilsner Urquell drinkers outside of the Czech Republic.  We like our food at its best and freshest, so we apply the same rule to our beer in this household.  The Hubs seemed convinced that his current favorite beer, Founders Breakfast Stout, would be the ideal ingredient for sticky toffee pudding and I was inclined to agree.  It’s brewed with flaked oats, bitter chocolate, and Sumatra and Kona coffee.

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Given that it’s my husband’s favorite beer right now I also decided I wanted it to have a decent presence in the toffee sauce, which would also help to temper the sweetness.  The flavor profile of the beer also seemed to be begging for an extra espresso kick in the sauce, and who am I to deny anyone a little extra caffeine?

As a final solution to the richness/sweetness/density overload I find in sticky toffee pudding, I decided to pour the sauce over the cake just as it is served.  But feel free to pour half of the toffee sauce on the cake immediately to let to soak in should you prefer.

Oats… coffee… maybe we should just call this Breakfast Sticky Toffee Pudding.  That works, right?

And yes, in case you are wondering, the toffee sauce is killer in a latte.

You’ve been warned.

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding Ingredients:

  • 6 large dates, pitted
  • 1 cup room temperature breakfast stout carefully poured
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour minus 1 tbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Espresso StoutToffee Sauce Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tbs breakfast stout

Directions: Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper covering bottom and sides.

Place the pitted dates in a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the beer to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. (It will fizz up a lot.) Pour the beer mixture over the dates. Let cool to room temperature.

Transfer the dates to a food processor using a slotted spoon. Add a little of the beer mixture and process until a paste forms. Continue to process, gradually adding the rest of the beer mixture, until the mixture is very smooth. Scrape the date paste into a bowl and keep it covered until ready to use.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the eggs in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low speed just until incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half the date mixture and mix just until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining date mixture, and finally the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until the batter is uniform in color and no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway and continue to bake for another 12 to 18 minutes, until a tester comes out clean when inserted in the center and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. using the parchment, lift cake out of pan onto a cutting board.  Remove crusts and cut into 2×2 square slices to serve. Serve at once, smothered in Espresso Stour Toffee Sauce, or reheat for 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven if serving later.

Bring sugar, cream, espresso powder, beer and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow boiling to subside before spooning over cake slices. Store in refrigerator and rewarm gently before using.

#FirstontheFirst: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Check out some other fabulous Sticky Toffee Pudding Options from our other First on the First bakers:

Maple Bacon Biscuits

12 Sep Go Running, Mama!: Maple Bacon Biscuits

Hi, my name is Jenn and I’m about to make your weekend breakfast awesome. Legitimately awesome. Objectively awesome.

Maybe not healthy… but awesome.

Around here, weekends are about the long run. Which also means Sundays are about the equally important “post long run breakfast.” Usually that means pancakes, but that is a serious undertaking in our household because I strongly believe the only classic pancakes worth making are those with stiffly beaten egg whites incorporated throughout which means that they are only good straight off the skillet- no pre-making, early prepping, or-gasp- freezing excess for the next weekend allowed… because that would make pancakes with beaten egg whites just terrible. Flat, mealy, gritty….Ick! And this makes me sad because pre-making, early prepping, and freezing leftovers for easy breakfasts later in the week are basically the first three bullet points on my Mommy Kitchen Creed.

Last weekend I had biscuits on the brain after receiving a heavy dose of undeserved praise the previous night for the ultra easy cheddar biscuits I toted to accompany minestrone soup at our best-running-family-freinds’ house along with some thick cut apple cinnamon smoked bacon that was a prime candidate for post long run breakfast. Bacon biscuits and scrambled eggs seemed like an obvious conclusion to reach. It took about thiry seconds to find a recipe on Joy the Baker for Brown Sugar Bacon Biscuits that was an ideal jumping off point. And Joy was onto something that makes me really happy- the combo of baconiness and sweetness.

Yep, I’m one of those cliche individuals who loves the idea of bacon and sweets… as an occasional treat, of course I love the Vogues Bacon Chocolate bar. At the donut shop, I opt for a maple bacon donut. One of my running teams has a “bacon challenge” during marathons (Endurance Sports Connection/Run Disney so I can Eat Disney shout-out!). I own both smoked bacon sugar and maple salt. Because those things make sense together. They are good- cliches, trends, and faux hipness aside.

Sweet/salty combinations are undeniably amazing. The king and queen of this regal pairing? Bacon and maple syrup.

Okay, so bacon and maple syrup it is.

I played around with the inspiration recipe just a bit in order to form my own perfect marriage of maple and bacon in biscuit. And, as I said before, it’s awesome.

Please run before you eat these- because chances are you aren’t stopping with just one!

Go Running, Mama!: Maple Bacon Biscuits

Maple Bacon Biscuits

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 tbs brown sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • butcher’s cut pepper (very coarsely ground)
  • 3/4 c cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 c + 1/2 c grade B maple syrup
  • 3/4 c buttermilk

Directions: Preheat oven to 370 degrees F.

Line baking sheet with foil and spread slices of bacon into a single layer. Sprinkle with pepper and bake until crisp, 15-17 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F.

Remove to layered paper towels to cool and drain. When cool to the touch, chop into medium chunks and set aside.

Add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and a generous 1/2 tsp butcher’s cut pepper to the bowl on a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until flour mixture resembles a very coarse meal and butter has broken into pea-sized chunks. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, maple syrup, and egg. Add to four mixture and stir to incorporate, adding bacon immediately after buttermilk mixture.

Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead several times just to incorporate, being careful not to overwork dough.

Roll or at dough into 1.5 inch thickness and cut into circles using a biscuit cutter. Reshape dough to make additional biscuits with scraps, being careful not to manipulate dough to the point that the butter begins to melt (shape biscuits away from the oven!).

Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Remove biscuits from baking sheet to a cooling rack placed over parchment and drizzle each with 1/2 tsp grade B maple syrup before serving.

Makes about two dozen biscuits.

Getting It Back: #Rogamonth and Virtual Races

16 Aug Go Running, Mama!- #rogamonth and Virtual Races

In January, when I received my bib number for the WDW Goofy Challenge I discovered I had been corralled incorrectly and was starting even further back than my modest times would normally provided.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at Disney World to pick up our bibs at the expo the line for corrections was exceptionally long and we were on the verge of missing our ADR at O’hana which would have been an unacceptable faux pas in the eyes of our exceptionally excited toddler.

Go Running, Mama- #Rogamonth and VIrtual Races

Baby Bird entertains herself (and Grandma) while she waits for Mama to finish the marathon leg of Goofy- there was no way this patient kiddo should have to miss dinner at O’hana!

Oh well… having lost some training time due having the flu over the holidays I figured I would be slower than normal and I was already staring down something near eight hours of running in the two day span so what would it matter if my gun time was an hour behind others?  In truth, it didn’t matter too terribly much except that marathon day ended up being so hot once the sun was out that every extra minute made what seemed like a major difference.  Bobbing and weaving around walkers and lollygaggers was exceptionally aggravating.  Sure, I was further back than I should have been but the extra agitations magnified the situation in my mind as the miles wore on.  Being in the back was starting to suck.

After that race, I decided that I was ready to commit myself training hard enough to get out of the slow corrals.  Two months later, after lots of sweat and a few tears, I rounded a huge corner and finished 13.1 miles of rolling hills with a finish time of 1:58:34, a major feat in that it was 25 minutes faster than my previous half marathon PR.  Success!  I was rolling!

I kept the momentum going as summer approached.  I was running more, training harder, listening to my coach’s feedback and my body’s cues… and I was on cloud nine.  Even as the weather heated up, I kept seeing improvements.

And then I had surgery.  And had to stop all activity for four weeks.

When I returned to running it was in the dead heat of the summer and with stalled momentum after feeling pretty invincible.  Nothing seemed to be going right.  I was slower.  I couldn’t hit my paces.  I was out of the morning run routine.  Ick!

I was having a hard time figuring out how to look beyond my little world and become part of the larger running universe again.  I needed a nugget of the inspiration and public accountability that comes with a race.  Luckily, the month of August provided two great accountability methods for me to get back on track through virtual races and a little insta-accountability!

In an unbelievably timely way, Jost Running offered me the complimentary opportunity to participate in their virtual races for August through October.  The Nike Women’s Virtual Half Marathon was the only other virtual race I’d done and it was an amazing experience because A) it was the first time I’d ever run more than 10 miles B) it was my first race since middle school track and C) it gave birth to the amazingness that is Team Victorious!  Given my previous positive experience, it seemed like an awesome way to bump up my accountability while still training on my own terms to get back to where I knew I could be before we kick off race season here in Austin at the end of September.

A few fine ladies on instagram (Jen from Why I Run, Julia from Running on Om, Susie from Long Run Yoga, Toney from Ultra Toney Trainer, and Humble Beginnings Yoga) also started the month long #rogamonth challenge to get yogis running and runners yogi-ing(?) with the added accountability of an instagram community.  Heck, I can’t avoid it if I need to take a picture of it, can I!?

Go Running, Mama!- #rogamonth and Virtual Races

On the 5th day of Rogamonth, I did the Jost Virtual 5k benefiting ALS.  With a 30:16 finish, it certainly wasn’t my fastest but it was a great way to get myself moving again and to see my finisher stats alongside the other participants for encouragement.  If felt good to step out the door that morning knowing I was accountable for my time- whatever time my body might be ready for that day- and give ownership to my recovery training.  I’ll be doing the August Jost Half Marathon soon with the added challenge of running at high altitude, so I’m sure a hilarious recap will follow.

Additionally, I’ve been keeping up with my Rogamonth challenges.  Feel free to help keep me accountable on instagram… if for no other reason than to watch me yoga it up with my toddler or while vacuuming.  Hey, fit moms make it work!

Get to Know Your Grains: Quinoa (Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars)

12 Aug Go Running, Mama!- Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars; clean, healthy snack or breakfast on the go

About eight years ago I was exposed to quinoa at Walt Disney World while staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Boma, the African buffet restaurant on property, served a hot quinoa breakfast porridge every morning and even without knowing its nutritional prowress I found it to be a delightfully tasty alternative to normal breakfast cereals.  I knew I just had to have it as a morning meal option in my own home.  Anyone who has been to WDW knows that they do customer service right so when I asked about how it was prepared, the chef provided me with the preparation method and recipe.

When I returned home, I did a little research on this mystery grain and quickly learned that it was quite the super grain.  Along with preparing quinoa in the mornings I started seeking out other ways to enjoy it.  At that point I was living in Houston and the fabulous Monica Pop would sell a red quinoa salad (that I have often tried to copy, yet have never managed to get quite right) at the T’afia farmers market that became a common staple for me.  I also started making a quinoa and flax granola occasionally that- looking back- seemed very forward thinking despite the fact that my friends made fun of me for taking time to home make a seedy little granola.  It’s probably one of the biggest contributors to my crunchy hippie reputation amongst my NFL dance friends.

By now I think most everyone is familiar with quinoa and has used it at least once in their kitchen- even if it’s simply been in place of rice as a side dish.  And however you might use it, you’re doing your health some serious favors.  Nutritional evaluations of quinoa lead most dietitians to classify it as a complete protein.  It’s high in antioxidants, phytonutrients and the flavonoids quercetin and kaempherol- higher, in fact, than the celebrated cranberry.  It contains eight essential amino acids yet is low in fat.  It is gluten free.  It’s easy to prepare and store for midweek meals.  No wonder it’s considered the “Mother Grain.”

To be frank, practically the only way you can go wrong with quinoa is to pronounce it phonetically.  Stop with the “kwin-oh-uh”… it pronounced “Keen-wah.”

Say it with me- “Keeeeeen-waaaah.”

Now go eat some!

Nutritional Information (1/2 c prepared quinoa)-

  • Calories- 111
  • Total Fat- 4 g
  • Sodium- 7 mg
  • Carbohydrates- 19.5 g
  • Fiber- 2.5 g
  • Protein- 4 g
  • Vitamin E- .6 mg
  • Thiamin- .1 mg
  • Riboflavin- .1 mg
  • Niacin- .4 mg
  • Vitamin B6- .1 mg
  • Folate- 37.5 mcg
  • Calcium- 16 mg
  • Iron- 1.4 mg
  • Magnesium- 59 mg
  • Phosphorus- 140.5 mg
  • Zinc- 1 mg

Go Running, Mama!- Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars; clean, healthy snack or breakfast on the go

These are perfect for my toddler’s snack during dance camp because they pack a protein punch!  If you’re making them for adults, up the flavor factor by tossing in some additional baking spices.  You can also toss in raisins to make them more similar to traditional granola bars for bigger kiddos.

Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars

  • 2 1/2 c quinoa, prepared and at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs flax meal
  • 6 tbs water
  • 1/3 c almond milk (I’m crazy for Califia Farms)
  • 1/3 c grade B maple syrup
  • 1 tbs local honey
  • 1 tbs cinnamon (ceylon is the best bet for use in this quantity)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 370 degrees F.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper.

In a small mise en place bowl, mix flax meal with water and allow to congeal.

In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs and flax meal mixture.  Reserving quinoa, add remaining ingredients and whisk once again.

Add quinoa and mix well to combine.

Pour into parchment lined baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Allow to cool 10 minutes in pan before removing on parchment to a cooling rack.

Once completely cool, cut in  a 2 inch grid to create 16 bars.

Meeska… Mooska… Mouseka-Cakes: Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties

5 Aug Go Running, Mama!- Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties; easy, healthy, make ahead meals in fun character shapes

Sunday morning, I woke up feeling icky!  As can be expected when you have a toddler in the house, Baby Bird sensed this and decided to wake up extra early while Daddy was our for his long run and swim.  She pampered me with lots of hugs and kisses- which I adore from my sweet girl- but she also wanted my undivided attention directed towards making character voices for all of her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse character dolls.  Not exactly a relaxing moment of recovery.  Though caffeine is normally avoided in our household, caffeine made a welcome appearance as I did my very best Goofy impersonation waiting for Daddy to make it home.

Go Running, Mama!

I do my best to be a super healthy gal, but sometimes this happens.

Since there is no such thing as a mama sick day, I knew I wasn’t going to get tons of rest which meant I needed to try to buy myself some time wherever possible.  On top of that, I wanted to attempt to stay in my home in my yoga shorts, sweatshirt, compression socks, and totally-not-of-the-moment-for-a-30-plus-year-old-mother messy bun barring medical emergency or fire.

One problem- I needed to go to the grocery store.  Aside from a major run on the market last week for end of the season peaches, I hadn’t purchased much produce lately as I was working through what he had in the fridge.  I also haven’t gotten a CSA order in a few weeks since we have been in and out of town.  And, thanks to feeling icky, I forgot to confirm this week’s Monday order so I wont start my week off with a rescue box of goodies.

Even if I had remembered to confirm my order I still would have been in a jam because Baby Bird has Mickey Mouse Dance Camp this week thus a yummy lunch that is both toddler friendly and toddler manageable must be packed for 5 days.

So my choices were a) go to the store b) make it work and get creative in the kitchen.

I’m sure someone is looking at that and thinking “hmmm… isn’t ‘c) send your husband to the store’ an option?”

In short- no.

No, it’s not an option.  My husband is very helpful.  He is very kind.  He will shop for every item on our list.  But he will also call me about each item as though I must guide him to the exact location for each and every thing like I’m the world’s only grocery Onstar.  He is a perfectionist and wants to bring home exactly what I needed.  But when I’m feeling bleh- done is better than perfect, so that was a no-go.  Plus, his weekend time is far better spent loving on Baby Bird than going Whole Foods Orienteering.

Don’t fret!  There’s a little something you should know about Jenn- cooking is almost like breathing to me.  Seriously… if I haven’t cooked something recently it’s possible that I’m dead.  Running, dancing, and cooking are cathartic experiences for me and since we don’t have a treadmill or a dance room at our house, a good deal of home time is spent in the kitchen having fun.  And anyways, this past Thanksgiving when I was so sick with the “super flu” that I could barely stand up I managed to rally and cook a 5 course meal (in aseptic technique a la the science lab teacher I used to be) that I couldn’t even eat so feeling icky is just a minor bump when it comes to food action.  I may train for marathons on the pavement, but I also train for moments like this in my kitchen.  Trust me- there are at as many miles on my Kitchenaid stand mixer as there are on my most recent three pairs of Adidas Bostons combined!

But I digress.  Back to the challenge at hand…

The produce situation was abysmal.  There were some berries (score for lunch bag snacks!) and TWO ZUCCHINI left over from the previous evening’s zucchini pie.  That’s it for fresh and seasonal.  Sad.

Luckily, last week my sweet friend Laura and I were chatting about the big hits in our toddlers’ dining repertoire as we waited for our girls in toddler yoga and she happened to mention that her little one could always be counted on to eat quinoa patties.  Quinoa patties are awesome because they are an easy “disposal” food for any leftover chopped veggies you have on hand as well as an ideal vehicle in which to hide nutrient dense greens that can sometimes be a struggle for picky eaters. Plus they freeze really well.  I had totally forgotten about how great and easy they were and made a mental note to make some for Baby Bird soon.

Go Running, Mama!

Baby Bird still hasn’t quite grasped the hand placement for bridge!

Since we always have a plethora of quinoa on hand, soon became Sunday as I knew they would pack will in a toddler lunch and require no utensils.  Quinoa patties were a perfect fit for some grated zucchini and they also gave me the opportunity to use up some leftover black beans and corn kernels from last Friday night’s Southwestern pizza.

I made a little more quinoa than I needed for the patties as well so I could whip up a batch of Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars that could pack easily for snack time at camp as well as make an easy breakfast if I wasn’t in tip top shape by morning.

Instead of the usual round patties, I went for a Mickey Mouse shape.  How fun will that be for Baby Bird when she eats her Mouseka-lunch at Mouseka-camp!?

The quinoa patty experience reminded me one of one of the biggest encouragements for starting this blog- remembering all the things I’ve done that I feel are worth repeating!  On that note… thanks for virtually hanging out with me and helping to clear my never ending case of Mommy-brain.

Enjoy!

Go Running, Mama!- Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties; easy, healthy, make ahead meals in fun character shapes

Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties

  • 1 1/2 c quinoa, prepared and cooled to room temperature (about 1/2 c quinoa cooked in 1 1/2 c water or stock)
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 c diced onion
  • 1/2 corn kernels (I used frozen- defrosted)
  • 1/3 c black beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs flax meal
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 tbs chives, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp prepared dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Position a box grater over a kitchen towel. Grate the zucchini onto the towel.  Gather the shredded zucchini in the towel and wring over the sink to remove excess liquid.

In a small mise en place bowl, mix flax meal and water and allow to congeal.

Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent.  Add corn, beans, and shredded zucchini and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to incorporate and remove pan from heat to cool.

In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg.  Add flax meal mixture, flour, and chives and beat once more to incorporate.  Add the quinoa to the egg mixture. and mix.  Turn the zucchini mixture onto a cutting board and roughly chop before adding to the egg mixture.  Mix well to combine.

Go Running, Mama!- Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties; easy, healthy, make ahead meal

Spoon mix into cookie cutter

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a cookie cutter (Our Mickey Mouse cutter encompasses the combined area of a 3.5 inch biscuit cutter, so if you are making these for adults a round cookie cutter about 3.5 inched in diameter will work perfectly!) spoon the mixture into the cookie cutter until it fills the cutter halfway.  Gently slide the cookie cutter off of the patty and repeat, making sure to space them out enough that you can flip them halfway through cooking with a spatula without disturbing the shape.

Go Running, Mama!- Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties; easy, healthy, make ahead meals in fun character shapes

Remove cookie cutter carefully to maintain shape

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven to flip and then bake for another 15 minutes, rotating the pan when you return it to the oven.

Makes about 16 patties (8 servings)

Question for y’all: Does anyone else have a great, easy tried and true recipe you wish you didn’t frequently “forget?”

Relax, Mama: Sun, Run & Fun

29 Jul Go Running, Mama!- Run, Sun, Fun during family vacations

It’s summer.

It feels like summer outside, but it doesn’t feel like summer in my mind.

Does that make sense?  It probably makes sense to most moms.

I started the summer with a sizable list of things I wanted to accomplish, and the list has grown instead of receding.  Not only are the to-do’s piling up, but I feel like I haven’t managed to squeeze in any of the fun summery things that make me love Austin oh-so-much.

*sigh*

During summer weekdays, the Baby Bird and I have only managed to make it to the pool once, Deep Eddy once, and Barton Springs once.  We haven’t made it to Art Park at all this summer.  We’ve squeezed in a bare minimum of green market visits.  We’ve yet to make it to visit the dairy goats to see “other mama’s who make milky.” (Oh yeah, I’m still nursing a toddler.  I may have neglected to mention that previously.)

It’s possible that my little scheduling blip while I had surgery several weeks ago is partially to blame.  It’s also possible that I’m learning to let go of all my highly idealized view of immersing my daughter in every experience under the sun to ensure she has the “best childhood possible” and instead am living in the moment with her more and more each day.  If we don’t get to take a “zoom zoom bus” ride through downtown to go see the “Texas Castle” (Capital building) and I don’t manage to have pictures of this fantastical journey to someday artfully arrange in her baby book we will all survive.  After all, you don’t have to have plans to make memories.

Relaaaaaax, Mama.

It’s a lesson both Baby Bird and the hubs are working hard to drive home for me which is good… because I’m a planner over-planner.

Sometimes my type-A tendencies can beat my hippie lala leanings into submission.

The hubs and I had a beautiful, organic, dog-friendly, earth-friendly, locally sourced wedding.  I planned it.  And the entire wedding party may have had color-coded schedules telling them where to be by the minute for three whole days.  And some of the guys still drank too much (that was NOT on the schedule) and were late to the rehearsal… and the wedding.  Guess what, Mama (See how I’m talking to myself here!?)? It didn’t detract from the experience or the memories at all.

Go Running, Mama- Sun, Run & Fun

When Baby Bird turned two I decided to scale back from the soiree I threw for her first birthday and just have a little play date lunch party at home. I made individual sized pizza crusts in the shape of Mickey silhouettes in that each child could customize for lunch (you know… totally laid back), created a craft, and made four dozen Mickey silhouette cookies iced in plain-white so that kiddos could decorate their own cookie with food markers. For an hour and a half long lunch party.  For two year olds.  The kiddos slapped together pizzas, ravenously gulped down Mickey faces, and then had playtime free for all.  Not a single cookie was decorated by a toddler.  No one left with their craft.  Guess what, Mama (reminder to me, once more)? It was fabulously fun and the Baby Bird still talks about it.

Go Running, Mama- Sun, Run & Fun

Even when we visited Walt Disney World for Marathon Weekend- a place where hyper planning with a toddler in tow makes you a genius instead of a nuisance- I managed to go a bit overboard with excel files, itineraries, and an ADR schedule truly unrivaled in quality and value (How do I know, you ask?  I created a spreadsheet, studied menus and costs, and basically became a WDW ADR actuary.  Is that a thing?  It should totally be a thing!).  And though the memories created by my countless hours of planning are priceless, I’ve come to realize that the little one would have been just as happy waving at characters in passing and the parking herself on a curb near the castle to spend the day watching stage shows and passing parades.  And those memories would have been just as magical (although not nearly as tasty and value-packed).

Go Running, Mama- Sun, Run & Fun

I’m letting go of the schedule reins just a bit.  I promise.

Thankfully, the people I love most give me little pauses here and there that help me remember how fabulous life can be when we get to enjoy just being.  The past weekend, my little fam got the chance to join my parents at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort for a mini-vacation… and a chance to refocus on such moments.

Having grandparents with us also gave us the added bonus of couple time without having to take a “couple” trip- we could hang out withe Baby Bird but also spend time on our own while the little one napped or needed quiet time.

I, of course, prepared for the weekend by creating a mental checklist of everything I wanted to do while there- run such-and-such distance at such-and-such pace each day, workout early each morning, study my French, menu plan for our big vacation trip, menu plan for the next few weeks……….

Go Running, Mama!- Run, Sun, Fun during family vacations

What actually took place on vacation strayed from my list just a bit.  I didn’t menu plan.  At all.

I didn’t study a single French term.  Or even read.

I didn’t write.

I didn’t even run all of my runs the way they were set on my training plan.

Go Running, Mama!

I did run though.

I ran once once treadmill (Yuck! I had forgotten how much I hate treadmills!) because of the temperature and once with my husband (HUGE luxury we don’t frequently get with a toddler at home). We also enjoyed the opportunity to work out in a gym each day while grandparents played with Baby Bird on the beach at the pool.

Beyond that, I spent a good deal of time enjoying the company of my daughter and husband in the sun (which for me means frequent layers of SPF 70 , a sunhat, a nice shady spot given my Melanoma situation.)  I closed out the weekend blissfully slowed down.

Go Running, Mama!- Run, Sun, Fun during family vacations

Perfect timing too, because this week is a “dead” week for us.  No playgroup, no dance camp, no parties to plan- just time with the Baby Bird!  Normally it’s the type of week where I would be inspired to dust off the list of things we haven’t accomplished yet this summer, but thanks to my weekend reminder of the beauty of each moment I’m planning for our week off to be a bit different.

We aren’t going to be held hostage by anything- today that means Baby Bird is building castles around her beagles and sporting pink training panties, I’m fitting in exercises amidst spontaneous activities,  and I’ll be running in the evening instead of the morning.

Tomorrow?  Who knows.

All I know is that it should be glorious.

And memorable.

I’m planning on it 😉