Some sweet recipes

In an effort to balance out this blog a bit more, I’m sharing two delicious recipes with you today.  The first is the dessert that we enjoyed for our Valentine’s dinner.  From the Deliciously Organic website, it is a fabulous way to satisfy your chocolate cravings without a lot of processed sugar.  This dessert is also gluten-free and vegan, but tastes delicious enough to satisfy anyone you might wish to entertain.  We love it with a little dollop of whipped cream on top, which offsets the intense chocolate flavor perfectly!  For our family, it works best to make these in our mini-muffin pans, as it provides the perfect individually-portioned desserts.

The other recipe we recently enjoyed was this strawberry applesauce from Family Fresh Cooking.  We make our own applesauce all the time, but I had never experimented with various fruit flavors before.  This recipe was ridiculously easy, and gave us a nice taste of summer fruit in the midst of this extremely chilly winter.  Best of all, the recipe made enough sauce for our family of four to enjoy for dinner, with plenty leftover for the kids’ lunches this week.  I peeled about half of the apples and used frozen strawberries.  My sauce cooked down enough that I didn’t even have to puree it, and we decided that it was sweet enough with just the apples, berries, and lemon juice.  Enjoy!

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An Inspirational Running Story

The weather has been brutally cold here, so I came up with a good alternative to a long run outside – “sleep in” till 6:00 am, and then get in my 8 scheduled miles on the treadmill.  I loved the idea of getting a bit of extra rest, while still being able to get my run done nice and early.  Unfortunately for me, my darling son decided that 4:40 am is a great time to start serenading the entire family with his latest favorite songs.  After close to 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I gave up on sleep and hopped on the treadmill just after 5:15 am.

I keep the treadmill TV permanently turned to ESPN, as I find Sportscenter to be a good way to pass the time.  It’s also one of the few shows that is reliably on before the crack of dawn.  Today I lucked out and happened to catch one of their feature stories just as it began.  The story captured my attention to the point where I barely noticed that I was running, until I had to wipe the tears out of my eyes while trying to catch my breath.

It’s the story of a young girl named Kayla Montgomery, who recently finished her career as a celebrated high school runner.  Kayla’s development as a runner follows a fairly common path – she started out as an “average” runner, began to increase her speed as she trained with her female teammates, and eventually grew fast enough that she began to train with the boys’ team.  Shortly after that, she began winning races.  It all sounds lovely, in a fairly ordinary way.  Until you learn that Kayla has multiple sclerosis (MS).  She was diagnosed at 14 years old, and actually didn’t even begin her career as a runner until after her diagnosis, when numbness in her legs forced her to give up soccer.  Once Kayla regained feeling in her legs, she began running, where she found more success than anyone could have ever predicted.

Watching Kayla’s story unfold, I found myself deeply moved.  I believe that all of us runners know that there will come a day when we can no longer run.  I think that most of us continue to run in the hope that we can push that day farther and farther away from us.  It’s always there though, that little reminder that someday, this won’t be quite so easy, that will have to cut our distance a bit, and eventually stop altogether.  Kayla faces that fear daily.  When she runs, she often pushes herself to the point where she loses feeling in her legs.  As hard as it can be to run once you get that leaden legs feeling, I can’t imagine trying to do it without feeling my legs at all.  And this young girl not only perseveres through this challenge, but does it at the highest competitive level.  The bravery that she displays with each run is truly amazing.

Kayla faces more physical adversity than most of us, but I believe that she and I run for the same reasons.  We run to prove that physical limits are not always what they seem, that strength of spirit can overcome huge challenges, and that we are capable of amazing accomplishments if we just have the courage to believe.  I hope you will take the time to watch Kayla’s story for yourself.  And then I hope you will go out for your next run and remember how blessed we are to have the ability to participate in this wonderful sport.

You can find Kayla’s story here: http://espn.go.com/espnw/video/11909407/e60-catching-kayla

Delicious Post-Run Dinner

In honor of today’s snowy run, and the big game today, I’m sharing one of my favorite dinner recipes with you.  Anyone who follows the world of ultrarunning is aware of Scott Jurek.  I first learned his name when reading “Born to Run,” and have followed his career for the past several years.  In his book, “Eat & Run,” Scott Jurek not only shares his personal running journey, but also shares some great vegan recipes as well.  When I stopped eating meat last summer, I was concerned that I might miss some of my favorite meat-filled dinners.  Fortunately for me, many of them can be altered into delicious vegetarian dishes.  Jurek has done just that with his recipe for “Minnesota Winter Chili”.  Not only is this chili vegetarian-friendly, but it is packed full of heart-healthy veggies.  The addition of the bulgur wheat gives it a great meaty-texture.  This dish is a perfect way to replenish calories after a tough run, and it makes enough that you can look forward to leftovers the next day.

Minnesota Winter Chili

Ingredients:

2 tbsp coconut or olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup finely chopped onion

8-10 medium mushrooms, finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped carrots

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 28oz can diced tomatoes

1 15oz can tomato puree

1 15oz can kidney beans, drained

1 15oz can black beans, drained

1 15oz can red beans, drained

2 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup dry bulgur wheat

hot sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

Add the oil to a large pot.  Saute the vegetables and spices in the oil over medium to medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until tender.  Add a few tablespoons of water if the veggies begin sticking to the pot.  Add the remaining few ingredients except the cilantro and simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for 30 minutes.  Stir and simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes until the veggies are cooked through.  Season with salt and, if more spice is desired, hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste.  Serve, sprinkled with cilantro.  Leftover chili freezes well.

I have never tried it with the cilantro, simply because I rarely have fresh herbs on hand, but the chili is wonderful nonetheless.  I have also found that it’s spicy enough for my liking without the added heat, but if you like spicier food, through in some extra hot sauce.  When paired with a cold beer, it’s a great reward after a hard workout.

Running Motivation

Okay, confession time – I ran with a new-ish running partner today, and while we were running she mentioned that she doesn’t really track her mileage.  She just runs for the enjoyment of it.  I would love to be one of those people, but I’m totally not.  Now, that’s not to say that I don’t love running, but I do fear that I would be an inconsistent runner without the proper motivation.

For me, my motivation usually comes in the form of races.  As long as I am signed up for a race, I know that I have to get out and train if I am going to enjoy the experience on race day.  Once I am actually running, I often continue because I enjoy it, but the desire to be well-trained for my race is often what initially gets me out of bed on those cold, dark mornings.

If I’m being truly honest, sometimes I’m even more superficial than that.  Yesterday I found myself signing up for a race specifically because I wanted the hooded sweatshirt that is given to all participants.  Yes, the race is in a convenient location, and several of my friends are running it, and it does fit nicely into my training for my upcoming half marathon.  But the real reason that I signed up is because I want the cute hoodie.  I guess whatever works to get you out the door, right?

Chime in, fellow athletes – What motivates you to run?