The Bucket List

Now that Anna has emigrated from Oxford back to home for the summer, Melissa and I are truly on our own.  A while back, we created a “summer bucket list” of activities to do in Oxford for when we get bored (which is often).  Some are more realistic than others, some involve running, some involve cooking/shopping, some involve fun and/or ridiculous things.  So far, our accolades include running to Indiana, although not seeing the “Welcome to Indiana” sign, even though we had run over a half a mile into Indiana.  Apparently those signs are only on major roads… Well it was a good run nonetheless, ending up being an 11 miler that we found out was run at an average of 7:15 pace, thanks to my Garmin.  And we passed some new friends, including some cows, some horses that wouldn’t stop staring us down as we ran by, and a little girl who “liked our shorts and our shoes, and would like our shirts…if we were wearing any.”  Other list items we have checked off are eating at Oxford restaurants, such as Quarter Barrel, and Melissa sympathizing with the waiter and leaving him a nice note with his generous tip.

There are 21 items on the bucket list, and 3 and 2/3 are accomplished so far.  Hopefully it will keep us entertained in these next few months, between working, running 50+ miles per week, volunteering (Melissa) and napping (me).

Here’s to staying cool in the midst of this heat flash, and to running inside- I’m a wimp!

Passing the Time

Oxford in the summer time can get pretty taxing.  I have been having trouble finding time to do everything that I want to do (this is sarcasm in case you haven’t picked up on my boredom).   In fact, my time has been pretty much been filled up by the following fun activities:

1) Cooking.

So in my copious amounts of spare time, I have been pinning and pinning and pinning.  Food.

First, there were the blondies.  Slutty blondies, they were called.  Cookie bottom crust (sugar cookie dough), Golden Oreos, and blondie batter with white chocolate chips on the top.  Oh my goodness.  There is a reason that I individually wrapped these, put them in the freezer, and proceeded to send at least 4 to my mono-stricken little sister.

Last week, I also tried my hand at creating homemade granola bars, which turned out pretty delicious.  I got to use this Biscoff spread that I have had since winter break, and use up some of my mini chocolate chips that can be dangerous (they are also being kept in the freezer…).

And don’t worry, I had some redemptive healthy recipes to slightly repair my reputation as a health nut.

So there was this kale that I bought for the first time, and after I made a small batch of kale chips, it ended up sitting idle in the fridge, staring at me sadly each time I opened it.  So I set out to find a recipe to save this poor kale from the trash can, where it may have been headed.  On one of my favorite sites for inspiration (katheats.com), I found my solution.  Sweet Potato and Kale Soup.  I loooove sweet potatoes, in pretty much any form, so I knew this one was a winner.  I also got to try out some new ingredients, which I had to hunt for in the international section of Kroger (more about Kroger later): coconut milk and garam masala.  Full disclosure: I did not actually find the garam masala, but was still able to learn what it was (an Indian spice blend including both sweet and savory spices such as cinnamon and cumin).  I must have looked like a crazed lunatic trying to find this little spice blend by reading every single label in the spice row and pacing back and forth (while wearing a backpack).  The soup ended up turning out great, although it was very thick.  I was a bit skeptical about adding the greens (I tossed in some spinach in addition to the kale), but they actually added just the right amount of texture for the otherwise smooth and sweet soup.  The peanuts and coconut on top added some visual interest as well as more varying textures and crunch.

The other healthy food that I have been into lately has been overnight oats.  For those not familiar, the basic concept is that you mix dry rolled oats and yogurt, with some fruit and milk, and leave it to set in the fridge overnight, and voila- you wake up in the morning with a cool, filling breakfast of no-cook oatmeal!  Today, I went for a tropical feel for my oats (which I am saving for post-run because of the dairy in them), mixing oats, plain Greek yogurt, chopped mango, a little bit of sliced banana, a splash or two of milk, and some shredded coconut.  I broke into these last night after a night run, and topped the bit that I ate with some nutty granola, and it was just what I needed for a small recovery snack.

2) Running

Of course, this takes up much of my time, but not as much as you might think.  I have found myself saving my runs for later so that I know I have an enjoyable activity to look forward to.  The approximate hour of my day spent on the trails exploring or just running is usually one of the highlights, and I am using the summer to experiment with different foods before and after running.  I have found that running more than 3 miles without breakfast or coffee never turns out too well, and that long runs go infinitely better when properly fueled and not run during the hottest part of the day.  My best runs have been either in the morning, a few hours after oatmeal and coffee, or in the evening, when the sun has just started to go down so it’s cooler, but there is still enough light to see.

I partook in a night run just the other day, and I caught myself thinking on the way back “I should do this more often.”  I ran down to the track at about 9 PM, and in a spur of the moment decision, did a timed mile to see where my fitness was at at this point in my recovery.  It was…alright, I mean, nothing compared to what I could do during outdoor season when I had my steeple buddies to push me to hit the pace, but pretty decent for starting off just wanting to go under 6:30 (I set the bar high).  After my timed mile, I took a bit just to enjoy being on the track, something I missed last summer when I was at home.  How cool is it that I can just run down to our home track in 4 minutes, at whatever time I want, to bring back memories of track seasons and workouts.  On my way back to my house, the sun was just setting, and I caught glimpses of the first fireflies of the summer.  It was the kind of sight that would make you run for a while (and I would have had I not been terrified of getting shinsplints from too many miles).

3) Grocery Shopping

So this goes along with cooking, but I thought it deserved its own category.

Since I do not have a car in Oxford, I have been biking to Kroger every week, once or twice a week, depending on how much food I have left.  Now there a couple things to keep in mind should you ever decide to do this: 1) Do not, I repeat, do not use a cart to shop, even if it is one of those half-size ones.  You will buy too much, and get up to the register and just think “Oh crap.”  Keep in mind you will have to carry all of your groceries back.  I opt for the backpack route, usually fitting all of my groceries in my backpack, but on this last trip where I mistakenly used a cart, balancing some of it in bags on the handlebars.  2) Make a list.  This is important not only for being able to carry all of your groceries back, but also for budgeting.  No, you do not need that extra box/jar/bag of whatever.  Is it on the list?  I didn’t think so.  3) Kroger has a bike rack!  It is kind of hidden, but I am sure glad I can stop locking my bike to the patio set on display in front of the store while I shop.

4) Crossword Puzzles

Washington Post Sunday Crosswords– I am a nerd.  Enough said.

5) Planning

When I get bored, I like to be productive, so this has resulted in several attempts to plan out my life.  I have approximately 3 calendars, 3 running logs, and several class schedule plans, complete with a few academic advising appointments.  I am SO ready for the semester to start.

 

Well, that’s all that’s going on in Oxford for now.  Fun times, fun times.  Suggestions for fun activities always welcome!

Run, Work, Repeat.

As all things tend to go, as soon as I start complaining about just how bored I am, life gets busy.

This weekend was Alumni Weekend here at Miami, which means that catering has about 8 events going on every day this weekend.  Which means that I worked pretty much nonstop all weekend, carrying trays, serving beverages, and making toasted rolls until I wanted to keel over.  Add a decent week of mileage into the mix, and I pretty much could use a massage right now.  Or a chiropractor.

Before the work blitz hit, I was finding other ways to make myself busy, such as figuring out my career path.  After taking a good deal of classes in the dietetics major, I am finding myself questioning whether that’s the best thing to major in based on where I want to go.  Ask any of my roommates, I tend to get a little crazy when I try to think about the future.  It just freaks me out, having to make major life decisions like this, but not knowing for sure if I am doing the right thing.  There are just so many options, some of which I am not even aware of, and I don’t want to settle for one thing if there is something better out there.  I guess choosing a job is a lot like choosing a husband, huh?

Now that I am finally done working, I can focus on the issue of the day: the fact that I have no milk, eggs, or bread.  Grocery shopping by bike adds a whole new element to the meal planning process.  And yes, I do meal plan.  Do you know how hard it is to buy random stuff at Kroger, come home and try to make something, only to realize you are missing like 3 key ingredients?  This, my friend, is where good planning comes into play.  I have been kind of getting by without really looking up recipes, but once I have eaten the same things like six times in the same month, I decided I needed some fresh new ideas.  Some of my favorite places to get recipes nowadays have been various websites, one of my favorites being Pinterest.  I know, Caitlin, I said I didn’t like Pinterest, but that was before I discovered that there are whole boards devoted to delicious recipes (many of which are sweets…yum).  I like that the Pinterest recipes are fresh, new takes on food, often including the latest “superfood” like kale, chia seeds, flax seed, or fun new nut butters like Sunbutter.  When they include these ingredients, I can be sure that I am getting lots of “bang for my buck” and that my seemingly insatiable runner’s appetite can be filled.  I have also enjoyed browsing the sites of food bloggers, because of the same reasons I like Pinterest, but also because they include tons of drool-inducing pictures as well as good descriptions of the food, with helpful hints.

The tricky part about planning meals though is cooking for one.  It is hard to look up a recipe, cut it down enough so that I don’t have meals for an army, and then buy ingredients in a small enough size so that I don’t have a pound of uneaten scallions or something that will just spoil before I can use them again.  I try to buy things that can be used in multiple recipes, like brown rice.  I can cook a bunch of it one day, and then use it as a side or part of my main dish all week, and since it’s already cooked, it saves me tons of time.

I do wish that someone would plan out a week of meals for one on a website somewhere with a shopping list so that waste is minimized, leftovers can be reused, and I don’t get bored with the same 5 foods over and over again.  Possible project?  We shall see…

My Slightly Obsessive Oatmeal Addiction

As I make my way through my second giant canister of Old-Fashioned Quaker Oats, I decided it was about time that I write a post dedicated to my true love: oatmeal.  Seriously, I can’t believe I’ve made it this far without professing my undying love for the best breakfast in the world!

A little background about my history with this superfood/delicious invention.  I have eaten oatmeal since I was a little kid, when my mother would make it for me and I would make it “snow” with the sugar I put on top.  It wasn’t until I started running, however, that I truly discovered the endless possibilities that it afforded me.  Oatmeal, I found, was the perfect pre-run food, which caused little to no digestive issues for me, and kept me full during my workout so I was not utterly starving after my run.  It was a great way to sneak fruit into my morning meal, making it a one-bowl breakfast that was easy to put together as I got ready for school.  I’m not quite sure when I started experimenting with all the different combinations that I have, but before I knew it, it was a full-blown obsession.  Now, some people have been living deprived, believing that oatmeal only consists of those little sugary packets you add hot water to.  Don’t get me wrong, those have their time and place (believe me, I have enough of them), but I’m just gonna say that once you have gotten a taste of my oatmeal, you’ll never go back.

One side story before I get into my favorite oatmeals:

So last year, I was surfing on Twitter, reading tweets from Quaker Oatmeal, one of my favorite tweeters, and I came across a mention of National Oatmeal Day. Hm, I thought, there’s a whole day devoted to oatmeal??  I click around, looking for when this day could possibly be, and I am floored.  Could it be?  Of all the days?  It’s my birthday.  How perfect!  As soon as I regain my composure, I do some more fishing, and find a contest on Twitter as part of National Oatmeal Day, with a chance to win a LOT of oatmeal.  It goes without saying that I entered.  Several times.  Fast forward to a few months later.  I am on my way back from the student package center, weighed down with three boxes, two of which are from none other than Quaker Oats.

It was kind of a lot of oatmeal.

Ok, now that that mandatory story is out of the way, here are some of my favorite things to do with oatmeal:

  • Banana Oatmeal- Take 1 cup water (or half water/half milk) and bring it to a boil on the stove.  While you are waiting for it to boil, slice a ripe banana (at least speckled, better if it’s almost brown) and place it in the water/milk.  Add 1/2 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats, and stir it into the bananas and water.  Turn the heat to medium, and wait for it to start bubbling.  When it starts to bubble, stir slightly so that the bananas kind of dissolve into the mixture.  When it reaches the desired consistency, it’s done!
    • This will give you the sweetest, creamiest, most filling oatmeal- it’s what I usually have a few hours before a long run, or when I know I won’t be able to eat until lunch.  To make it stick with you even longer, I put a spoonful of natural peanut butter on the top- the natural kind tends to melt easier so you are left with a pool of delicious melty goodness you can eat with each bite of oatmeal.  I have been seriously obsessed with this oatmeal lately- it’s just too good to resist when I have bananas on hand.
  • More classic oatmeals- Prepare oatmeal as directed on package (Boil 1 cup water, add 1/2 cup oatmeal, cook, stirring, until it reaches desired consistency).  Add any of the following toppings either towards the end of cooking or after cooking is complete:
    • Dried cherries/cranberries, walnuts, and strawberry jam/spread.  Fruity, nutty, crunchy, sweet.
    • Sliced bananas (slightly less ripe), chocolate chips, and Greek yogurt.  Decadently delicious.
    • Greek yogurt, sliced strawberries, and strawberry jelly.  This one sounds kind of weird, but the Greek yogurt really sets off the sweet warmth of the oatmeal.  The tangy, creamy, cool yogurt contrasts just perfectly with the warm, chewy oats, and the strawberries add the sweetness and freshness to the whole thing.
    • Any type of flavored peanut butter or spread- White Chocolate Peanut Butter or Nutella taste delicious with banana oatmeal, if you’re feeling crazy.  This is good post-run, when you need a little sugar to replace glycogen stores.
    • Peaches- add canned peaches towards the end of cooking, keeping in mind that they might make the oatmeal a little more runny, so you might have to cook it a little bit longer.  However, it’s totally worth it, because the canned peaches kind of infuse the oatmeal with all of their sweetness and peach flavor.  This is even better topped with peach flavored (or plain) yogurt.
    • Pumpkin- I’ve only done this a handful of times, but if you add some canned pumpkin to the oatmeal as it’s cooking, you get a really cool orange color (beta-carotenes!), and pumpkin pie-esque taste with the right combination of spices (I believe cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and nutmeg do the trick).  I would recommend adding a little brown sugar or other sweetener, however, because unsweetened pumpkin is not the greatest.
    • Trail mix- a couple tablespoons of any type of trail mix adds great texture to the oatmeal, as well as a variety of flavors and colors.  The whole sweet-salty thing usually works out pretty well, so most trail mixes have it on-point.
    • Apple cinnamon- add sliced apples as you would bananas in banana oatmeal.  Cook the apples for a little bit in the boiling water before adding the oats so that the apples can get a little bit tender.  Add spice with cinnamon and allspice.  I have been meaning to experiment with applesauce instead of fresh apples, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I’m thinking that the already cooked apples in chunky applesauce might help flavor this one a little better.
    • Any type of berries- if you add them during the cooking process, you will get purple oatmeal that has tons of fiber!  However, I am allergic to blueberries, so most frozen berry mixtures don’t work for me 😦
  • Steel-Cut Oatmeal– I’m not the biggest fan of this kind (I mean, it’s great, but waiting half hour for oatmeal to cook in the morning when I’m starving doesn’t usually work for me).  Trader Joe’s has a 6-minute quick-cooking steel cut oatmeal that I have tried and is delicious, but I still have to be feeling adventurous to make it instead of one of my standbys.  This nuttier, slightly heartier-textured oatmeal tends to pair really well with nuts and anything warm and dense.  It’s great in the winter or for cool, misty Washington mornings.

Ok, I will stop ranting and raving about oatmeal now, but be warned,  I will probably continue to post about my new oatmeal creations as they happen.  😉

Gastronomes

Two things that have been missing from this blog for a while: photos and food.

We are definitely fixing that with this post!!

A few weeks ago (I really am not sure on that; the time is just flying by!) I decided to make some tofu using this tofu that I had in the fridge, and made it a meal using other things that I had on hand.  This is what I came up with:

Tofu baked with salt, pepper, and honey, served with some sauteed spinach with parmesan cheese and garlic salt and an English muffin. And served alongside some OJ so that the iron from the spinach can be absorbed easily!

Just a few days ago, I went wild and made a big pot of chili as discussed in the previous post:

Chili and Cornbread, of the infamous cornbread incident. Although I will say, it was delicious. Until I blew it up the next day.

Tuesday night, we had a girls’ night and baked some homemade veggie pizza!  It involved a lot of dancing around the kitchen, slicing veggies, and John Mayer.

Stacked up veggies!

Yay spinach!

Our pizza before it went into the oven

Enjoying the pizza- whole grain pre-made crust, tomato sauce, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, spinach (of course) feta cheese, parmesan cheese. Baked to perfection.

After the pizza, a Tuesday night dance party was in order.  And yes, our kitchen is pink, because we’re girls.

In the midst of one of our singing/dancing parties in our kitchen. A regular occurrence in the household…

Today, our summer class ended!  Whoop whoop we made it through 4 weeks of Dietetics!  We are also now ServSafe certified, as we passed our ServSafe manager exams before class today.  And surprise, surprise, instead of a final exam, we had a final cake decorating session!  Our teacher got us all cakes from the school bakery, and we got briefed on cake decorating skills and went to work.  Melissa created a Karaoke-inspired cake, complete with a microphone and fiesta sprinkles.  Hashtag 403.  I went for the blog theme and did a We Heart Oxford cake.  After sampling our cake, we determined it was a LOT of frosting.  Definitely sugar-high-inducing.  Quote of the day:

“Take some cake and put it your mouth with some frosting: It’s like making a cake in your mouth!”

TaA FIESTA CAKE!

Melissa and her creation. As you can see, rocking the ever so stylish Dietetics lab coat and hair protection.

In honor of the blog 🙂

Me and my cake creation

All of the other cakes in our 203 class

Guess whose is whose?

Doing the dishes…

The result of too much sugar and it being the last day of class…

Oh haiii Melissa!

And Anna never ceases to amaze us with her sometimes-bizarre snacks.  Take for example her rhubarb!  She came to the table one day with a giant stalk of rhubarb and was taking bites of it dipped in sugar- yum?

Anna and her gigantic stick of rhubarb!

Stay tuned for more summer adventures- now that we are done with summer classes and we have our training schedule, we’ve got lots of running to do but a LOT of time on our hands. 🙂

Convection, not Conduction

“Conduction is what happens when a piece of matter that is hot comes in direct contact with another piece of matter that is not…different types of matter react differently when hot.  Therefore, conduction will be different depending on the medium used.” (Introductory Foods, 13th Edition)

This morning, we got a firsthand lesson in food science.  Here’s some background.

So last night, I got excited about cooking and made a huge batch of chili and some cornbread to go with it.  I used a clear glass baking dish for the cornbread, and when it was done cooking in the oven (via convection), I put it on the stove to cool.  That night, I covered it in foil, put it on the back burner, and left it there to set.  This morning, after my run (but before my coffee, I may add), I put a pot of water on the stove for my typical morning oatmeal, and proceed to making my coffee.  After a little while, I wondered why my water was taking so long to come to a boil.  It was only a cup of water, how long could it take?  Two seconds later, I got my answer.

A sound like a gunshot, some low-key flames, and glass everywhere.

The cornbread was on fire.

Anna sprints to the cupboard looking for the fire extinguisher.  “How does it come off??” she exclaims.

In shock, I take the foil off the cornbread, turn off the burner, say a few choice words, and wait for the flames to die down.  I did not, as Anna suggested, “Pour water on it!”  Melissa simply sat calmly for a bit, before suggesting “Smother it!”

It did kind of look cool, the cornbread with its charred (blackened?) center in the shape of the burner, pieces of glass stuck to the edges, and broken glass covering our stove.  However, it ended up being a waste of a half a batch of cornbread, as well as a pan (oops).

So lesson learned:

  • Drink coffee before attempting to cook anything on the stove.
  • Don’t put pans of stuff on the stove; not even to cool! (thanks food science prof)
  • The fire extinguisher is in the pantry.
  • Glass pans need to cook things via convection, not conduction.

The Running Begins

You know that feeling, at the beginning of coming back from a couple weeks off, when you feel like you’re dying for every single run?  Well, that feeling is finally gone.  The first week was kind of rough, and 3 miles felt like death, but after that stressful week ended, I finally felt like a runner again!  It’s funny how stressful things going on can affect your running so much.  WIth like 4 projects due on the same day in my summer class, and then a big project due the next day, I was feeling subconsciously stressed out.  The day that the big project was over (don’t ask how it went), Melissa, Anna, and I went on a celebratory house run, and it was like a turning point.  I finally started to feel good as we ran through random cornfields, excitedly talking about running, summer, and that night’s plans.  It was only Thursday, but for us, it was the start of a great weekend.

Somehow, we didn’t take any pictures of our weekend, but as is my regular fashion, here are a couple quotes from various people that describe the night.  Sooo much housemate bonding.

“Quick, make it look like we’re having a party!”

“I wonder who drew the cats everywhere…”

“OMG you go to Harvard…wanna date?”

“Come out with us! It doesn’t matter that you’re in sweats; come out with us!”

“Anna, go slap some makeup on and go meet those boys!”

“You do know we inherited that, right?”

“We have mono!”

“Wait, why are you in Oxford? I’m confused.”

“Can we get pizza?  We need to order pizza.  Promise we’re going to order pizza.”

“Can I have your credit card?”

“Is your house as jank as ours?”

“Why are you singing show tunes?”

“Where’s my phone?”

“Why did I download a compass and a ‘brightest flashlight’ app last night?”

And so many more.

Saturday, I began running for real, with the onset of my adventure running in Oxford.  I said so long to the days of 3 mile, 20 minute runs, and started using my running time to explore.  I will say that the trails are looking great this time of year, now that they trimmed the grass by the horse stables, and that the new cross country course is going to be pretty sweet.  Apparently Peffer Park has a high ropes course hidden up behind that hill that we run all the time during cross country, and running the course we ran for the time trial still brings back memories of coach yelling out her car window as we struggled up the Campus Ave hill.  All of these cross country memories are just making me really excited for the upcoming season, and making me realize that I am missing my teammates like crazy!

Pictures are coming soon, I promise.  🙂  But for now, I’m just working on my sports bra and shorts tans.  Cute, right?