Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Coconut Snowballs

Every holiday season, one of the things I look forward to most is baking up a batch of Coconut Snowballs with Mom. We have the most fun making these cookies and they are so delicious it's impossible to eat just one - even though they are whoppers. These cookies are my all-time favorite and I can't believe I'm just now getting around to sharing the recipe. I hope you enjoy the cookies as much as I do!

Coconut Snowballs
Recipe from Martha Stewart

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt7
7oz sweetened, shredded coconut (about 2 1/4 cups)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Vanilla Buttercream Filling*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve 1/2 cup coconut and set aside. Place the remaining coconut in a food processor and and pulse until coarsely ground. 

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed with an electric mixer. Add the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add in flour mixture. Mix until just combined. 

Drop dough by the tablespoon onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, leaving about 1-2 inches between each. Take care to make sure the cookies are approximately uniform in shape and size since you'll eventually be sandwiching them together. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

After cookies have cooled, spread Vanilla Buttercream Filling on the flat side of half of the cookies and sandwich with the remaining cookies. Roll edges in the reserved 1/2 cup coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Vanilla Buttercream Filling
 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Beat butter on medium high speed using an electric mixer. Add a 1/2 cup of the sugar at a time. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth. 

Join the conversation: What is your all-time favorite cookie?

- ST

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tex-Mex Stuffed Mini Peppers

I love hosting small get togethers but am not a fan of a bunch of prep work or slaving away in the kitchen. So these adorable mini stuffed peppers are the perfect appetizer. They only take about 10 minutes to prepare and you can wait to bake them until your guests are about to arrive. Easy peasy! And as a bonus they're a super colorful and healthy addition to your party spread :)

Tex-Mex Stuffed Mini Peppers
Recipe from Betty Crocker

16 mini sweet peppers
3/4 cup refried beans (I used La Preferida vegetarian)
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tsp taco seasoning (I used Penzey's Bold)
1/3 cup crushed tortilla chips
Cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

Wash peppers and cut each one in half lengthwise, leaving the stem intact. Remove seeds and inners. Placed halved peppers on cookie sheet, cut sides up.

In a medium bowl, combine refried beans, Greek yogurt, shredded cheese and taco seasoning. Mix until combined then place mixture in a resealable plastic bag. Cut 1/2 inch off one corner of the bag then pipe mixture into the peppers. Top each pepper with crushed tortilla chips. 

Bake 15-20 minutes or until peppers are crisp tender. Remove from oven and top with cilantro. 

Tell me: What's your go-to easy and/or healthy holiday appetizer?

- ST

Friday, December 18, 2015

Run the Year 2016

In 2016, I have an ambitious goal. I'm planning to run 2,016 miles as part of the Run the Year 2016 challenge!

2,016 miles. It's kind of daunting to think about covering that much ground during a year but when I broke it down and figured out how many miles I have to run each week - about 39 miles - I decided it's doable. Some weeks I'll end up training fewer than that but some weeks I'll train more. And to supplement my running miles, I can add in my walking/hiking miles, which should hopefully get me to my goal. 

So wondering what Run the Year 2,016 is? The challenge was created by Run the Edge's Adam Goucher (yes, Kara's husband!) and Tim Catalano. To complete the challenge you just need to be able to run, walk or crawl 2,016 miles during 2016! Included in the basic registration fee of $25 is an online expo, training plans galore, a mileage tracker and 365 days of giveaways! You can also add on a shirt or medal for a small additional cost. Worried you can't complete the 2,016 miles on your own? There are also partner and team options that allow you to split the distance between people!

If you're still looking for a holiday gift for a family member, friend, training partner, etc., this would be a fantastic gift - especially if you sign up to complete the distance together! Just think - you can run or walk the miles together and in addition to getting fitter, you'll also have some wonderful bonding time.

I can't wait to get started on what will be a super fun way to stay motivated this upcoming year. Who's with me? :)

Tell me: Have you ever run the year in distance? If so, what was your experience?

- ST

*Full disclosure: I was given free entry to Run the Year 2016, however all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

It just wouldn't be the holiday season without baking loads of cookies! Every year, I like to make a few favorites, as well as try some new recipes. I've had this recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Cookies bookmarked for awhile now so I'm glad I finally had a chance to make the cookies - they are really good! My only issue is how easy it is to eat too many ;)

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
48 mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place each ball in the cups of a miniature muffin pan. Do not press the dough into the cups.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until slightly puffy and light golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately press one peanut butter cup into the middle of each cookie. Press down so the peanut butter cup is level with the top of the cookie. Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan and then allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Now it's your turn! What holiday cookies are you making this year?

- ST

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Weekend Recap!

You know the saying, "Everything's bigger in Texas"? I would say it's definitely true of the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio race weekend. Everything from the expo to the races to the finish line festival were bigger and better than most other races I've done!

Mom and I flew to San Antonio early Friday morning. To make our 6:25am flight, I had to get up at 2:15am. Yuck!!!! When planning the trip, it seemed like it would work out okay to travel the day before the 10k race but in hindsight it would have been better to travel on Thursday. Spoiler Alert: Traveling the day before the race killed my 10k effort. 

After arriving in San Antonio, Mom and I checked in at our hotel then got lunch before heading over to the race expo to pick up our bibs. I know I wasn't supposed to spend a bunch of time on my feet the day before a big race but by the time we walked around to get lunch, walked to the expo, walked through the expo, walked to dinner, then walked back to the hotel I was beat. I barely remember my head hitting the pillow before passing out. 

Mom and I wearing our new hoodies from the race expo!

The 10k Race
Out of the two weekend races, this one was my goal race. The one I've been training for these past few months. Normally I'm a ball of nerves on race morning but I was still feeling fatigued from traveling the day before so didn't have the energy to worry too much. Like a robot, I followed my pre-race plan. I lined up in my corral a bit on the late side but since the 10k was on the smaller side for a Rock 'n' Roll race it wasn't an issue. 

When the gun went off, I was excited to get going but could immediately tell I would likely not run my goal time in my tired state. I managed to stay on pace for Mile 1 but started slipping a bit during the next two miles and then slipped a lot in the fourth mile. By this point in the race, the runners had thinned out quite a bit and I found my motivation dipping. The only thing that kept me going during this mile was ... running with Santa. That's right. There was a guy dressed like Santa and trying to hang on to him was the only thing that got me through miles 4 and 5. Santa and I were pretty much alone during these miles of the race so I knew if I let him go I'd end up running completely alone - and would probably just get slower!

The tides finally turned and I was able to start pushing again and ended up running my fastest during miles 5 and 6. The race finished in front of the Alamo so I gave it one final push into the finish line. 

My hamstrings were super tight after the race so I wasn't sure how the 5k the next day would go. I told myself to enjoy the rest of Saturday and not think too far ahead. After all, the 5k was just a fun bonus race!

The 5k Race
Sunday morning came too fas. I was still tired when my alarm went off, but felt a bit better than I did on Saturday. On the walk over to the start line I could tell my step had a little more bounce than the day before. 

Prior to the race, I met up with a fellow Rock 'n' Blog team member, Margarita, who blogs at Cupcake Cardio. I was hoping to meet a few other team members before the race but had to get going to gear check and to line up in my corral. 

While Saturday's race was on the smaller side, Sunday's race was huge! Between the marathon, half marathon and 5k events there were 25,000+ runners. The start corrals stretched back as far as I could see and it took me a long time to get into my corral because of all the people.

This also meant it was very crowded during the first mile of the race (the marathoners, half marathoners and 5k runners run the same course through Mile 3). Initially I tried weaving around people but was adding a bunch of unnecessary distance and still not going very fast. So I decided to just settle in and see what happened. Since it wasn't a goal race I didn't really care too much that I was running a very slow-for-me 5k pace.

There were still tons of runners around me during Miles 2 and 3 but I had a little more room to pick it up and found myself running 6:44 pace for both of those miles. It was amazing. I couldn't believe I was running that pace after racing the day before but I was and I felt fantastic. The energy from the race was great and I loved having so many people to run with during these miles. I was actually kind of sad when the 5k race separated from the rest of the group after Mile 3 since it meant the race was ending soon. 

However I had little time to be sad because a girl I passed earlier in the race flew past me during the last 0.1 of the race. I didn't realize anyone was that close behind me so I had to react fast and kick my legs into high gear. It was a sprint to the finish line and as we crossed I wasn't even sure who finished first. We both barreled across the line so fast that we flew past the people handing out the finisher's medals because we couldn't slow down quickly enough. Haha. After catching my breath, one of the timer's came over to me and told me he had me finishing before the other girl by a hair. I guess it pays to lean at the finish line! 

I was pretty happy with my 6:44 miles and ability to kick to the finish on tired legs. According to Coach Matt, it's an indication that I'm not even close to maxing out my 5k and 10k times yet so here's hoping for a strong 2016!

I would recommend the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio races to all runners. The events were super well organized, the courses were fast and the crowd support awesome. I had the best time even during the moments of struggle during the races. I'm sure I'll be back to race in San Antonio again :)

The weekend medals!

I opted to stay a few extra days in San Antonio after racing and I'm sure glad I did. The weather was perfect and I loved exploring the gorgeous River Walk area, visiting the Alamo and La Villita as well as eating all the delicious Tex-Mex and southern food. Also, Texas charm is a real thing. It seemed like everywhere I went people were offering up a smile and warm greeting. 

Here are a few non-running pics:

 My questions for you:
  • How do you balance taking in sights while traveling and conserving energy for a race?
  • Have you raced a Rock 'n' Roll event? If so, what was your experience?
  • Have you been to Texas? If so, did you also notice how friendly people are?

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

- ST

*I was given entry to the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio 10k and 5k races through the Rock 'n' Blog program however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Race Week is Here!

Last week, I ran my final big workout of 2015. The workout was 4 x 1 mile with each mile a bit faster, and I felt stronger and ran faster than the last time I did this same workout. It was just the confidence booster I needed with Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio 10k in just a few days!

It's been awhile since I've raced anything longer than a 5k and it's funny to me how these days the 10k distance seems incredibly long. 6.2 miles may as well be a marathon! 

The past few weeks/months of training have gone really well - workout times were nailed, long runs went well and it was all held together by solid glue miles. Of course, no matter how great the build-up, you never know what's going to happen on race day! But as always, I have a great race plan from Coach Matt.The goal time and paces give me all sorts of butterflies but in a good way - I'm up for the challenge!

The one disadvantage I have going into this race is not knowing the course. Since this is my first trip to San Antonio, I can't visualize different points along the course, which I usually like to do the week leading up to a goal race. But I'm telling myself this will just force me to stay focused during the race and who knows, it might even be fun not knowing what's next on the course ;)

Since this is my first destination race, I have my race day plan pretty well thought out:

The Pre-Race Fuel: Picky Bar (Need for Seed) + Banana + 16 oz Nuun (Fruit Punch)

The Race Outfit: Lululemon Black Speed Shorts + Oiselle Pink Flyte Tank + Lilytrotters Compression Socks + Sparkly Soul Headband + Saucony Kinvaras 

The charm makes these shoes lucky ;)

The Race Logistics: Arrive at the race 1 hour before the start. Do some walking/light jogging. Strides.

The Race Mantra: "Be Brave" 

After the race, I'll run back on the course to find Mom and run her into the finish line. Then it's time to take an ice bath and spend a little time with my legs up the wall to recover fast for Sunday's 5k race. 

Sadly Eddie will not be in San Antonio to help with recovery!

Since I'm not sure how I'll feel after the 10k, I'm not setting any goals for the 5k race. If I feel good, I'll go for a faster time. But if I'm still feeling the 10k, I'll take it slower and just have fun!

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever raced twice in one weekend? If so, what was your strategy for the races? How did you recover fast enough to race again the next day?
  • Do you like knowing the course before you race? Why or why not?
  • What is your typical pre-race routine?

Wish me luck, friends! I'm nervous and excited to see how this one is going to play out. And let me know if you're by chance racing any of the San Antonio races - it would be fun to meet up!

- ST