New blog!

I’ve started a new blog focusing on running. Enjoy!

http://betsyagogo.wordpress.com

Running Update # 14: A Belated Turkey Trot Race Report

Honestly, I thought I had written this post last Sunday. With a busy week and me starting to get sick (boo), that really really slipped my mind.

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Anywho, this is about a race that took place a week and a half ago. The Turkey Trot, of course!

Every Thanksgiving morning, there is a race in downtown Cleveland, like in a lot of cities. I love the concept of Turkey Trots, that says that Thanksgiving isn’t all about gorging on food-you can still be healthy and enjoy Thanksgiving and spend time with your family by doing so! My dad has run loads of Turkey Trots and tried every year to get me to run. I was never a runner though and saw that sleeping in on Thanksgiving morning was much more important than running a race. Last year, however, I was starting to race in New York and jumped on the chance when my dad sent that perennial email asking if I wanted to run the Trot. That race, however, was not a fun one. The course is right along Lake Erie downtown, which is completely open and vulnerable to the elements. Last year is was snowing/freezing rain/sleeting/windy/cold and everything else that is like that. It. was. so. miserable. My dad was recounting that race when we were lining up this year, and how he kept telling himself after every mile that that was one mile he didn’t have to do anymore. My time on that race was 42 min (it’s a 5-miler), pretty fast cause all I wanted to do was finish the damn thing. My dad and sister and I had fun together though, even though it was pretty miserable.

Fast forward to this year. Lots has happened since the last Turkey Trot. I’ve had two running injuries, broke my toe and became addicted to racing. So, Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, I went to bed way too excited to get up the next morning and race. I woke up the next morning on my own, not needing a nudge from my dad or Dalton to jump on my bed, because I was so fricking exited. And…the sun was shining! The SUN!! No rain, no snow, no sleet, no wind. Amazing. One of our team decided to stay in bed (Maggie-I think last year’s miserable conditions convinced her that bed would be more fun) but dad and I were 100% in. A quick nosh on a Z-bar (mmmmmmmmmmm) and we were off! Well, off in the car. In places that aren’t New York you have to drive to races sometimes. Imagine that! My mom joined us too to be our cheerleading squad. It was nice to have someone watching unlike last year (but rightly so). My dad and I camped out for a bit at the convention center waiting for the race to start along with, it sure seemed like, half of Cleveland. And, as always, we ran into people my dad knows but I don’t. Smile and nod Betsy, smile and nod. Pretty soon it was almost 9:30 which meant it was almost the start of the race!

9:30…and they’re off! A run along Lake Erie in Cleveland with beautiful sunshine…there’s nothing like it. Ok-I’m going to give guesses for how I felt mile upon mile, especially in terms of hills and such. Mile 1-I split from my dad pretty fast (sorry dad!) to get up in front away from the walkers and slow people. Lots of running on the curb and sidewalks to get past slowpokes. I felt like I was running my normal speed-between 8:15 and 8:30. However, when I got to my first mile marker, my watch said 8:05. Wh-aaat?!? Um that’s fast. Way fast for me. I wasn’t sure if I should slow down cause I still had 4 miles to go. I decided to just keep going at that pace. I think the second mile had lots of downhills and flat stretches, cause my watch said it was 7:30 for Mile 2. !?!?!?!? I have only ever run that fast on the treadmill when I’m doing tempos. Whoa. I was running a speedy race…maybe a little too speedy for me. I didn’t want to die in the last mile or 2 cause I was running too fast. The course was so different than my typical Central Park race that I was running loads faster. Well, I decided to just keep going with it and enjoy it and if I got tired at the end I’d just slow down a little. Mile 3 was flat as well, running right along the lake and the smaller Cleveland airport reserved for rich people. I.E. people with private jets and such. Rich people. There was still a nice crowd and I’d get stuck behind people sometime but that didn’t bother me. I was expecting there to be less people because last year at this point, the race had emptied a bit and there was lots of space. Now that I look back on it, though, I realize its because the weather was so crappy last year that fewer people ran. Duh. Mile 3-7:56. Still under 8 min! Nice! I don’t remember the 4th mile. So ha. Mile 4-8:07. I do, on the other hand, remember mile 5. It went down around the Browns Football stadium, by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum and back up into the city from the lakefront. That back up…that’s a bad hill. It’s only half a mile or so from the finish so I had pretty much put everything I had into the previous 4.5 miles and was not feeling a big hill. And it just kept on going. The funny thing though it’s nothing like the Harlem Hills in Central Park, but for some reason it’s so bad. So bad that I honestly though I was going to throw up halfway through. I just had to keep looking down, not straight ahead as to not see how much further I had to go. But, the beautiful weather and the energy of being in a race pulled me up. And all of a sudden, I was in the final stretch! I was looking out for my Mom-she had my camera to take a pic of me but we never found each other cause she was looking for my pink hat but I took it off before I even started. That’s okay though…Mile 5-8:12. That darn hill slowed me down a lot but I still finished in….39:52!!! Look at that beauty…

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That’s a sub 8-min pace peps!!!!! I was in SHOCK…at the time, I was pretty sure that they measured the course wrong cause that’s one insanely fast pace for me. And I still felt pretty good-once I got over that bit of nausea from that final hill. Overall, it was a fantastic race on a beautiful day and something fun to do with my dad. He finished not long after me at 45:something-better than last year! He has had surgery on his ACL so that’s phenomenal for him. In his heyday, he was quite the marathoner and qualified for Boston-my ultimate goal. I’m so glad that now I have this hobby that I share with him, and Thanksgiving was (and is) the perfect time to share that with him.

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We got back home with plenty of time to make Thanksgiving dinner…and I barely had a second to eat my oatmeal before my mom got me to work with OUR shared hobby…cooking of course.

Here are some pics of the race my mom took. Can you see me? Probably not, cause neither can I.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:
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Browns’ Stadium
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People running
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It’s the Stuff(ing) Dreams Are Made Of

This time, exactly three years ago, I was living in Sevilla, Spain as an English teacher. I was living with a true cornucopia of people from all over the globe (American, Puerto Rican, Dutch, Swiss, German, Mexican, English, Australian, Kiwi and Spanish). Ever seen that movie The Spanish Apartment? Yeah-it was kinda like that. Well, the day before Thanksgiving that year, I was getting pretty homesick when the Puerto Rican guy Jose (who had lived most of his life in the States) asked me if I’d be interested in doing Thanksgiving for the house with him. I was so excited he proposed that and asked him what he wanted me to cook. He said nothing, just to show up excited for the day. I asked him if he was planning on making stuffing, and he said no. What!?!?!?! Hold up here…no stuffing? That’s just ridiculous. Thanksgiving isn’t thanksgiving without stuffing. It’s not only my favorite Thanksgiving food (by far), it’s up there as one of my favorite foods of all time. I told him that I had to have stuffing and I would make it.

However, there was a problem: I’d never made stuffing before. I knew if involved bread and celery and baking and consuming, but I didn’t know anything else. So, I emailed my mom to get her should-be award-winning recipe for stuffing. Her response was an incredibly vague recipe for stuffing that didn’t even include spices! And because I couldn’t call her cause it was muy caro, I had to use her recipe and figure out what was missing to make the ultimate stuffing, especially for a bunch of people who had never had stuffing before!

The morning of Thanksgiving (actually, we ate on Friday cause I had a bunch of classes to teach the day before) I woke up late. Really really late. At noon and we were supposed to be eating at 2pm. I was sleeping some crazy hours when I was there. I hadn’t started my stuffing at all and still had to go to the supermarket-the far away Corte Ingles, not the close SuperSol cause SuperSol had random stuff and Corte Ingles had everything. I left my flat within 10 minutes of waking up and ran into Jose on the way there. He just looked at me and looked at his watch and just shook his head. As I ran by him in my flip flops (ahhhh, Southern Spain in late November), I screamed that I promised I would be done in time. I got to the supermarket in 15 minutes and spent the next 30 wandering around, searching for thyme and sage. I had no idea how to say them in Spanish (still don’t) and just started at the dried herbs in confusion. I finally found the thyme by smelling everything (and I think it started with a T too), along with everything else and sprinted back to my flat. It was at least 1 by the time I got there and got cooking.

I was able to decipher my mom’s recipe and pump out my first stuffing. I didn’t finish by 2-more like 2:45, but it’s a good think Spaniards are chronically late. Along with some rotisserie chickens (no turkeys in Spain, also this is before I was a full vegetarian), some sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries and classic tortilla, Jose and I presented a first Thanksgiving to about 12 or 13 non-Americans. I remember that everyone had a great time and enjoyed it all, especially the homesick Americans (I wasn’t the only one). We talked about how Thanksgiving started and what our familiy traditions were. It was one of my favorite memories of that time in Spain-that’s how I remember it all so well! And the stuffing? I honestly think the non-Americans didn’t really get it. Soggy baked bread? Hmmmm. I have a little feeling that they just ate it to be polite. I, along with the other Americans, LOVED it though. We only had a little bit leftover and that was gone in a flash by the next day. That smell of that thyme, despite the hurdles I had to jump over to get it, brought me back to my Mom’s house for the day and made me feel a little less homesick.

And that brings us to 2008. Stuffing is still my favorite Thanksgiving food and I was looking forward to it like no other. And gorging on it. And eating it cold the next day. And the next day after that. However, I am now a full vegetarian and won’t eat my Mom’s stuffing that she stuffs inside the Turkey and uses chicken broth in. I asked her last week if I could make my own and she said sure. Thanks Mom! It was just like Spain all over again…except this time I got it started the day before. My mom had pulled out some whole wheat sandwich bread for me that she had (I have no idea where…had you froze it Mom? Or was it a new loaf?) and I added a whole wheat demi-baguette from Whole Foods for some different texture. I tore up all the bread into small pieces and let it sit out overnight to get stale (this was something I was seriously lacking when I was in Spain. You can’t get bread stale in 5 minutes). I don’t know why you get it stale, but it makes it better.

FYI-the pics from now on are all taken by my sister. She made them blurry. Maggie-why did you make them blurry?! She’s a really good photographer-maybe not with my camera.

The morning of Thanksgiving, I got back from the Turkey Trot (Running Update coming soon!) and got ready to sit down to a nice hot bowl of oatmeal. My mom, however, had different plans. She said that I had to make my stuffing at that instant or I wasn’t going to get it cooked because she needed the oven for the 17 pound turkey. But mom! I’m cold and hungry and tired! Well, at least she let me finish my oatmeal but I wasn’t allowed to linger. So I got cooking.

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I started with some celery and onions that my mom had pre-chopped along with some fresh thyme (not in Spanish!) and parsley. I like lots of veggies in my stuffing so I added more onions and celery. I sauteed all that in a bit of olive oil in a deep saucepan. The key to this is using a big enough pan.

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What’s up. (I look so crappy cause remember I had barely gotten back from the Turkey Trot and had loaded on some sweats on top of my running clothes cause I was so cold!)

When that got all soft and good, I added the stale bread and mixed that in with all the veggies. I did it in 3 rounds so I could get it all in the pan (I would squish it down). Throughout this I kept adding more and more dried thyme. I like things extra herb-y so I wanted more and more. And thyme is one of my favorite herbs so to me, the more, the better.

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After I got all that combined to my satisfaction, I started adding the broth. I added a little at a time, letting the bread absorb all the liquid. I wanted enough broth so the stuffing wasn’t dry but not too much that it was soggy. I’d say I added about half a quart of veggie broth, or 2 cups. Squishy but not falling apart-a key.

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I then put it in a baking dish that I had coated lightly with oil (smart-my mom didn’t to that to hers and hers got all stuck to the bottom…I win!). And threw that in the oven at 350 until I decided it was done.

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But wait! After about 10 minutes (definitely not enough time) my mom declared that I was time for the turkey and my stuffing had to wait. So, that promptly came out of the oven and into the fridge. No stuffing quite yet.

Luckily, the turkey was done early so I was able to stick my stuffing back into the oven for about 40 minutes, until the top got all crusty and yummy. Doesn’t that just look fabulous??

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Along with the rest of our spread-turkey, non-veggie stuffing in the front, my healthy, whole wheat stuffing in the back, mashed potatoes covered, brussels sprouts, mac & cheese, butternut squash, oyster dressing-my stuffing was absolutely phenomenal.

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I’m going to brag a little and say that it was the best I’ve ever had. I didn’t eat my mom’s but I’m sure that was fantastic too. I stuffed myself with stuffing and the day after and the day after. It was amazing and brought back memories of my American Thanksgiving in Spain 3 years earlier. Salud!

Running Update #13: Take a Run With Betsy!

Man-sorry that sounded so cheesy.

When I was getting ready for my early morning run yesterday (Saturday), I thought “wouldn’t it be fun if I took a camera with me and shared my run with you all?” Well, I think it’s fun…not sure if you will too.

This is a typical East Side run, about 7 miles or so.

I knew it was insanely cold out so I was dressed to the 9′s….running style!

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A fleece vest, my fav Lululemon jacket, a long-sleeved dri-tech shirt underneath, the BEST Nike running tights, gloves, my awesome underarmor hat and the ever-reliable Saucony Omni’s.

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I was set to go and psyched. Yeah-I know my braid is sticking out the side. It’s hard to put hair in a hat.

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But once I got outside…holy crap, it was freezing. In the low 20s. I crossed my fingers that I would warm up fast.

FYI…from here on, all pics are taken in motion, so they might be a little blurry. My apologies.

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I set out along Avenue B on a little walking warm-up, what I always do. That didn’t help. It made me colder. Man, it was cold.

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But, then I got to Houston St and started moving! Yes! I headed east for about 5 minutes.

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Till I cross over the FDR and hit the East River! This is when, in my head, my real run starts. That’s Brooklyn across the river there.

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There’s a path, not pavement, kinda packed dirt, that runs sort of along the river, but more so along the FDR. Who doesn’t love running along a highway. Yeah…I just try to look to the left, to the pretty trees, the sports fields and the Williamsburg bridge up ahead.

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After about 10 minutes I hit the tiniest little area with grass that has a little dirt path that has been tread on by hundreds of runners. For some reason, I always look forward to it. However, it only lasts about 10 seconds. It’s really short. To the left there is some warehouses or something. It’s an interesting scene in East River “Park”.

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At the end of the little path with the Manhattan Bridge ahead (it was one spectacular day). To the right is the FDR which is now a raised that I’m about to go under…

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Under the FDR!

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Ahhh…that’s better! Still under the FDR but it’s completely open on the left so it’s much prettier. There’s always tons of older asian men and women doing exercises and calisthenics…they’re so cute! I don’t think they’d like me taking pictures…so I didn’t. That’s the Manhattan Bridge in the foreground and the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. I was still feeling good-not cold anymore but man oh man was my nose running.

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I got closer to the Brooklyn Bridge, which I run across on this route when I want to add some extra mileage. It adds about 2 miles. Awesome.

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This was interesting turning to the side and taking picture, but it was too beautiful not to capture. Brooklyn Bridge again with Brooklyn outlined in the light. Hi Ari! Nice pic Bets!

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Ahhhh!!!! When I get past the bridges, there’s this super scary…thing. I have no idea what to call it but it freaks me out everytime. It’s dark and empty and cold. Good think it’s like the path…10 seconds and I’m done.

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And then I hit the seaport with the big ‘ol ship! Hi big ‘ol ship!

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A little running. A little running…Then there’s this weird grate thing that is right over the water that always makes me feel like I’m at Seaworld. Dolphins? Shamu? None today. Boo.

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Following that is a nice open stretch right along the water today. The wind was roaring here yesterday which made it quite difficult (and cold!) to run.

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Look! In the distance that’s the Verrazano-Narrows which goes from Staten Island to Brooklyn (this is really zoomed in) that starts the New York Marathon! One day…one day.

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Then I hit the bottom tip of Manhattan…there’s the ferry to Governor’s Island to the left and the ferry to Staten Island ahead.

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Staten Island Ferry up close!

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It’s turn-around time! I ran to Battery Park which is right at the bottom of the island looking up at Lower Manhattan, and where every tourist in Manhattan congregates to go to the Statue of Liberty. Thankfully I was there early (maybe 8am) so it was empty.

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It’s me halfway! Sorry I’m squinting…it was insanely sunny. That pointy thing to the left of me is the Statue of Liberty. I was feeling pretty good halfway. Taking pictures was totally distracting me so I barely noticed I was running. Let’s go back!

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Governor’s Island ferry to the right.

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This is a heli-port that was one crazy busy when I was running by it with all these photographers around. There was someone famous landing but I didn’t get to see who it was. In my mind, it was J.Lo and Marc Anthony. I feel like they would be the kind of self-absorbed famous people that need to fly around in helicopters. It still would have been super cool to see them. Or whoever it was.

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It’s the seaport again! Hi big ‘ol boat! (Hi Betsy!)

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Back under the FDR again in Chinatown. I was starting to feel it here. Gettin’ tired. A little wheezy from the cold. Keep on trucking, keep on trucking.

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The path is up ahead! I’m getting closer!

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Then I noticed the fence along the FDR had animals on it. Like this crab. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t eat a crab fished out of the East River. Wait-I would never eat a crab. Never mind.

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Pretty with the Williamsburg Bridge ahead and fields to the right. I saw lots of kids playing Pee Wee (is that right? I grew up around Hockey and that’s what it’s called in Hockey) Football and Soccer. I felt bad for them in that cold. I felt even worse for their parents…they were just standing there. It was freezing.

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Flat, weird packed dirt stretch!

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Mid-run pic! Eek. I’ve looked better. I apologize. But I was running!

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My 6th street cross-over up ahead! I’m almost done!

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Up the bridge. Get out of the way walker who is walking in the middle!

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Down the bridge.

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A final run along 6th street…

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A dog driving a truck…

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And I’m done! My final cool down.

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And there you have it! A great 7-miler in the cold to start the day. Thumbs up! Up next…TURKEY TROT!!

New Uses for Old Cookware: Tofu (pictures are up!!!)

Pictures are up!

So, last night while running the treadmill at the gym, I was trying to think of a way to add something fun and exciting to this post. Any fun stories or anecdotes? Crazy experiences? Silly segues? No, no, none of that. How can I relate this awesome episode of Survivor I’m watching while on the treadmill to this recipe? Did I use tofu to make a fake immunity idol? Did I giggle incessantly while making it as the contestants did in tribal council tonight? No (by the way…I’m not normally a Survivor person, but this season started in the midst of my bed rest period-i.e. the night I broke my toe-and all I was doing was studying for the GREs and watching TV, so I got addicted but only catch every 4th or so episode now. I was psyched that they had it on at the gym.) No, no, none of that. I guess this is just going to be boring. Let me know if you fall asleep while reading this.

This cooking adventure took place several weeks ago (which, let’s be honest here, 90% of my posts do) when I was jonesing for some baked tofu. Now, many of you might remember, I don’t have a good track record with tofu. I basically mess it up every time (do you remember when I had this post and I thought it might be a fluke? Yeah-it was a fluke. That never worked again), so I’m always trying new ways to cook it because I don’t have a good standby. And almost every time I follow a recipe, it fails, so I just make things up. I still eat tofu frequently, but 99 times out of 100, it’s just a chunk cut fresh with some tamari sauce poured on top and eaten plain and cold. Good, but kinda boring. I was in the mood for something different, specifically baked and delicious.

I hit a snag here though…when baking tofu I think the key is an even single layer-no double stacking. However, my kitchen cabinets are severly lacking in terms of cookware-all of it save for some bowls and my mini quisinart that I purchased are hand-me-downs from my mom or my roommate’s parents. Therefore, I don’t have a large enough pan to bake a whole package of tofu in a single layer. It was time to get creative. I have 2 loaf pans that I use frequently that I tried to fit it all in…nope. Double layers everywhere! Disaster in the making. How ’bout a nice glass baking dish? No way Jose! It also didn’t fit and things burn in glass easily and are impossible to clean up. Wait a minute…what’s that I see in the back?

Why yes…it’s a mini muffin pan! It hit me like a load of bricks. Or a load of mini muffins. I thought “Man Betsy, you are one genius…this is going to work perfectly!” So, I talk to myself a lot..don’t you? I thought so. Mini muffin pan it was!!! Awesome. So, I set about cutting my tofu (which I had pressed) into small squares (maybe 1.5 inches x 1.5 inches and half an inch or so thick) and making a spice rub to make them yummy. I’m trying to remember the exact mixture, but let’s go with cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, fennel seeds, black pepper, paprika (don’t know why I added this-I hate paprika), salt…maybe something else or that might be it. I put a heavy sprinkling (or sprinklin’ like how Sarah Palin might say it) on each side of each piece of tofu, using the wetness of the tofu for the rub to stick. I then put each piece in each muffin spot (? what would you call this) in the pan, pressing them down a little so they formed a little cup.

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The tofu wasn’t touching the bottom of the pan (it would have to be much smaller to do that) and stuck up a little on the edges. It was kinda the cutest thing ever when I put them all in there! Lil’ tofu cups! Everything little is cuter.

I stuck the pan in the oven for about 40 minutes or so at 375 till I decided it was done. And it was done!

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The result…the cutest little slightly crunch tofu cups. The edges were crispy and the middle was chewy. They weren’t soggy at all because they weren’t touching the bottom of the pan. You could totally put sauce in middle like those Tostitos Tortilla Scoops things.

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I could totally market these like that. Who would buy them? Let’s be honest…probably no one. And the taste? Let’s be honest again…not great. That rub was not a winner. It was that darn paprika, I swear! So, I got a technique down…but not a rub.

Here’s a question for my loyal readers (probably only my Mom if we’re really being honest all around here)…what rubs and sauces and marinades for tofu can I use that work great and taste great? Any sucesses? I just want my tofu to taste good. I need some serious help here.

Running Update #12: Running Updates Again!

(For those of you who are new to my blog, I used to write Running Updates every week when I was training for a half marathon early this year. I stopped when I got injured but started training for a marathon soon after. I didn’t continue with the updates because I didn’t want to jinx it. That ended with a broken toe and I decided screw it…I just want to talk about running baby!)

Oh yeah. I’m wearing real shoes on both feet and running again bi-atches!!

First of all…oh man I missed running. I love it so much-it felt so goddamn good to get back out there again.

So technically I haven’t run since August because one thing I didn’t share was I got slightly injured while marathon training with IT Band problems. Booooo. I was getting ready to get back into training again when the toe brewhaha happened so it’s been almost three months since a true run! I couldn’t run until I was ready to put a true shoe on my right foot. This is what I have been wearing.
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Nice combo, huh!? The break was pretty much healed but it was still incredibly tender on top with no nail and from the cut. Ewww. Also, it was still quite swollen and anything but my ugly surgical boot or flipflops felt tight. If there are enough requests I’ll post a pic of what my toe looks like now. About 3 weeks ago, I was toying with the idea of putting a real shoe on but was nervous so I put if off. Then, on Marathon Sunday, as mentioned earlier, it was so cold and windy. I didn’t want to expose my poor foot to the elements so I sucked it up and slipped on my loosest Chuck’s. It was a little tight but totally livable. Awesome! So, now that I could wear a shoe, it was time to start thinking about running. And it happened sooner that I ever thought.

On the morning of the election, I needed to go to the gym early if I was going to be able to park my butt on the couch all night watching returns. So, when I left my apartment at 4:45 in the morning (sacrifices people) I was planning on recumbant biking-it. When I got to the gym at 4:51 in the morning all of a sudden I was hit with the desire to try out the treadmill. Must have been election day excitement. So I hopped on the treadmill, telling myself that I would get off immediately if my toe hurt, and got going. 35 minutes or so later, I ran my first 4 miles since August. And it was awesome. I honestly think there is no workout like a good run. I always feel like I get so much out of a run versus the same amount of time on an elliptical machine. It felt good…sooo good.

A week and a half later, I’ve run 5 more times, including a fantastic 7-miler yesterday morning and my first race this morning since March. MARCH!!!! It was the Race to Deliver 4-miler. I didn’t really know what to expect considering I hadn’t raced for so long. But I was excited…man I love racing.

It was a crazy windy morning and I lined up early with my group to try to hide from the viscous winds by surrounding myself with tall people in a corral. Not that hard considering my height. I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this race…normally I just run races to run them…I treat them like just another run, nothing special. But, as I was waiting for the start, I thought that maybe I would really race. Like push myself race. And from the second I crossed the start line, I felt it in me and just went off. The first mile was pretty good although it was hilly so it wasn’t my best time. Cat Hill is the biggest hill in this loop and is in that first mile, so I wasn’t expecting a stellar time. However, I enjoy running hills so pushed myself and ran about a 8:30 mile. Not bad for a hilly mile! (FYI-my pace in the past has been a consistent 8:30-9:00 min/mile for 4 mile races). Then the second mile started and I knew I could really get a good time. It’s a mostly fast mile going up north along the 5th ave side of the park. I really pushed myself, helped greatly by a girl who was running by me also running fast-I was trying desperately to beat her. We were neck and neck the entire time…thanks blond girl in the shorts and Norwegian Run shirt! That second mile I hat a sub-8 min/mile time! Maybe around 7:55. Nice! Not gonna lie though, I was getting tired. Mile 3 is hilly (west side hills) but I didn’t want that girl to beat me! So I just kept pushing and pushing, racing down the downhills and doing short, strong strides up the uphill. It was hard but fun passing all those people. The last mile was pretty flat again so I just pushed it. I knew I only had 1 mile left so I had no reason to hold back. And push it I did. I was actually incredibly nauseous by the very end because I’m not used to pushing myself so much. But it was worth it-I ended with anther sub-8 minute mile! What a thrill! My time was 33 minutes-by far my fastest yet. Oh-but that girl beat me…not by much though. I ended up next to her when I was getting my timing chip cut off my shoe and I thanked her for pushing me. She told me I did the same to her! Hahaha-I LOVE racing.

It was a perfect reintroduction into racing and made me love it all over again. Up next-Turkey Trot!! A great 5-miler with my Dad and sister on Thanksgiving morning next week in Downtown Cleveland. Last year it was this nasty freezing rain snow weird mix with intense winds off the lake…lets hope for better rain this time around. It will give me an excuse to have no reservations of eating buckets of stuffing that afternoon. Stuffing…

(totally off-topic, but for any New Yorkers, I ended up at the New Museum on my way home from the race this morning to see the Elizabeth Peyton exhibit. Amazing. So amazing. Please see it. You won’t regret it)

Ciao Bellas!

The Best Butternut Squash Soup for Marathon Cheering

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First of all, I just want to say that I am in still totally in awe over the election. I am so proud of our country right now and I feel like we witnessed something truly revolutionary and monumental. Everytime I see an image online or in the newspaper or in tv that says President Obama, I still get teary-eyed. I’m looking forward to see him in action. It’s a new world right now.

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Onto food! But first…the events of the day last Sunday. I swear it has to do with food! Just read on. So, last Sunday (the 2nd) was one of my favorite days of the year to be a New Yorker. (Oh crap. I’m watching Andy Rooney talk about the election and I’m crying again. It’s probably never going to stop for the next 8 years.) Last Sunday was the New York Marathon! It’s such a fun day for both runners and non runners. The entire marathon roams through all five boroughs so no matter where you live, you can probably find some close-ish to go watch. Also, because it travels through the entire city, the whole course is swamped with fans along every inch. Us New Yorkers love to cheer! Last year I went to my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn who lives right on the course on 4th Ave and we sat out her window for 5 hours cheering for every single runner, from the amazing elite men and women to the walkers in the back. So, this year, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to go back to my friend’s in Brooklyn, I got a friend to go with me to 1st Ave in Manhattan to cheer. We got there just in time to see the elite women (they go first)….

Look!! Paula Radcliffe! Kara Goucher!
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Catherine Ndebera!
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They were pretty amazing to watch. I mean their legs! How the hell do they move so fast!?!?! And those strides!! Huge! And oh my god those abs. I mean, Paula Radcliffe just had a baby like 20 months ago! Jealous. Oh so jealous. After watching the amazing women (Paula won…she is so amazing) we had brunch right there on 1st Ave (Le Pain Quotidien. Mmmmmm praline spread mmmmmm) and went right back outside to watch the rest of the marathon. We missed the elite men but that didn’t matter…there were still TONS of people coming through. We spent the next 3 hours standing on the street cheering our little butts off. It was FREEZING but that didn’t matter. If you’ve never cheered at a marathon before, a lot of runners write their names on their shirts to they can be called out and cheered for by name. We shouted for many Bob’s and Dan’s and Ali’s and Jen’s and names longer than 3 letters too. We shouted for Italians and Australians and guys in green shirts and Buffalo Bills shirts. Anything to make a runner look our way and encourage a big smile and get them going. We were definitely the loudest in our little vicinity and even had two groups of people come up to us and ask us to help them cheer for their friends when they came through. We even had an Italian runner tell us we were the two prettiest things on the course. I’ll take compliments from delirious marathon runners any day! It made me even more excited about my future marathon…whenever that might be. Ooooo, it was fun. I love marathons and cheering for them. Seeing all those runners reach that huge goal after all those week of training is pretty amazing and such a blast! I’ll be there one day…

So, by the time I trekked all the way home (it’s a trek…60+ blocks. in the wind and cold) I was freeeezing, as was my apartment. You see, the day before it wasn’t so cold and I had the window open in my room as did one of my roommates. So my apartment wasn’t much respite from the weather outside which meant that I needed an outside source to warm me up. My body was cold, my throat was scratchy and sore from all the screaming (those runners better had appreciated my screaming!)-there was only one possible answer. Soup. Creamy, delicious, warming soup. And I knew exactly what kind to make. Well, considering I had planned this whole thing the day before, of course I knew what kind to make. Butternut squash of course! My favorite part of autumn, butternut squash soup on a cold was just the ticket. However, I’ve made tons of baked butternut squash before but never butternut squash soup. The reason? I don’t have a stick blender which is needed to make the soup creamy and blendy (is that a word? well, as I’m typing this, a red line appeared underneath, so I think now. I don’t care!) But guess what? I still don’t have one, so I needed to work around that. The second problem was that I didn’t have a tried and true recipe that I feel like one needs for a classic butternut squash soup. Did I want to try something new? Heck no…I’m the queen of making up my own recipes. I was going to wing it!

By the way…I apologize or the lengthiness of this post. I don’t know what’s going on…

So here’s how my recipe came together. I picked up a nice squash at the farmer’s market the Saturday before and decided to wander to find something else to put in. I didn’t want it to be just squash so I was looking for some farmer’s market inspiration. I found it quickly in the most bountiful fall veg at the market. Apples!! Wait a minute…thats not a veg. But that’s besides the point. Seriously though, every single farmer has bushels of apples overflowing so I had to take advantage of it. And I swear I had seen a recipe somewhere that said that apples are great in a butternut squash soup. (after I made this I saw about 4 butternut squash soup recipes with apples in it, so I was totally right. I always am.) Along with the squash and apples, I picked up some onions and garlic and was on my way.

Fast-forward to the next day (afternoon of the marathon) and mustered up all my post-marathon cheering strength to make this soup! I first peeled and chopped the squash, apples and onions, tossed it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and spread it out in a large pan along with a bunch of whole garlic cloves (maybe 6?).
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Remember that I needed to get over the lack of stick blender but still wanted a creamy soup? I decided to roast the bejesus out of everything so they were as mushy as possible. I pumped the oven to maybe 375 or 450 and roasted it all for about an hour and a half, until it was as roasted as possible. Here’s what it looked like when it was the desired mushiness.
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As much as I wanted to dig in right there (who doesn’t love plain roasted autumn veggies?) I persevered in my slightly less freezing apartment (the oven made it a little more toasty) to turn this mush into soup. I tossed all that mush into my handy dutch oven along with a quart of veggie stock (I use Whole Foods brand-it’s cheap as all heck and good), about 3 ladle-fuls of water and a bunch of fresh thyme. I then took my potato masher and mashed the concoction to death. Well, not that much because I still wanted it a little chunky. Because I let it cook so long, the mashing was so easy and it became a real soup pretty quickly! I then covered it and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
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I was way too excited to dig in when I decided it was done. I filled up a bowl and cozied up on the couch while watching the Amazing Race. This was not one of those recipes where I wasn’t sure if it was going to be good or not. I knew it was going to amazing (like the race!)…it was. Honestly, I think it’s the best soup I’ve ever made, and I’ve made tons of soups before. It was a gorgeous deep orange color-dark because I had roasted it so much and had so much flavor. I couldn’t taste the apple but it tasted subtly sweeter because of the apple. Also, because it had all be roasted, there were lots of bits of carmelized burnt pieces that were kinda chewy and fantastic to eat. And the thyme…ooo that thyme. My favorite herb made the whole soup. And it was still a little chunky which made it a little more exciting that just a straight creamy soup. Overall, it was so incredible and perfect and the ideal throat soother for a sore marathon cheering soup. Next year, maybe I’ll need post marathon running soup. Who knows. The lottery pickers at the New York Marathon know. They hold my fate in their hands.
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Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

1 butternut squash
2 large, firm apples (I used Mutsu. Choose a crispy baking variety)
2 medium yellow onions
5 garlic cloves
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 quart veggie stock
fresh thyme

Peel the butternut squash and chop into small pieces. Chop the apples and onions into similar size pieces (keep the peel on the apples). Toss all chopped produce along with the peeled but whole garlic cloves with a few tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Put it all in a baking dish in a pretty thin layer and bake at 375 for about an hour and a half, mixing twice during baking, until quite mushy. Put all the baked squash, apples and onions into a large pot (like a dutch oven) along with the stock and water. Mash with a potato masher until it reaches your desired smoothness. Add the thyme. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Eat it on a cold day to warm your soul. Mmmmm.

Oh, and there’s going to be no recap of Chris’ birthday.

Ok…this is all you get.
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