Friday, April 29, 2011

Me and Noah

I'm ready to take a break from the cooking challenge for a minute.  I have way too many challenges at once.  Yes, two is too many!  So, let me finish this one up!  I've really loved doing it, btw.  Someone should copy it and do it also.  Especially if you don't know what to blog about.

Day 27 - A picture of yourself and a family member

I went the easy route and did an old picture of me with Noah.  He hasn't changed all that much has he?  To compare, here is a picture of him now (a year after the previous picture was taken)

He's wearing one of Mommy's old shirts.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I love being Noah's mommy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Cookies

I have mixed feelings about these cookies.

Pros:  They are unique. They have a delicious frosting.  They are chocolatey and rich.
Cons:  They are somewhat crumbly.  The maraschino cherry will shrivel up if you don't serve these fresh.  MUST EAT WARM OUT OF OVEN.  That will solve both problems.

And with that, here are the COOKIES!
Please keep in mind that I am NOT a photographer, that would be a whole other challenge in and of itself.  Also, I should have, but didn't try to make the cookies look cute on a plate.  What you see, is what you get right after you pull the cookies out of the oven and stick cherries on half of them. And a few might have been sampled. :)

Chocolate Cherry Cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and stir until smooth. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls about the size of a walnut (larger if desired). Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press center of each ball with thumb.
  3. Drain cherries and reserve juice. Place a cherry in indentation of each cookie ball.
  4. In a saucepan, heat condensed milk and chocolate chips until chips are melted. Stir in 4 teaspoons of cherry juice. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of mixture over each cherry and spread to cover cherry.  (I usually do this, but did not this time.) 
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Funeral Potatoes

I stole this DELICIOUS RECIPE from the site that MANY of you recommended to me.  Our Best Bites.  I'm so glad I found out about it.  I even ordered their cookbook for an Easter present for myself.  I'm still waiting for it in the mail though, along with all the other books I ordered for my family for Easter, thinking I had plenty of time.  None of them came.  Sad!  Jared's Easter basket was beyond pathetic.  It had one Snicker's Egg in it.  That is the problem with online shopping sometimes.  You never know when your stuff is going to arrive.  But anyways!!!  Today, I bring you FUNERAL POTATOES/CHEESY POTATO CASSEROLE.

I made these for Easter dinner.
The whole pan was licked clean.
They are a MUST TRY.  Five stars.

Funeral Potatoes
Adapted from Our Best Bites
(I changed the amount of sour cream called for and added milk so it wasn't too dry without all the sour cream.  Below I will list the recipe according to how I made it.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stuffed Spinach Shells

I have really managed to get behind on this Cooking Challenge. Not on the actual cooking itself, but on posting pictures and recipes.  Well, I am taking advantage of the fact that it is raining cats and dogs today (for the 4th day in a row) and we are spending the day INSIDE catching up on cleaning and projects.  So, I am setting my blog to autopost (love that feature) and so you will get lots of yummy recipes and other posts all week!  Hopefully we will be playing outside in the sunshine before too long!

Anyways, here is the first recipe I actually did for my cooking challenge.  Stuffed Spinach Shells.  I followed the recipe pretty exact and didn't screw anything up, but I decided I just don't have the taste for lots of spinach.  And that's what these suckers were all about.  So, if you LOVE spinach, you will love these.  Of course, my husband gave them 5 stars, but if it's not burned, I usually get that from him.  I give them 3 stars.  Next time I do stuffed shells, I'm buying ricotta and ditching (or limiting) the spinach.

Here's the recipe from my fun and somewhat dorky cookbook.
The Essential Mormon Cookbook:
Green Jell-O, Funeral Potatoes, and Other Secret Combinations
by Julie Badger Jensen

I got it for my wedding.

Stuffed Spinach Shells

16 jumbo pasta shells
1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 c low-fat cottage cheese
1 c grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 c grated onion
2 c pasta sauce (I used Ragu Garden Chunky or something like that)
1/4 c grated Parmesan Cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  While pasta is cooking, cook spinach according to package directions.  Drain spinach thoroughly in colander by pressing out extra liquid with a large spoon.  Cool.

In a medium bowl combine spinach with cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and onion.  When pasta is cooked, drain.  Rinse with cold water and drain again.  Prehead oven to 375.  Spoon cheese mixture into shells.  Place shells in lightly oiled 9x13 dish.  Pour Pasta Sauce over shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until hot.  Makes about 4 servings.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Interview with a First Time Marathoner

I asked Jared some questions about the marathon he ran last weekend and below you will see his responses.  Maybe he will inspire one of YOU to run a marathon.  Or maybe he will scare you away from doing one.  Either is the interview: 

1.  What made you want to run a marathon?

I've always known that I was going to run a marathon at some point in my life.  I just thought it would be much later.  But having my brother here and running with him regularly, we decided that we needed to set some goals to keep our training consistent.  A 5K led to a 10K to a half-marathon and then we just figured since we had trained this much, we might as well step it up a notch and train for a marathon.

2.  What training schedule did you follow?

I had been running 15-20 miles a week starting about a year ago.  And in December, when we decided to run a marathon, we found a 16 week training schedule in Runner's World magazine based on peaking at about 50 miles a week.  It's a pretty low mileage training schedule, but it was the best for our busy schedules.  Each week, we did a long run on Saturday that increased by 2 miles until we got up to the week of the marathon.

3.  You are working full time, doing school full time, involved in church, and have a family.  When did you find time to train for a marathon?

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I don't have time not to run.  What I mean is on days that I run, I have way more energy and I can survive on a lot less sleep.  I am much more efficient in everything else I do.  That said, we carved out time in the mornings- always finishing by 7 am, usually starting before 6 am.  The long Saturday runs were in the mornings as well and Courtney is a champion for letting me do it because those runs came directly from time I would have otherwise had with her and the family.

4.  Ok, let's talk about the actual race.  Did it meet your expectations?  Did you have any expectations?

I had 2 goals.  One was to finish.  The other was to run sub 3:50.  All of my training runs led me to believe that I could meet these goals.  Something happened though.  The race was a disaster!  A guy dressed in a Winnie the Pooh costume passed me!  That is unacceptable.  I underestimated the race completely.  Our longest training run was 22 miles.  It went great.  26.2 miles is about 3 times harder than 22 miles.  I bonked.  I mean gatorade commercial style bonked.  I wanted to cry.  The last 8 miles were completely miserable.  My stride was about 6 inches long and for some reason it hurt worse to walk than to run.  I was completely trapped.  I probably would have quit, but that didn't make any sense because I was in the middle of nowhere.  I did finish, but it was about 30 minutes slower than I wanted it to be.  So, no I did not meet my expectations.

5.  What was your finishing time and splits then?

I finished in 4 h 18 m, which works out to 9:53 averages for each mile.  However, at the 18 mile mark, I was running 8:28 mile averages and was well on pace for my goal.  This means that my last 8 miles must have averaged somewhere over 13 minute pace.

6.  What happened during the last 8 miles that held you back?

Every marathoner talks about "hitting the wall" somewhere between miles 18 and 20.  I hit mine at about 18.5.  Most runners also talk about recovering from "the wall" about 2 miles later and feeling great for the last part.  I never recovered.  In fact, it got exponentially worse.  It wasn't my lungs or my heart or even my general energy level.  It just felt like every muscle was being asked to endure way beyond its capacity.  Every muscle from my neck to my feet were just fatigued.  My heels also really hurt (that is why it hurt worse to walk than to run).  The last mile I had cramps in my calves, which I had never experienced before, but were brutal. 

7.  Looking back, what would you have done differently?

Great question.  I've been thinking about this a lot since the race.  And all I can come up with is that my pre-race meal was TERRIBLE and we started tapering down our training too soon.  We ran a half marathon two weeks before and we tapered down the week before that race so we would be fresh.  Then the two weeks between the half and the full marathon we never really put in any long runs.  I think this was a huge mistake to go 3 full weeks before the marathon without any good training.  From what I understand, most marathoners only taper down for a week beforehand - not 3.  Plus, from what I hear, the more marathons you run, the less the "wall" affects you.

8.  What were your thoughts upon seeing and then crossing the finish line?

It couldn't come soon enough.  Seriously, even after I could see it, it still wasn't coming fast enough.  The worst pain was the last stretch.  Even after I crossed the finish line, I still hurt for a good five minutes.  Crossing the finish line really wasn't that joyous for me because I was so upset at my performance.

9.  Will you run another marathon?

If you would have asked me this the first 24 hours after the race, I would have said "NO WAY.  I'm done."  As I continue to look back on the race though, I know that I can do much better than I did.  And I'm already in shape and want to stay that way.  So, I have to run another one.   I've got to prove to myself that I can do better than I did.  I still want to run one sub 3:50. I'd also really like to run one with my wife.  (ed note:  NOT LIKELY)

10.  Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about running their first marathon?

Yes.  Do it.  It's awesome.  Just don't set a time goal for your race.  Don't race against the clock.  Just cross the finish line.  You'll be much happier and more fulfilled.  There is just no way to know what to expect on your first marathon to realistically set a time goal. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Marathon (and half)

This last weekend we were in Kansas City running again.  Jared ran his first marathon and I ran another half.  Jared's first words after running 26.2 miles were "never again."  Two days later, he decided he was mad at his time and he was going to do it again.  I guess he wants to show that marathon who is boss!

Here are some pictures.  Then, I will share a few facts about the race.

The kidlets came with.  Here we are in the car waiting for something.

Pre-race meal.  Macaroni Grill.  Seriously bad idea.  This was my 6th half marathon.  You would think I would know this by now.  NEVER go for a creamy dish before running a race- even if there are lots of carbs in your plate.  YOU WILL REGRET IT!

I have no pictures of myself at the finish line because there was no one waiting for me at the finish line.  However, here is Jared... a few steps away from victory!

Caleb (Jared's bro) who ran with him and Jared.  Post race.  Tired:

And a family shot.

In order to not be a complainer, I will simply list the facts about my race.
  1. It was 38 degrees with 22 mph wind while we were running.
  2. I had to use the restroom BAD at mile 4.  I waited until mile 8 when I could no longer wait and stood in line at a port-a-potty for 5 minutes.
  3. Mile 4-8 were miserable.  Fact.
  4. Both my shoes came untied at different times.
  5. My hands were numb from the cold, making it difficult to tie my shoelaces.
  6. I tied my right shoe too tight and my foot went numb at mile 10.
  7. My I-pod was dead at the start line.  Noah must've got to it when I wasn't looking and turned it on.  I still had to run with my Ipod though.
  8. Jared and Caleb were running when I crossed the finish line and Becca (Caleb's wife) was at our hotel with their kid and mine.  After I finished racing, I had to hop in my car and drive back to pick up the kids so we could all make it back in time for Jared and Caleb to finish.
  9. I got passed at the very end by a girl with a SERIOUSLY BIG BOOTY.  I'm talking at least 10 times as big as mine.
  10. I got my second slowest half time.  2:23.  I believe the previous factors had something to do with that.
So, there you have it.  No more races until September... more because we are tired of paying entry fees than the actual running.  We both still LOVE running!
And if any of you have any questions for Jared about the marathon, we need to get him on here to answer them!  His race was much more interesting than mine!

Monday, April 18, 2011

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I have so much that I want to blog about. 
 The race Jared and I did last weekend in Kansas City. 
Jared's b-day last week.
My cooking challenge from last week.
My cooking challenge that I am doing this week (on the menu:  funeral potatoes, some kind of yummy green salad, and cherry chocolate cookies).
The last few days of my picture blogging challenge.
My kids.
Life and its busy-ness.

So, I'll take it one thing at a time.
Seriously.  This was so good.  We ate BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches all week long.  It was delicious and super easy!

Here's what you do:
BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

-3 lb boneless pork shoulder
-garlic powder
-onion powder
-12 oz bbq sauce

Cook in crockpot on low for 8-10 hours.  Drain juices.  Shred meat.  Mix in bbq sauce.  Serve on your favorite rolls.
Dinner is served!  Easy!  Delicious!  My husband loves me!

And just in case you were missing my kidlets, here is a little pic.  We are getting ready for Easter around here!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Friends!  I am LOVING this cooking challenge.  And so is my family.  Like big time.  I've already made my 3 things for this week and it was kind of fun.  Tonight I will give you the recipe for PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE. 
I know I made it and I shouldn't be bragging, but guys, this is the best P.U.D cake I have ever eaten!  Seriously, I chose a recipe that had lots of butter.  Isn't that a surefire way to make people like your cooking?  Restaurants do it!


And here is the cake in its full glory.  I love all our faces in this one too.  And how Jared looks like he is turning 60 instead of 28. Ha ha!

Here is the recipe, adapted from

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
2/3 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar

Place the butter and brown sugar in a frying pan and melt until it boils or bubbles. A cast iron pan works well because it's heavy and will be less likely to scorch.

1 can pineapple slices
maraschino cherries (enough to fill centers of pineapples)

Place pineapples in the butter and sugar mixture. Put cherries in the center of the pineapple. Cut the slices of pineapple into halves and line the sides of the frying pan with them (standing up on edge). Prepare a box of yellow cake mix following the directions on the box to mix the batter (do not bake in a separate pan; follow instructions below).
Pour the batter over the pineapple and cherries.
Bake at 350°F degrees. When the cake is done, loosen the edges with a butter knife. Remove from heat and allow to sit five minutes, then turn it upside down on a serving dish.
Notes:  *This recipe did not include how long to bake it.  I put it in for 35 minutes, then checked it.  I think it went for about 40 minutes.
*Also, I don't understand what the recipe is talking about when it says it put the pineapples and cherries in a frying pan.  I didn't do that.  I put them in a 9x13 pan and then poured the butter/brown sugar over them and then the cake batter.
*I needed 2 more pineapple slices to make the cake look perfect.  I just sampled that little square before serving.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cooking Challenge

Alright, I have been inspired by several of you.  I got so many cooking tips and ideas and motivation from a lot of you, through this blog, in person, via email, etc!  I've been doing a lot of thinking and praying (yes, even praying) and I have come up with my own cooking challenge.  I wanted to let you in on it so I could be held accountable to all of you!

Here's my challenge:
3 new recipes per week.
for the next 4 weeks.
= 12 new recipes that I will make and post the recipe and a picture of how it turned out.

Easy enough concept.  But holy cow, I am nervous about this one.  Nervous and also excited.  My family won't even know what hit them.

Coming up this week:  pulled pork sandwiches, lentejas, and pineapple upside down cake!  Yummy yummy!

I'm hoping after 4 weeks, I will have a newfound love for cooking and that it will get easier and I'll know reliable places to get new recipes and that this will continue.  I have to start somewhere though.  So, thank you for helping to motivate me!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Piano

Day 26 - A picture of something that means a lot to you

The piano is a big part of my life and who I am.  I started playing when I was 5 years old and took lessons off and on all the way through college.  It was definitely a battle with my mom in those earlier years to practice because I always wanted to do something like dance.  Of course, my mom ended up winning those battles and I was motivated by being in all kinds of festivals and competitions as I grew up.  I even started composing when I was in middle school and managed to win some state and regional competitions! 

Now, I am blessed with the opportunity to teach lessons, which I love so much.  I have 15 students, which keeps me busy during the week.  It is fun for me to pick out songs for them and to organize recitals and make newsletters and come up with other incentives. I love more than anything watching my students progress and find joy in music. 

 The best part of being able to play the piano though is when I am able to play for me.  I love sitting down at night when the kids are in bed and flipping through music- sightreading new songs, picking up old favorites, and well, just practicing (the thing I used to fight so hard against!)  Playing brings me the comfort of my warm childhood memories.  It always takes me to a happy place when I am feeling "off."
So, Mom, a little shout out.  Thank you!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Random Thoughts

The Race:
  • First of all, I finished my race on Saturday!  I did better than I thought I would (2h 18m), considering that I decided about 3 weeks ago that I would run the half.  My splits were 10:37 and I would like to blame the :37 on the DEADLY hill at the end!  I am not talking about a sissy incline.  It was a MOUNTAIN that we were expected to run at the last mile.  So hard.  So, yeah, my last mile point one was like 13 minutes.
  • Let's talk more about the race.  I got 188th place out of 382 girls and 535th place overall (out of 813 runners)! (HA HA HA)  I felt awesome when I read that on the result board.
  • Jared, on the other hand did much better than me.  He had 8:05 splits for a total time of 1:45:44.  He was happy and sad about it.  Sad only b/c he ran the first 10 miles at 7:40 pace and then bonked and slowed down more than he wanted to.
  • Our next race is next weekend in Kansas City!  It is a Wizard of Oz theme.  I am running the cleverly named "Wickedly Fast Half" and Jared is doing the "Oz Marathon."  I'm praying for minimal hills.  Thank goodness its in Kansas!

  • I have lately been feeling a need to...well, should I say learn how to cook?  I'm 28 years old, I've been married for almost 4 years, I guess now would be a good time.
  • I have thought on and off about improving in this area for a long time, but yesterday as we sat down to our Sunday family dinner of macaroni and cheese, I realized that the time has come.
  • I think having family meals are important.  When I look back on my childhood, we always sat down together and ate.  And the foods we ate were home cooked, healthy, and delicious.  I want to do that.  I TRY to do that.  But I'm still falling short.
  • Let me explain real quick for those of you who are beginning to think I am lazy, WHY I don't like to cook.  The bottom line is:  I just don't care that much about eating.  It just seems like so much effort to make something that is usually not appreciated and then just makes even more of a mess.  I would honestly rather clean than cook.  In most instances, I eat so that I'm not hungry anymore.  And so I'd rather just make something as fast as possible to take the hunger away so I can get back to whatever else I'm doing.  Exception:  Mexican food, cheesecake, & baked goods.
  • However, I realize that what I do directly affects 3 other people now and those people do not share the same feelings I have for eating!  So, for the good of the family, I want to be better.
  • I need some healthy cooking blogs to follow- do you have one or know of any good ones? 
  • I'm going to try doing one new recipe each week to add to my trusty standbys...lasagne, pasta casserole, tuna fish casserole, fajitas, enchiladas, stirfry, and pizza.  Since that has essentially been our weekly menu for the last 4 years, I'm beginning to GAG just reading that list.
  • Seriously, if you can help me, I need it!

My Kids:
  • They are the same size.  Pretty much.  Noah has not grown at all in the last year.  He still weighs 22 lbs.  And he is short.  His thighs are the same size as his calfs.  He defines chicken legs.  Noah and Suzy wear the same size diapers.  And the same size clothes in some instances.  Here is a good picture to describe what I am saying:
  • We have started Noah on allergy treatments again.  That is the only thing that helped Noah to grow last year. 
  • We have determined that Noah looks exactly like Jared and has my personality (dramatic) and Suzy looks like me and has Jared's personality (chill and laid back).  Who is the luckier kid? ha ha jk
Well, it is getting late and I am so excited to go to sleep!  I have 5 more days of the Blogging Challenge and I'd like to get that completed, so maybe this week.  If you've made it this far and you are not my mother- thanks for reading. :)