Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars

For all of you looking for a delicious treat to make this weekend, look no further. Whether you need a sweet treat to bring to a holiday gathering or a small present for a friend, these bars are just the thing. Simple to make, and even easier to eat, I definitely recommend giving these a try!

And don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients. You likely already have many of these items and despite the multiple steps, it's an easy recipe to make!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

For the shortbread:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour

For the caramel:
7 oz soft caramel candies
2 Tbsp heavy cream

For the cookie dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 light brown sugar
1/4 sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the chocolate glaze:
4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt, followed by the flour, and mix until incorporated (should be slightly crumbly). Press the mixture into the prepared pan and poke shallow holes in the surface with a fork. Bake 18-22 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the shortbread is baking, prepare your caramel mixture. Add the caramels to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat. Add the heavy cream and stir until completely melted. Pour the caramel mixture over the prepared shortbread and spread in an even layer over the top. Refrigerate until set - about 30 minutes to an hour.

As the caramel layer sets, prepare the cookie dough. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the heavy cream and vanilla, followed by the flour and salt. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough in an even layer on top of the set caramel layer. Place back in the fridge to chill while you prepare the chocolate glaze.

To prepare the glaze, add the chocolate chunks and butter to a microwave safe bowl and heat in 25 second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Spread the glaze over the top of the cookie dough layer, then place bars back in the fridge to allow the glaze to set - about 30 minutes.

Once the bars are set, you can cut into 16-20 squares. I recommend storing the bars in the fridge to keep them from getting too soft.

Tell me: What are you baking this holiday season?

- ST

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Try It: WIN Detergent

It may be cold outside, but that doesn't mean you won't work up a good sweat during your next workout. And when sweat happens, stink tends to follow.

Unless you use a cleaning product like WIN Detergent.This sport-specific laundry detergent eliminates embedded odors in technical and athletic apparel.

While synthetic (tech) fabrics are great for hard sweat sessions because of their ability to wick moisture away from your skin, those same properties trap and hold onto oils, which is where stinky smells come from. WIN is optimized to break those bonds, removing the source of the smell and truly cleaning your workout gear. The result is the elimination of odors!

WIN detergent comes in two varieties - an original and GREEN formula, which is fragrance free and dye free. I've been using both varieties for the past month and both are great! I really couldn't pick a favorite between the two, although I do think it's awesome that the GREEN formula is available for those of us with sensitive skin. For those of you that like a little scent in your detergent, the original formula is pleasant and not overpowering. Unlike with some sports detergents, the scent that doesn't cling to your clothes for days after washing! 

So who's interested in winning two bottles of WIN Detergent (original and GREEN)?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Best of luck to all who enter! If you just can't wait to get your hands on a bottle or two of WIN Detergent, you can also purchase it on Amazon. Use the code WINGIVE1 to save $1!

- ST

Monday, November 17, 2014

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Recently, I found myself in the mood to whip up a batch of cookies - only to discover I didn't have any eggs. I was feeling way too lazy to make a special trip to the store so I had to get creative. 

Fortunately, I didn't have to try too hard, as I found this simple recipe for no-bake cookies. No eggs. No bake. No fuss. I like it ;)

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe from The Comfort Kitchen by Katie Lee

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 - 3 cups rolled oats

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cocoa powder, milk and vanilla. Heat until sugar has dissolved, then add the peanut butter. Remove from heat and stir in the oats. The mixture should be thick.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the parchment. Let the cookies sit for about an hour or until firmed up, then enjoy with a glass of milk!

Tell me: What is your favorite no-fuss treat?

- ST

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reunited - And it Feels So Good!

These past few weeks, I've been coasting. No real goals, no real training. It's been a nice little reprieve from the usual rigors of training. 

But as fun as this little break has been, I'm back to working with Coach Matt and ThunderDome Running. Over the weekend, I received my first plan since Lakefront Marathon. It was a bit of a reality check, but it feels so good to finally have some structure and accountability back.

The time has come to start paying the price for a future goal race!

This week's plan is:

Monday: 4 5 mile run + Strength Training
Tuesday: 6 mile workout
Wednesday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Absolution
Thursday: 4 mile run + Y-Blitz
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 10 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 28 29 miles

Notice the lower mileage? It's a result of taking a few weeks off without a lot of running. The break was smart but now that I'm starting back up, I need to continue being smart. And that means not doing a huge increase in mileage right away. 

I know soon enough Coach Matt will have me running higher mileage and tough workouts again. Runner and coach, reunited after a short break. I can't wait to see what's next :)

My questions for you:
  • What have these past few weeks of running looked like for you?
  • What do you miss most about running when you are taking a break?
  • On the flip side, what do you love most about taking a break from running?

I love sleeping in and just running when I feel like running. And if I feel like skipping out and baking cookies, I do so with zero guilt ;)

- ST

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Try It: Running Evaluation + Video Assessment

After this fall's Lakefront Marathon disaster, it was time to face the facts: my knee issues were not getting better. In fact, by continuing to train and race, I could be making things worse. At the very least, I wasn't allowing the area to fully heal so I could get back to training and racing the way I want. Steps had to be taken.

So I went to see Calvin Deutsch at Deutsch Physiotherapy for a running evaluation, including a video analysis of my running, and a plan to fix things. And I have to say, this was the best decision! 

My appointment started with running on a treadmill while Calvin recorded me from the front, back and side. After, we went back to his office and reviewed the video. Here's what I learned:

Good ankle position during mid-stance phase.  Mild underpronation.

Good heel height at level of back of knee during swing phase.

Good foot strike, landing under center of mass

Right hip weakness​ allowing left pelvic drop and knees getting too close together

Calvin knows his stuff. It was super helpful to have a PT expert point out my running strengths and weaknesses and areas that need some work. Because I'm such a running nerd, I found it fascinating to learn about how even small breaks in form are related to bigger issues. For example, my right arm sticking out a bit more than my left arm. Calvin explained this is likely due to my hip weakness. That arm sticks out a bit more to help compensate for the weak hip and helps me keep my balance while running. 

After watching the video, we worked through a series of exercises. For the next several weeks, single-leg squats, hip hikes and hydrants will be my best friends. He also recommended single-leg deadlifts and a dynamic hamstring and opposite hip flexor combo exercise. Doing these exercises will hopefully help my hip (both hips actually) become stronger so I can kick this knee pain to the curb for good!

I really can't say enough good things about this type of running evaluation. If you're currently injured, Calvin can get to the root of the issue and determine a proper treatment plan. This type of session is also helpful even if you're not currently injured. As most runners know, many injuries start with just a small twinge or niggle. Catch it early enough and you can avoid a longer recovery. Plus, who doesn't want to know how their form stacks up? :)

Tell me: Have you ever had a running evaluation? If so, what did you learn from the experience? If not, what would you most like to learn from one?

- ST

Monday, November 3, 2014

Try It: TRX Foundations at the YMCA

One of the best parts about belonging to a gym like the YMCA is there are endless possibilities for getting fit - and there's always a class to take to provide that additional motivation to push as hard as you can to get there faster.

For a few months, I've chatted with Travis - Downtown YMCA Fitness Director and TRX Instructor - about the gym's TRX offerings. He's been encouraging me to try a class so after my fall marathon was behind me, I switched up my routine to include TRX Foundations.

During this 30-minute class, you'll learn all the basic TRX moves. During each four-week session, the classes build on each other and by the end, you'll know how to combo the different moves and also increase the pace of the workout. Although the class is called TRX Foundations, it's appropriate for everyone from beginners to the super fit. For more of a challenge, you can always work the angles a bit more to make the workout more difficult. Doing so is the equivalent of using a heavier weight or kettle bell.

This is a different TRX class but gives you an idea of what the set-up is like!

This is a fantastic class for anyone, but especially runners. For all of you rehabbing your hips, knees, lower legs, etc., the straps make the moves lower impact, so there's less stress on your joints. But at the same time, you'll built incredible core strength. Even during moves that target the upper or lower body, you'll still activate your core muscles to help stabilize your body.

I've found that using the straps allow me to squat lower and lunge deeper, with better form. And this has also helped me get a better workout when doing squats and lunges without the straps. Improved form = increased workout benefit.

I definitely recommend giving TRX Foundations a try. It's open to both YMCA members and community members so give it a try in November!

The Downtown YMCA also offers other TRX classes, including TRX Core, TRX Cardio Circuit, TRX Strength Zone, TRX Fusion and TRX Kettlebell. For the complete class offerings, view the YMCA class schedule.

Join the conversation: Have you tried TRX? If so, what did you think of the workout? 

- ST